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

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?