Greenwashing 101 :: Verifiable Venues


Photo Courtesy of Lauren Larsen Photography

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Larsen Photography

We have been quite the busy little bees here at VGP this past couple of months, and to my dismay our scheduled blog posts have not been posting!  SOMEONE (see ME!) may have scheduled them to post in 2013, and that’s just too long to wait to finish this series :)

We just finished up our 2012 wedding season this past weekend and now it’s time to refocus and prepare for a busy holiday season, and goal setting for the next year.   My to do list is literally three pages long, but we are all so excited about some of the awesome weddings we have coming up in 2013.  It is always such an honor when a couple trusts their wedding day in your hands, as well as a huge responsibility.  Part of the responsibility that we have taken on as wedding planners is to help our client’s wedding wishes come true.  Brides specifically hire Vera Green Productions because their wedding wishes are to have an exquisite wedding without making a huge impact.  We have the responsibility to protect our clients from vendors who are trying to get their piece of the eco-wedding pie without offering true eco-friendly services.  This is what we in green commerce call “greenwashing.”

Today we are going to pick up our series on greenwashing by discussing what to look for in an eco-friendly wedding venue, and what warning signs you might find that will tell you to dig a little deeper and find out where their priorities really lie.

There is a lot to take into account when selecting a venue for your wedding.  Of course style and cost are the two biggest factors for couples when selecting their venue.  But from a sustainability standpoint there are certain other factors to take into effect.   They are listed below in no particular order:

1.  The building- Was the building itself built to serve it’s current purpose?  If so was it built (or remodeled) according to specifications set by the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Energy Design (LEED)?  LEED is the international standard for sustainable building, and not only applies to new buildings, but also standards to give existing buildings credibility in the green commerce community through adaptive reuse.  In addition to adhering to LEED standards brides and grooms can think outside the box for their venue location.  Refurbished historic homes, parks, ranches, barns, and rooftops all supply beautiful backdrops for your nuptuials, and with the proper knowledge and planning they can add to the sustainability of your event.

2.  Waste- Many venues in DFW don’t have access to recycling services, so in order to have recycling facilities at their venue they must pay an outside service.  This is a big burden for most venues, which is why they don’t offer recycling services.  Some don’t allow disposables at all, and some will say that they CAN recycle, but that doesn’t mean that they do.  Be sure to ask questions about their recycling program.  If they can easily tell you what types of items can be recycled through the program that they use and have bins on the premises then you can be comfortable that they actually DO recycle.  Of course if you love a venue but they don’t have on site recycling you can always look into other options, such as bringing bins yourself and having the recyclables carted off after the event.  We will not only provide this service free of charge for our clients, but we will also take compostable refuse and food and flowers for donation!

3.  Power-  One of the easiest steps for businesses to take to “green” their operations, and current rates for renewable energy sources are in line with those of conventional options.  If a venue is claiming that they are eco-friendly this is a bare minimum that they should offer.

4.  Business Solutions-  In a businesses day to day operations it is imperative that they are taking steps in the office to reduce paper and solid waste if they are claiming to be green.  In today’s digital age it is so easy to be 100% paperless.  There are dozens of online services that offer affordable and user friendly online contract solutions, and the sky is the limit where electronic information packets and brochures are concerned.  This is not only an eco-friendly solution, but also a practical one as you have an online record of everything and don’t have to worry about lost documents!

5.  Site Maintenance- Does your venue use natural cleaning products?  Because if they are claiming their piece of the earth friendly pie, they should.

6.  Design-  It’s a big misconception that sustainable design has to be all reclaimed barn wood and living roofs.  Pay attention to the decor that is used in your “green” venue.  Are their lights traditional, LED or CFL?  Do they have wall to wall nylon carpet or a more sustainable reclaimed hardwood or bamboo option? Do they have vases among vases of fresh cut out of season flowers, or wholesome and beneficial living plants that contribute to air quality?

7.  Preferred Vendors-  Your venue most likely has a preferred vendor list.  Pay close attention to the vendors on that list.  Do they share the same principles as you?  This is the biggie, because these are the companies that do the most work at this venue, and if they don’t at least offer eco-friendly services on top of their conventional ones then you have to wonder just how true the venue holds to their claims.

It is nearly impossible for a venue to feasibly be 100% eco-friendly.  That would be a huge investment for business owners, and in order for them to operate such a business there fees would have to be incredibly high restricting them to a very limited portion of the wedding market.  So with that said, just because a venue doesn’t follow any or all of the above practices doesn’t mean that they are a BAD option.  For example, if a venue runs on fossil fuels and doesn’t have a recycling program in place they may take other steps to make up for those facts.

The point of this post is not to condemn those who are not able to offer 100% eco-friendly services, but to provide brides and grooms with the knowledge to spot businesses who are making unfounded claims.  And if you are in love with a location for your wedding, but they fall more in line with traditional operations you can take that into account in other aspects of your wedding planning.  But it still never hurts to encourage them to make the necessary steps to lead their business into the green revolution!

To end I would like to share some of my favorite eco-friendly venues in North Texas:

Hickory Streent Annex

F&R Whiskey Distillery 

City Club Fort Worth (This was the first venue in Fort Worth to start taking green initiatives!)

Nylo Hotels Dallas Southside

Trinity River Audubon Center

Menu Planning :: Making the most of the seasons


Fall is officially here, even if the temps aren’t quite cooperating yet. And with that we have been dreaming of our favorite fall food staples. This is by far my favorite culinary season with so many deep flavor options. With apples and figs to wild mushrooms and every kind of squash you can dream up at their peak, the possibilities are endless! In today’s post we’ll be discussing why it’s so important to know what is fresh during the season of your wedding as well as sharing a fun fall menu that we used for a recent project.

People ask me all too often, “How can I make my wedding more ‘green’ where the food is concerned?” It’s easy to spout off the standard, “Use a caterer who sources local and seasonal ingredients.”  Blah, blah, blah!  In reality most people don’t know how to find those caterers, or the right questions to ask to make sure these companies are legit in their claims.  After all, it is difficult to be certain that they are actually using seasonal ingredients if you don’t know what those are. It’s also important to be educated about what is in season so that you can work with your caterer to create a custom menu for your event that satisfies your pallet using your season’s bounty. I.e., if you aren’t a fan of figs, then maybe you would rather substitute plums, or parsnips for turnips.

Fort Worth has some amazing catering companies that utilize the best of the season. Our favorites include Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Ellerbe Fine Foods, and Brownstone Kitchen. Chefs from all of these restaurants can be seen on any given Saturday morning shopping at Cowtown Farmer’s Market, so you know they are the real deal. These restaurants also have revolving menus, to keep their offerings fresh and utilize what is available locally, which is why we are thrilled to offer referrals for their businesses to any of our clients!

But you may ask how do you actually put this knowledge to use?

I was excited to put my culinary prowess to the test this past weekend as we kicked off our first big Texas cold front with a “glamping” (glamourous+camping=glamping) styled bachelorette party shoot. I just had to incorporate some delicious fall treats that highlight some of my favorite fall foods!

Our menu entailed:

  • Home made trail mix with mixed nuts, dark chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds, and dried raisins and cranberries.
  • Antipasti platter of prosciutto, hard salami, fresh figs, champagne grapes, goats milk blue cheese, Irish cheddar, and soda crackers.
  • Baby kale salad with apples, figs, pumpkin seeds, and crumbled blue cheese with a blue cheese yogurt dressing.
  • Soup and sandwiches consisted of fire roasted tomato and carrot bisque with fresh ginger and greek yogurt served with fresh mozzarella and marinated tomato sandwiches on seeded rye bread.

And what camping trip would be complete without s’mores? We had a trio of cookies from my favorite Fort Worth bakery Artisan Baking Company, that we paired with gourmet marshmallows and fine chocolates.  Our flavors were:

  • Lavender shortbread cookies with vanilla bean marshmallows and Godiva white chocolate.
  • Cowboy cookies (oats, coconut, and chocolate) with toasted coconut marshmallows and Godiva 72% cacao dark chocolate.
  • Peanut butter cookies with salted caramel marshmallows and salted caramel milk chocolate.

Can you say yummy?

It’s not difficult for anyone really to create a unique custom menu that complements your season. I found this great guide on the Brenda Evans food blog and it is a great resource for those who are new to seasonal dining.

Seasonal Food Chart from Hubpages.com

If you are curious about creating a unique and sustainable dining experience for your foodie guests my suggestion would be to request to sit down with your catering manager and let them know that you would like to customize your menu. By educating yourself on this subject you are more likely to have foods that speak to your pallet, and showcase what you really love.

What is your favorite culinary season? Will you be customizing your wedding menu? We’d love to hear your feedback!

xoxo
Ashley
Owner | Creative Director | Green Wedding Guru

Growing Our Family, and Helping Others in Need


Ever write a blog post and realize that a month later you never hit the “publish” button?  Yes, this post is a bit overdue.  We officially launched this news exactly one month ago through social media.  Unfortunately the day after our website went live my beloved grandmother was admitted to the hospital where we said goodbye just over a week ago.  We’ll discuss that further in a later post.  In the past month we have received an unbelievable amount of support and interest in our new venture, and we are so blessed and excited to have so many great new brides with unique visions for their big day.

No, we’re not having another baby baby, but we do have a new little bundle of joy to present to the world . This has been a difficult process and after almost ten months of planning, late nights, heartburn, and long naps in the middle of the day to catch up on our rest she’s finally here! I proudly present to you Vera Green’s little sister Vivi Gray Design.  Vivi Gray Design will focus on event and floral design, as well as crafting and custom fabrication services that utilize eco-friendly sources and materials.  Our flowers will remain to be locally sourced, organic, or at the very least Fair Trade certified.  For the last five years we have created stunning wedding florals under the Vera Green brand.  This has allowed us to develop methods that are not only better for the earth, but also more cost effective and proven to maintain a longer shelf life for our blooms.  As a matter of fact, in our studios there is only one block of Oasis foam, and we use that to show our brides what we don’t do!

Before you go getting all worked up, Vera Green Productions isn’t going ANYWHERE! But we will no longer be offering event and floral design under that brand, but instead focusing the attention of Vera Green Productions on planning the stunning eco weddings that have made us famous.   As a matter of fact our Vera Green associates are working hard on some really exciting projects that we can’t wait to share.  Stay tuned for those exciting announcements :)

Hydrangea and Billy Balls

And with this announcement we are excited to present our fan base with a special offer that will also support a good cause.  Safe Haven of Tarrant County is a women’s crisis center that is dedicated to reducing domestic violence and providing women in dangerous situations a place for refuge.  Unfortunately their shelters are full and their resources are limited.  So in an effort to educate the public and assist the organization with raising funds to provide their crowded shelters with adequate supplies we will be donating 50% of proceeds from special occasion flowers to the Safe Haven organization through the end of August.  In addition to monetary donations we will be adopting these shelters for the remainder of 2012, and will donate arrangements made from left over wedding and event flowers to the shelter to bring a little beauty to these women’s lives during troubled times.  If you would like to help, but don’t necessarily have any special occasion flowers to send then we have a special edition hydrangea arrangement in a repurposed chalkboard vase (shown above) that can be purchased for $25 and sent to an anonymous domestic violence victim at one of the Safe Haven shelters, and 100% of the proceeds of the sales for this specific arrangement will be donated to the organization as well, indefinitely!

Again, we are so excited about this announcement and all of the great things to come!