The Sustainable Wedding Registry

by - Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Sustainable and Zero-Waste Wedding Registry

You are engaged! You are getting married! Super exciting, because you found the person you would like to hang out with forever. One thing that most (still not all) weddings have in common is that somebody will buy you a present. In fact, weddings are one of the few moments in life where people will buy you what you ask for. Exactly what you ask for.

It's often uncomfortable to talk about, but the wedding registry actually gives you the opportunity to ask for exactly what you want, shame-free.

This (actually pretty weird) tradition all comes from the good old days when people got married immediately after leaving their parents' home. So they needed a lot of stuff to get them started. Now, this isn't often the case (though for some people it still is), but people still get to make very specific choices about what they want and need for their new life.

I am here to beg you to use this newfound registry power for good.

Yes, you have a lot to worry about already, but like your wedding, your registry can have a huge positive or negative impact on the environment. You can choose all items that you actually need, that will actually last, that don't add to our ever-growing pile of waste, and that were made by humans who were treated like humans. This may seem like a low bar for an item, but actually much of what we buy no longer fulfills this criteria.

Your registry is all about the future, so use it as an opportunity to build a world you can feel proud of (and where you can still breathe and drink water and so forth).

Does this mean you have to become completely granola? Only buy things made of hemp? No. Any couple in any lifestyle can implement simple, easy changes to help the planet and protect the future. We know that consumerism is directly linked to so many of the problems plaguing our Earth, from climate change to plastic pollution in the ocean, and weddings are often a huge affair that encourages a lot of shopping and spending.

People will buy you what you ask for (mostly, someone is still getting you a platter with your faces on it). Ask for things that make the world a teensy bit better.

I know it sounds like an unmanageable and difficult responsibility, especially when you have about a million other choices to make, but I have already done the hard work for you

eco-friendly green wedding gift pile

I researched so many great products and companies that still manufacture in the US (local to us, you shop what is local to you) or with recycled materials. While each of us can't save the world on our own, if we all do a little bit, it can have a huge effect. 

Most people approach the wedding registry with two basic questions- "What am I supposed to have?" and "What do I want?"

Making a wedding registry more eco-friendly requires you to add (and maybe prioritize) some radical questions to help you and your partner flip the plot:

1. Do we already have this? Do we even need it? 

The first step is making a list. Instead of accepting the lists spread around, start by crossing off as many of their "suggestions" as possible. Cross off what you have that works. Cross off what you don't need. Cross off anything that you wouldn't bother to buy yourself.

Yes, your toaster is ugly, but does it still make toast? Yes, a registry can be a great time to replace things that are ready for retirement, but the best way to have a registry that really works is to focus on what you actually need. Not to mention, being happy with life in general is all about being happy with what you already have. If you can keep making something work, do that!

 Feel empowered to keep what still works, even if the Matrimonial Gods seem to be saying otherwise.

Overconsumption can look like an American value, but our obsession with stuff burdens our lives, wastes our time (we buy a bigger house, we buy stuff to fill it, we have to clean all those surfaces and work harder to pay for them), and just generally chips away at our happiness. Studies prove that clutter is bad for our homes, our heads, and our marriages. Not exactly the foot you want to start on.

Too much is also terrible for the environment. Our love of having ALL THE STUFF also means that we use more fossil fuels by shipping our stuff all over the world, we create excessive garbage (because that shitty plastic clock doesn't have a use once it breaks), and we fuel an economy of cheap and easy (meaning companies push for cheap labor instead of quality and ethically-made values).

So this is me, empowering you to only bother with the things you actually care about. Skip the rest.

2. Can we get this used? 

So you have a registry list; take a trip to your local Consignment store and see if you can cross anything off it at a pretty low cost.

We all want brand new cooling racks and hand towels, right? But, why? There are some things on every pinterest "you need this on your registry" list that you can easily get through community gifting like a Buy Nothing group or in any good-sized consignment store. Checking out what used options are out there can cut your list down even more, so you can focus on quality and not quantity.

If you can get the same wastebasket for 2 dollars, wouldn't you rather receive something else as a gift?

Buying things used is one of the most eco-friendly changes you can make to your life, and it will save you tons of money. Buying secondhand means you are keeping someone else's trash out of the landfill. These items usually move shorter distances from household to household, wasting significantly less fossil fuels and creating far fewer emissions by skipping shipping, packaging, and manufacturing. Plus, so often you can find things that are actually better quality than anything you will get in the store, because it was built many years ago to last.

3. Can I find a recycled option for this item? How about Made in America? Plastic-free? 

Instead of picking items based on what aesthetic appeals most to you, look to see if you can find things made as locally as possible. For us, that means Made in America. It is totally possible to have a wedding registry with only made in America items!

You may not think of Made in America as being eco-friendly, but every Made in a Far Away Land item has to travel all that way from it's manufacturing to your gift table. That wastes a lot of fossil fuels! This is just the tip of the iceberg; Made in America products often are held to higher environmental and labor standards (ok, less so lately), so you can feel confident that you are both supporting American workers and refusing to support the gross mistreatment of other human beings.

Because nothing says joyous day and lifelong commitment like someone in a sweatshop making your towels. We can do better. 

Caring about materials can make a big difference too. Recycled products keep things out of landfills. We also know now that plastic is a growing epidemic for our world and our water. Every time you have the option to avoid it, please do so. We all desperately need to break up with plastic.

By choosing Made in America and recycled products, you are also sending the message to companies over and over again that the ethics of what you buy are important to you and that you will support ethical and environmentally conscious products. It creates a positive feedback loop and ends the message they receive over and over that people don't care, they just want what they want when they want it.

So the last question worth asking- Do you Even Need a Registry? 

The answer to that is totally up to you. It is a social expectation, but like so many of those, it isn't particularly relevant for many of us. People will want to buy gifts, but you can decide what a worthwhile, not wasteful gift looks like for you. Yep, guests will have opinions, but you will be just as married.

First, you could just set up a honeymoon (or house, or college debt, etc.) fund, and ask everyone to donate to that. I love this wording, which is fun and playful. I also love when people say where their honeymoon will be or exactly where the money will go.

Second, you could have a potluck wedding, and ask each guest to bring a dish. It will save you thousands on food, and I think it would have a warm, family feel. I love this idea, especially if you want to be married but feel like you need to win the lottery to actually pull it off.

Lastly, you could just have a no gift wedding. Say "your presence is the only present we'll need," smile politely when a guest or two doesn't listen, and remove that element from your nupitals. If you are grown, you probably don't need much anyway.

If nothing else, go small. People like to know what to do, but you don't have to give them an epic list of options.

Having gone through it, I would point out that even if you have a tiny registry, you are less likely to get 20 things you don't want (maybe only 5-10). If these all feel too out there or against your community or family culture, I still have so many green ideas for you.

beautiful beach wedding silhouette

So, let's do this. 

You may be thinking "But Barbara, I have 40+ items on my wedding registry. I don't have time to research Made in America options for every one of them." Truth, friend, you are planning a wedding! You are busy enough!

On the other hand, I am not planning a wedding, so I have compiled a huge list here, so feel free to poke around. I used Amazon for as many links as I could, to simplify, but I highly encourage you to register somewhere small, not just on a big chain or website. I am an affiliate for Amazon, but seriously, you can and should spend money elsewhere.

Registries are long unwieldy things on a normal day, this is no different. I split it into parts so you can wade your way through a little bit at a time.

The Wedding Registry 

If you want to transition into a more environmentally conscious or ethical lifestyle, you can also check out this post on Eco-Friendly items for every Wedding Registry for ideas.

Be sure to ask if you are looking for something I didn't cover. It seems like a lot, but once you get going, you can shoot through and move back on to venue picks and guest list debates.

The Sustainable and Zero-Waste Wedding Registry

the eco friendly wedding registry

So much more wedding wisdom coming up on the blog! Check out this Green Weddings Page for more ideas of how to have an event with a truly positive impact.

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