Greenwashing 101 :: The different levels of sustainable diamonds


To kick off our series on greenwashing, I thought I would touch on the first thing that you usually think about when it comes to having a wedding.  In fact, you’re thinking about this before you even get engaged- the highly sought engagement ring.  This is the one thing that you will have forever, wear every single day, and hopefully even pass on to future generations.  Unfortunately two thirds of the world’s diamonds come from war torn areas in Africa, where their sale goes to fund insurgency efforts.  I will not get into the social implications behind purchasing gems from these areas, but if you would like to read about it you are welcome to google “blood diamond”, “hot diamond”, or “conflict diamond”.  Of course diamonds are not the only natural resource that’s trade is controlled by a rebel regime, but it is the one that we are discussing today.

Many couples are seeking out more ethically procured gemstones for their wedding bands and engagement rings, but just because a diamond is conflict free doesn’t necessarily equate it to being sustainably sourced.  I’m often asked by couples what is more “green” a vintage diamond, conflict free, or cultured diamonds?  Here I have compared the different types of diamonds that are generally referred to as “eco-friendly”.  I will point out that none of these are BAD stones, but some are just more sustainable than others.

  •  Conflict free- Mined diamonds still require a lot of energy, travel, and putting a big hole in the ground, but they do (theoretically) detract from the blood diamond issue .  Brilliant Earth has this awesome guide to educate consumers about purchasing conflict free diamonds.
  • Cultured diamondsOne option that is not quite so widely known about is cultured gems.  They are created in a lab environment and are real diamonds (as opposed to cubic zirconia or moissanite)  that are superior in quality to mined diamonds (because they are created in a perfect environment), they cost less than mined diamonds, and come in an array of colors.  Unfortunately the process does require the use of energy (but not nearly the amount as the mining process) so we can’t call it 100% sustainable.  However, with better technology in alternative energy I’m positive that it’s not far off.  www.gemesis.com is an online company that creates beautiful wedding jewelry from lab cultured diamonds and is a great place to start your search for a lab created piece.
  • Vintage- The energy that is required to find the perfect vintage diamond is more personal energy as you will be required to scour the ends of the earth to find the perfect setting. But at the end of the day, no new energy is being used to create a vintage ring since it already exists, making this the most sustainable way to source your engagement ring.  Sourcing specialty items such as this is a specialty of Vera Green Productions, but if you would rather scour the land on your own my suggestions are to stick with nicely organized antique stores that have large locked jewelry cases.  And once you arrive, ask for assistance.  It’s always amazing to me how many shop curators have a mental catalog of the items in their stores.  And ask for verification that what you are purchasing is what they claim to be selling.  It would be a shame to pay diamond prices for a CZ!
  • Recycled metals and stones are definitely making a comeback.  It’s not uncommon for a couple to source the materials from pieces that they already own and work with a jewlery designer to transform them into custom pieces.   Our go to resource is Sofia Jewelry (of course!) formerly Priolo and Co.  There are local designers in Fort Worth, TX and Mill Valley, CA and they are available for consultations via Skype nationwide.  (They also deal conflict free stones and recycled metals)

Will you be sporting socially conscious jewelry on your big day?  What route will you be taking?

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_diamond

http://www.conflictfreediamonds.org/

http://d.neadiamonds.com/

http://www.thechicecologist.com/

Green Wedding Tip :: How to avoid “greenwashing”


It’s not uncommon for businesses to see a trend and try to profit off of it without doing the leg work. This is especially true in the world of green weddings. Over the years of creating eco-friendly weddings I have seen my fair share of other companies who claim to offer eco-friendly services and host sustainable standards. Sometimes it’s difficult to sort out the ones who are truly “green” and those who drift more into a gray area.

What is “greenwashing” anyway?

We’ve all heard of whitewashing.  You know, where a company tries to hide information that might not be so pleasant for consumers to deal with, similar to the way one might “whitewash” an old fence.  Just glaze over an ugly exterior with a cheap finish and no one will know the difference.  Greenwashing isn’t much different, only we’re speaking in an environmental context instead of business or politics.

Some greenwashing may be obvious.  Such as a cereal company claiming to have “green” packaging because it is 100% recyclable.  The key word here is recyclABLE.  All paper products are able to be recycled, therefore any company can claim to have “recyclable” packaging that is made from paper.  Claiming to be “green”+not actually hosting any “green” practices=greenwashing.

When I was researching this post I came across a website that was very helpful.  www.greenwashingindex.com.  This website’s purpose is to expose companies who practice greenwashing and educate consumers on how to detect what companies are truly hosting sustainable practices and which ones are just trying to make an extra buck.  I particularly love the way that they worded their explanation of why greenwashing is a problem, so I’m taking the efficent (see lazy) route and letting them explain it for me:

“WHY IS GREENWASHING A PROBLEM?

Seems like anything and everything has “gone green” these days. Airlines, car companies, retailers, restaurants — heck, even networks and stadiums. Thankfully, more often than not, that’s a good thing. It’s only bad if it’s greenwashing — that’s bad for the environment, consumers, and, ultimately, for the very businesses doing the greenwashing — whether they mean to or not.

Environment: At its very worst, greenwashing is bad for the environment because it can encourage consumers en masse to do the opposite of what’s good for the environment. At its most benign, greenwashing makes claims that are neither good nor bad for the environment — it’s just making green claims to sell more stuff.

Consumers: We’ve all heard of lemon laws and bait-and-switch. Nobody likes to be taken advantage of, especially when it comes to money. So, the next time you see an environmental claim, ask yourself about “The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth” before you buy. The last thing you want to do is spend money on a product or service you believe is doing right by the environment, but in reality is not — or not as much as the ad might lead you to believe.

Businesses: Smart businesses are finding out that doing right by the environment actually does increase profitability in many cases. With so many easy ways for businesses to reduce their environmental impact or improve their products and processes, it’s just sad when they don’t. It’s even worse when they don’t make changes and claim to be a green company just to push their agenda. When properly trained, consumers see right through this “green screen.” Then greenwashing backfires, hurting the company’s reputation and, ultimately, their sales.

Another problem not mentioned is the impact on truly sustainable businesses.  By offering a product that is only “green” on the exterior the unwitting consumer might be more inclined to opt for their version, because afterall, their cost is usually lower.  Not only are they taking business away from real eco-friendly businesses, but they are lowering the standard for which we all must adhere to.

How does this apply to the wedding industry?

As I mentioned earlier in this post, this trend has not evaded the wedding industry.  As a matter of fact, from dresses to decor and favors to food, it is an issue that affects every facet of the industry.  This is where knowledgeable bridal consultants (such as your friendly gals at Vera Green Productions) come in especially handy.  Not all wedding planners are educated on this aspect, but most do have a knack for sniffing out the phonies, and can save you considerable time and frustration by making sure that they companies you hire meet your requirements of sustainability, and social consciousness.

I would love to detail every aspect of greenwashing in the wedding industry in this post, but you would seriously be reading into next week.  So Starting this Thursday we will be featuring a weekly post that details each aspect of the wedding industry and how they are faced with companies trying to profit from a popular trend without earning it.  In this series you can expect to learn how to spot greenwashing in action, from “recyclable invitations”, conflict free diamonds, and Carbon Credits, we will show you how to weed out the BS when planning your green wedding.  And as a special treat, we are kicking off our series with an extra post to follow this one immediately!  I hope you enjoy reading, and please give us your feedback!  We love answering questions and hearing feedback from brides and other industry pros.

Where have you seen “greenwashing” show up in other aspects of your life?  Do you take measures to avoid it now?

 

Organizing your event: Decor Prep


This week we are coming back from a little break and kicking it into high gear to prepare for a very busy fall wedding season. At this point all of our weddings are planned, the decor has all been procured, and now it’s time for us to get our brides and grooms organized for their big day.

For our clients we prepare an inventory check list that details how much of what needs to go where, and although in most cases we actually source all of the props and accessories for our brides; on occasion our clients do prefer to control this aspect themselves. When this is the case organization and clear direction is key. This is not only from a communication aspect, but more importantly that knowing everything is clearly dictated gives you a sense of calmness and keeps that inner bridezilla at bay.

Today we want to share our tips for how we organize all the little details for our client’s events, and how brides can keep their wedding items together and effectively communicate their vision for what these items are to be used for.

How we prep and keep props organized before a big event:

  • When we design an event for one of our clients one of the items that they will receive from us is a master document that outlines every detail, how many they ideally need for their particular wedding, and where to find them.
  • If we are sourcing the details for our clients, then we keep everything tagged and filed away in our studio.  Everything is separated by each event in a color coded box.  For example, the Albrecht wedding is a purple box, and the Mentzel wedding is a gold box.  We also have a master inventory list that is checked regularly to ensure that everything is on track to be secured prior to the event.
  • After everything is filed by event, we then have a secondary system where we keep items grouped by location at the event, i.e. place cards, favors, and guest book are in a separate box that is labled “sign in table”.
  • We often have several people who are assisting us as we set up for an event, so it’s important that each person know how to stage a particular area should I be off fighting fires prior to an event and unavailable to dictate to them.  For this reason we will have a sketch or photo of a mock up available with each box so that there are no questions or surprises causing a delay in set up.
  • Finally, we insist that EVERYTHING that can be done in advance is done in advance.  Years ago we had a wedding that was located at a private estate.  We had everything taken care of prior to the event, except for one big surprise.  The bride decided last minute to purchase sparklers for her sendoff, and remembered about an hour before the wedding was set to end that they were still in boxes in her closet.  So we ended up spending the last hour of the wedding unwrapping 250 sparklers that were individually wrapped inside four pack boxes.  It was no skin off our back, but it did take us away from doing other tasks that we usually assist with as a wedding draws to an end such as organizing everything to be packed away after the party is over, or getting the getaway car loaded so the bride and groom can take off.  The point here is that when more is done in advance, we, your coordinators, have more time to spend on YOU!

How can you to translate these tips to work for you?  As I mentioned earlier, many brides prefer to source their own details for their wedding.  This not only allows them to maintain a sense of control, but also saves a little money in the long run.  When this is the case, it’s evermore important for us to be sure that we as well as our clients are organized.  We want to be able to devote every moment setting up for an event to actually setting up, instead of tying ribbons on mason jars or figuring out what to do with 200 mini wine bottles.

 How to make wedding organization work for you:

  • Get boxes- or bags, or whatever is easiest for you to keep your wedding items organized in.  They don’t have to be nice, but keep in mind that the easier they are to organize your accessories in the easier your wedding day setup will be.   We suggest to our clients that they do it exactly like we would.  Separate items in boxes by the area that they belong in your wedding.
  • Create a checklist- Actually, you should create several throughout the course of your wedding planning, but for this particular area you should make one that details your details, where to get them, when you got them, and when you need them by.
  • Create a manefesto– this is different from a checklist.  See the image above that we found on apartmenttherapy.com in a great article about using technology to organize your home.  Give it a read, because it easily translates to prepping for your event.  Your manefesto should list every item that you have secured for your event, what should be done with it, and where it can be found.
  • Do the prep work-  I think we covered this pretty well above, but seriously, don’t expect the people setting up your event to have time to do everything.  If it can be done in advance do it.  If you don’t have time to do it in advance, pay someone.  You deserve to not stress about these little things.
  • Be clear in your delegation-  It doesn’t matter if it’s a rough sketch on the back of a napkin, an immaculate professional mock up, or advanced auto-cad rendering, the best way to explain your vision is to show it.  Never assume that your set up crew is going to assume what to do with an item just because you think it might be obvious.  This will cut down on unnecessary questions and people bothering you before you walk down the aisle, and it will save time for whoever is setting up your event.

If there is anything that you can do for yourself before your wedding, it is taking the time to get organized.  Just a little bit of time will save you a lot of grief, and make you enjoy your engagement so much more!

What steps are you using to organize your details for your big day?  We would love to hear new ideas!

xoxo
Ashley Paz
Owner | Creative Director
Vera Green Productions | Vivi Gray Design