Greenwashing 101 :: “green” wedding planners


The Minnericks Photographers

So, I am often asked about green weddings, obviously. But when I’m discussing my business with other wedding pros, I often have a lot of reading in between the lines to do. I think there are questions that industry pros want to ask, but are maybe a little afraid to for fear of sounding skeptical.  But, lucky for me, it takes a lot more than curious skepticism to ruffle these feathers!

Being a green wedding planner doesn’t seem like it would be all that different than being a ” normal” wedding planner. And many wedding planners will tell you that is the case. After all, anyone can plan a green wedding. Right?  Well, that is true, in the same way that it’s true that anyone CAN plan any wedding.  But when you are hiring a wedding planner, you are hiring someone for their expertise.  They know exactly what vendors to go to that will make your budget work with your tastes and expectations.

The Niche market is fun.  But, the whole point of a wedding planner catering to a specific niche is that they are different from other wedding companies who are more traditional.  For example, I would never claim to be an expert Indian wedding planner.  I’m not going to be able to tell you who the best henna artist is, or who serves the best paneer, or even be knowledgeable about everything that is necessary to be present at a Hindu ceremony.  Of course I could do research and use my best judgement to find these things, but I could not go from past experience on having planned dozens of Indian weddings.  Although I have worked with several Indian brides, and even planned a full traditional Hindu wedding and all of the side ceremonies, I can not call myself an expert in the area.  The same is true for green weddings.  Someone who has planned one or two weddings with a few eco-friendly elements doesn’t particularly fit the bill of being an experienced green wedding planner.

Lauren Larsen Photography

It is important if you want to have an eco-friendly event to hire someone who knows exactly which vendors and resources are the real deal.  For example, some catering companies boast that they use local sources for their foods.  But technically, if a restaurant orders their food from Ben E. Keith, which is a local company, then they are sourcing their food locally.  Unfortunately they still have no idea where that food came from.  A traditional wedding planner who is unfamiliar with greenwashing and what to really look for in a sustainable catering company might recommend someone who is not what they seem.  Whereas a true green wedding planner will do continuous research and know all the right questions to ask caterers about how they source their products.  I personally keep a running tab on which companies are taking measures to offer green business practices.  I know the farmers set up at the farmer’s markets and ask them about what restaurants they work with, and they are usually excited to promote them to me.  And for the record, if a company is truly using local sources they will be able to tell you exactly where they get their eggs, milk, veggies, and meats come from, and most of the time they are purchased farm direct.

I’m not a fan of green certifications.  Most companies will tell you that if a business carries their seal of approval then they are the real deal.  Unfortunately, most of these organizations have no real verification process and are a pay to play opportunity.  Anyone can say on a form that they recycle, therefore they are a green business.  But when you look at their websites they have weddings with beautiful over-sized floral arrangements, and disposable items with custom lables, and the whole nine yards.  These items are beautiful, but don’t necessarily showcase a green wedding.  And a green business certification program that does actual verification will see that and not approve the business.  Does your wedding planner provide recycling boxes and carry them away at the end of the night?  Because most DFW venues do not offer recycling services.  Are they showcasing huge flower arrangements?  Because there are only two eco-friendly florists in North Texas who source local, organic, and fair trade flowers, and chances are they aren’t the ones who made those arrangements.  If a business (any business) touts being green certified check into the certifying organization.  Do they require coursework?  Do they have a real verification process?  Or do they have a checklist and paypal account?  If an organization does research and checks referrals and requires proof that a business is practicing what they preach, then you can feel more confident in their seal of approval.  If it is an organization that will issue anyone with $50 and who can justify their practices on a checklist then you might want to dig a little deeper.

As a wedding planner and green business owner there is one certification program that I suggest above all others.  I talk quite a bit about The Green Bride Guide, and what a great resource it is.  Their founder Kate Harrison has teamed up with the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners to offer an in depth certification course.  What I like about this course is that it gives wedding planners the tools and education to build a green business, and to know where to start with finding the best resources for planning a green wedding.  Of course just because someone has gone through this process doesn’t mean that they actively implement what they have learned in their work, but it is a great starting point for determining if your wedding planner is holding true to their claims.  I in fact am so supportive of this program that this year I am teaming up with Kate Harrison to host a green wedding workshop for wedding planners to learn from national and local experts about how to execute the perfect eco-friendly affair right here in North Texas.  I am so excited about this event, and encourage all of my wedding industry friends to join us.  There are so many brides out there who are seeking out these services, and I am so excited to help educate North Texas wedding pros on giving their clients TRUE eco-friendly wedding services!

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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?