Carbon offsets are well-understood as a tool in the corporate sphere, but they are only slowly making their way to a person’s day-to-day: United Airlines offers a single-click option to offset an individual flight. Providers like Terrapass offer an annual subscription to offset the carbon cost of living your life. For many people, their weddings are the one day they get a taste of that duchess lifestyle. Should carbon offsets be a normal practice for them too?
The wedding industry produces an untold amount of waste. According to Terrapass, the average American wedding translates to about 400 to 600 pounds of waste and 62 tons of carbon dioxide (compare that to the average American person’s carbon output of 20 tons annually). And the industry has continued to incrementally increase in the past decade. Pinterest, remember, only launched in 2010.
The Cauterucci–Greenspan wedding was squarely average in size and cost to other modern American weddings, coming in at an estimated $33,000, or roughly $235 a head. The cost of offsetting it was a little over .006 of the overall budget. It was nearly the equivalent of inviting one more guest to the wedding.
For bigger budget affairs it would be an even smaller percentage. A typical wedding for Emily Campbell, of Bella Event Design and Planning, for example, is about $250,000 to $1.5 million. Campbell throws lavish ceremonies for her clients who want to balance their environmental inclinations with the desire to throw a big, beautiful party. She’s long planned events with an eye toward pairing down on plastics and other “low-hanging fruit,” and the directive to do more has only grown in recent years. “I’m finding that there [are] a lot of people within my industry who are also really kind of grossed out by the amount of waste that we produce. And I’m not saying that I’m perfect by any means. I still produce a lot of waste with my events,” she said, but “we’re on the edge of creating a movement.”
Campbell works mainly in Colorado—Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, parts of the state that are a big draw for environmentalists and also destination weddings. She threw a wedding at Knapp Ranch in Edwards, Colorado, where she also consults on events, on Saturday. Besides some carbon-mitigating tactics—like providing shuttles for guests to carpool and using ranch-grown food—she also had her client share much of the wedding infrastructure, like tables and chairs, with another bride, Jill Shackelford, whose wedding was the following night. Shackelford also put carbon offsets on her registry.
Campbell is something of a pioneer, though. Lisa Marie, of L. Marie Events on Long Island, said that she got certified in sustainable wedding planning back in 2010 when sustainability looked like it would be a bigger wedding trend, but her client’s interest in greening their weddings has largely dropped off. And Marcy Blum, one of the O.G.s of wedding planning who throws events all over the world for the rich and often famous, says that she’s never heard a client suggest carbon offsets, even though sustainability has been a growing interest, especially for her younger couples. “They’re already feeling a little bit guilty—or a lot guilty—about spending the kind of money they do on parties or weddings,” Blum said. “That’s one of the first questions. ‘What can we do to make less waste?’ They don’t want it to look like Marie Antoinette—even though that might be exactly who they are.”
Asked whether she thinks destination weddings have started falling by the wayside in favor of more events closer to carbon neutral, she said, “Not yet. And I hope that doesn’t happen.”