An Earth Day Manifesto: On the Real Impact of Wedding Waste
I’m often asked what makes RecycledBride.com green, and how wedding recycling can really make a difference to health of our environment. Today, on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I’d like to begin to answer with an explanation of just one aspect of the positive impact of wedding recycling through resale: Why wedding dress resale matters. <!–more–> (We’ll talk about the flowers, food, and transport in another post.)
According the this report from the E.P.A., 44% of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions come from non-food consumer products. So while many of us have been earning our eco-cred by driving fuel-efficient cars, conserving energy and water, and recycling our food packaging, almost half of our carbon footprint comes from all the stuff we buy. This means that the manufacture, packaging and transport of products like clothing, electronics and yes, wedding dresses, bridal accessories, decorations and gifts, accounts for a giant chunk of our environmental impact. And if we could reduce our demand for newly manufactured consumer products by just 5%, we’d save 127 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That’s the equivalent of taking 24 million cars off the road, every single year.
Or as Joshua Stolaroff, a former science and technology policy fellow with E.P.A. and author of the report, puts it: “Extending the life of products in general is probably a huge opportunity.” Well stated, Mr. Stolaroff.
That’s exactly what we try to do here. There’s a huge opportunity to extend the life of most consumer products used for a green wedding. After all, it’s a day filled with one-time-use items that are durable and energy-intensive to produce. If you’re like most people, your wedding may be the only occasion in your lifetime when you buy incredibly expensive things and wear or use them for just a few hours. You wouldn’t buy a car and drive it once, right? So why do that with a dress that costs thousands? Frankly, your wedding dress is practically begging to be reused and recycled.
Have you ever thought about the journey of a typical white wedding dress from its creation to its arrival at your local bridal shop? Most wedding gowns begin their lives as huge rolls of raw, tan-colored fabric that must be bleached white. The bleaching process is ugly, consuming massive amounts of water and using harmful industrial chemical compounds that poison factory workers and the environment. Some wedding dresses are made of petrochemical-based synthetic fabrics like polyester, taffeta, rayon or nylon, and almost all of them are lined with synthetic material. Most are made in China or South America, which means that fair labor and fair trade standards aren’t likely to be upheld, and the workers who “hand sew and bead” your fancy dress are likely not earning a living wage. And just imagine the carbon emissions generated when we package and transport enough of these dresses to outfit 2.4 million American brides each year!
Now what if out of those 2.4 million brides, just half decided to resell their dresses? What kind of impact would 1.2 million less wedding dresses a year have on our collective carbon footprint? And what if just half of those women re-sold the dresses again after their weddings, effectively creating a chain reaction of wedding dress reducing, reusing and recycling? And what about the 9.6 million bridesmaids dresses, the decorations, the accessories? I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Stay tuned to the RB Blog for more reasons why wedding recycling matters. And in the meantime, try listing some stuff from your own wedding on RecycledBride.com, and join us in saving the Earth one wedding at a time.