Top Your Cake with ArtEtsy has so many great gifts and decor ideas for green weddings. They have a ton of handmade items. Handmade can be sustainable because individuals usually use simple methods of creating their products and create less waste doing so. When we buy products at the prices set by artists on Etsy, we are paying a fair price for the item. It's less about getting something cheap and more about what wonderful piece of art we most desire. Plus, everything is online, so it removes our having to drive around to malls to find what we are looking for while wasting gas. The artists don't need to keep up a shop and can keep their costs low and fair. One handmade item that I've seen a lot of lately has been the cake topper. Hopefully, if you decide to use one, you get one cute enough so that it gets reused again as decor or memorabilia in your home. The toppers I've got showcased here are either made out of biodegradable materials and/or made by hand. Check them out:
Cake toppers by dandelionland:
Cake Toppers by Littlevale:
Cake Toppers from HeyMiemie:Thanks Etsy artists... In Green and Health, G&G
Green Weddings and Green People in San Franciscowww.greenfestivals.org And no, we're not all eating granola. I like granola like everyone else, but I definitely don't see myself as "granola" just because I live green or sustainable. Besides, granola isn't a bad word these days. It actually is pretty tasty, especially homemade. Put it into a jar and you've got a great gift or "wedding favor" for your guests. Ok, so what will we be doing at this green festival? Well lots of talking, sharing and looking at new ideas and guest speakers. Check out the Schedule. Online you can download a guide to the festival that gives you all the cool info. It's huge and includes so many inspiring words, visuals and people. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- 450+ exhibitors and organizations in the Green Marketplace
- 45 minutes presentations and speakers on the sustainable economy, ecological balance and social justice
- how-to workshops in the Green Buiding Pavilion
- Hemp fashion shows in the Hemp Pavilion
- Music acts
- Food Demonstrations in the Soul Kitchen
- Green Social Media Demonstrations
- Organic food and drink
- Concerts and dance parties after dark: greenbash.com
So if your in or around the Bay, definitely come check out the SF Green Festival this coming weekend.
In Green and Health,
A Hot Chocolate FavorSo it's getting chilly at night these days. The time has changed, the days are shorter, and you've probably switched to flannel sheets like we have. I know, I live in California, but we still get cold here. If you're getting married this winter, you may be considering a winter theme. Maybe you're just thinking about the comfort of your guests on a chilly winter night. Whatever the case, why not help your guests get cozy after the affair with favors of organic and fair trade hot chocolate? I love hot chocolate, hot chocolate with marshmallows, even Mexican hot chocolate. With a few cookies for dipping and a movie to watch, I'm set for the night. There are a few companies out there providing hot chocolate made with organic and (so very important) fair-trade cocoa, but one caught my eye because of their willingness to share with their cocoa growers: Deansbeans.com. Now, their hot cocoa mix is not only well-intentioned, it's also very affordable. Half of their profits are returned to the growers! I'm not sure how it tastes, but I'm hoping to try it and get back to you. Dean, if you're reading this, I'd love to taste a cup! The Gorgeous and Green Events wedding or party favor suggestion would be to find some small recycled paper bags and twist ties and measure out a serving of the mix for each guest. Here I cut out some snowflakes from leftover white fabric I had and attached it to the front and used reused ribbons to accent. You could even go one step further and put it in a glass jar with some marshmallows so they can see the mouth-watering treat. You could personalize it with a cute tag with your guest's name on one side and the cocoa directions on the other. And don't forget to tell them it's not only organic, but fair-trade! In Chocolate and Health, G&G
Organic Produce and Flowers from WatsonvilleWe've decided to start going to our local farmer's markets to meet the growers and support them firsthand. (We shop at Berkeley Bowl, a great source for local produce, but one step away from the growers themselves). Last Tuesday, we headed over to the Berkeley Farmer's market. Luckily it's spring/summer, so a few of the local growers had some of their flowers out to sell. I came upon Blue Heron Farms and their bouquets of organic flowers were beautiful. They had bells of ireland, sunflowers, cornflowers and dahlias. I am definitely going to use their flowers in the Green Gala show and fundraiser for the botanical gardens next weekend. Blue Heron Farms are members of the California Certified Organic Farmers and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. For information about Blue Heron Farms, check out their listing at localharvest.org
The Definition of Sustainable Floral Design or, Just Sustainable Design for that matter.If you haven't tuned in previously, you may not know that the reason I'm in this green floral and event business to begin with is because I myself was looking to plan an event sustainably. And because there was so few resources at the time, I ended up learning a lot trying to work it out on my own. So now, almost 3 years after I started planning my first sustainable wedding, I am looking around and seeing a lot more green. But, I'm not sure it's all what it's cracked up to be. Something I've heard lately is: "green-washing". The idea that with a few elements of eco-friendly products or some organic materials, a new product or service can be called "green". Then people are tantalized by the words and regretfully miss that the product or service isn't altogether that green or sustainable. Kind of like new condos, built to look like an old warehouse or loft with some recycled iron and bamboo floors. It may look from the onset to be "green" but in reality, you may come to find out that virtually all housing developments are using recycled iron these days and the warehouse/loft look actually comes with a hefty heating and cooling bill to control all that extra air space. So, I go into green floral design knowing that if I want to call myself truly green and sustainable, I better do the best job I can or else... Or else my conscience won't be able to take it. And this leads me to the definition. What exactly is sustainable floral design anyway? Well, I couldn't find much talk about it, but I did find plenty that mentioned sustainable design and found some ideas I think fit the bill. In an interview and story by David Carlson that was highlighted on Treehugger.com, designer Satyendra Pakhalé gives some thought to it. He says "the best way to make sustainable design is to concentrate on quality, both concerning design and material. To produce better products. Mass consumption and sustainability doesn’t go very well together" and I agree. Taking a look at floral and event design through this lens shows us that when we work on a smaller scale, when artesans, designers, growers, bakers, candy makers and printers are involved at the local and small business level, then we are working more sustainably. But of course, this also means that those small businesses should also be getting their materials and services at the local level. This can be hard to do, if not impossible. What materials have solely been produced in your 50 mile radius? Yes, those flowers were grown here but where did the seeds come from? And what about the truck that delivered the flowers and what about the diesel that fired up the engine of the truck? Yes, it's difficult. But it's not always impossible. With information and education, consumers and businesses alike can learn more about where their stuff comes from and ask themselves, is it really needed? What can I find that's locally produced that will do the job? Will it cost me more in the long run to buy the well-made product, or the throw-away? And so I move toward a second point by the writer of this story highlighted on Treehugger.com and davidreport.com: David Carlson. He says: "given the growing bounty of choices available to us all, it's more important than ever to simply think about our personal interactions with our stuff and where it comes from. It's not about sustainability for the sake of calling it "green"; it's about making meaningful connections with the things that surround us, and interacting with design and products accordingly." And so, why not think of sustainable design and even sustainable floral design as the production of materials and services that are rendered with a full heart. Taking ownership in the quality of the design, knowing the people who printed the cards and hence knowing that they do their best to use biodegradable inks and recycled paper. Ordering the flowers from a local grower who can tell you how they grow their flowers and how they too hate pesticides. Avoiding cheap materials that may provide ease, such as floral foam, styrofoam, or plastic and instead going with wire, recycled paper boxes, glass or metal and knowing that spending the extra money will add quality and longevity to the product. A lesson I've learned in my own life about sustainability is that I can create my own replenishing world of food and flowers around me. So, I've started growing my own vegetables, flowers, fruits and even some greens I can use in my floral designs. It's taking time and some energy, but every time new growth shows it head or new flowers show me brilliant colors or when I get to harvest some vegetables from the earth, I remember why I do it. Because the brilliant flowers I tossed in the kitchen, traveled 15 feet to get there and the green onions I tossed in that soup taste so great when you grow them yourself. It's almost as if we need to turn the clock back a few decades if not a few hundred years. Go back to when you and I used to grow our own food. When I had honey and you baked bread, and so we traded. When the local dairy raised cows without hormones and fresh milk was delivered in the morning in glass bottles that were recycled for the next customer. Let's remember what it was like to live simply. When cars went 35 miles an hour and we thought that was so fast and made life so easy. Going back to those times we realize that although technology born in the future can seem exciting and promising, it may not always offer the correct answers when it comes to living in the future. In some ways, we had green and sustainable right the first time, when it was just called living. And so with design, I feel we need to follow a similar path. And in these times of economic stress and strife, if we can't afford the full brigade of flowers, sit-down dinners for 200 and multiple carats on our fingers, maybe we should opt for the cheaper version. That being the more simple but still well-made and sustainable version. In Green, Health and Less Stress G&G www.gorgeousandgreenevents.com
"Silk" or artificial flowers are NOT a
sustainable or eco-friendly optionNow I remember when I used to help my aunt decorate for weddings, we used silk flowers (actually plastic, but we'll get into that in a second) for decorating because we could use them over and over again, and couple's could save money on their decorations. That was back in the 80's, and I thought a lot had changed since then. Apparently not. I have noticed in one too many art stores that there are large quantities and varieties of plastic flowers. I have also noticed many brides and grooms desiring and talking about silk flowers on wedding chats and so forth. It scares me. Haven't we all been schooled in what's good for the environment? At the very least, aren't people concerned about all that plastic that's going to sit in our landfills for years to come in the form of a colorful plastic gerber daisy? But then I remembered the name: "silk flowers". Maybe it's throwing people off. So, here's a little background to artificial flowers and how they got their silk name. Many years ago, in some cultures (in Asia and in Europe and eventually in the U.S.) it was considered a beautiful art form to recreate flowers out of artistic materials in such a way, that these fakes looked almost real. Back in those days, they didn't have plastic. They probably used natural materials: cottons, wool and most likely silk. Some used clay, others used glass beads. The list may go on, but the point is, they didn't use plastic. And, it was all biodegradable. Some of the paints or dyes, may have been slightly toxic, as they are today, but hopefully less so. What did happen however, is that even back then, those who created these artistic representations were paid little and the work was tedious and hard. And, even at the turn of the century in this country (still before plastic) the factories where these artificial flowers were made were filled with women and children, often working long hours, using child labor and unfair work conditions. For more information about this time period and artificial manufacturing take a look at this book by Mary Van Kleeck for the Committee on Women's Work of the Russell Sage Foundation in 1913: books.google.com/books A hundred years have gone by, and in the mean time as in that famous line from The Graduate states: our future lies in plastic. And unfortunately so will many generations of people and animals on this earth as it isn't going away any time soon. Now, producing plastic can't be great for the environment. In one article I found, the author suggested that there was actually no byproducts of artificial flowers. Hmm. Not sure where they think the plastic comes from in all those beautiful colors. I Know a little bit about production, and I would assume that creating and melting and dying and forming those colorful plastic flowers and trees, there will be some leaching of that plastic, chemicals and dyes from that process into the environment, the soil, the air, the ground water, the oceans, etc. In fact, I did find another book that suggested that people who make artificial flowers come into contact with arsenic gas, apparently it's pretty harmful, every heard of it? And to top it off, a lot of these flowers, trees and fake shrubs are either doused in fire retardant chemicals or chemicals are "embedded" into the polyester or plastic materials so they are fire retardant. Not only do they live forever, but they might burn because they're made of plastic. You can't be too careful. You can check out why they want you to buy that here: http://www.commercialsilk.com But, not only does manufacturing the flowers probably affect people's health and the health of the environment in which it was made, it's also about who it's affecting. Where do you think all these plastic flowers and trees and fake grasses are made? Well, let's see. Their plastic. Their cheap. Oh, could it be China? Or maybe Thailand? Or, say India? Yes. Cheap labor. Unfair working conditions. Underpaid people or maybe even children, like this girl found by this photographer: a href="http://www.loupiote.com/photos/87750962.shtml"> These underpaid laborers working tedious jobs with chemicals, arsenic and who knows what else. And thankfully for the U.S., it's all being made in another country so the pollutants aren't directly in our backyard. But that's not the end of the story. Then it gets shipped thousands of miles over to us and trucks bring it to our homes or stores and we lovingly put the flowers in nice plastic vases and glue them together with some hot glue and styrofoam. How lovely for the landfills. And then we put those lovely fire retardant plastic flowers in our bedrooms and in our restaurants, and they collect dust while fire retardant and plastic off gases around them. And if you're lucky, they may have even been sprayed with chemicals to make them smell like real flowers. It just gets better and better. Now, I realize I may sound upset. And I am. And I know there are a ton of people out there who already know these flowers are not a good idea. But for those of you entertaining the idea, please think twice. If you're concerned about money, think about other ways to decorate that could be more forgiving to the environment and people's health. If you want flowers, think naturally. Why not buy some locally grown wildflowers? or get some organic roses? Find an organic or sustainable florist in your area. I know people are starting to understand that most live cut flowers are sprayed with toxic pesticides and fungicides, etc. as stated on this website for artificial flowers: fake flowers don't need pesticides. And you're right, but that in no way makes them good for the environment. If you are really on a budget and worried about toxins, make them out of recycled paper, some fair trade organic cotton, anything but plastic! You won't find a #2 recycle symbol on the back of that plastic rose, so you know where it goes when you're done. That's all for now. In Green and Health G&G
Local, Sustainable and OrganicIn November, we did a wedding for Heidi and Dave, who had chosen to do local and sustainable flower design for their wedding. The wedding took place at the Chaminade, very close to their home in Santa Cruz. I don't live in Santa Cruz, so I stayed at a local beach cabana with my husband under the guise of a surf weekend. We brought our dog and all the materials I would need to craft 21 large table centerpieces of orchids, some cocktail arrangements, a table card arrangement and the wedding party's flowers. Heidi originally wanted orange and purple flowers, but when we talked with Dave about his needs he asked that we not use very much purple, as in his Italian culture it was considered bad luck. So out went the purple and in came the green, white and orange color scheme that I suggested. I had seen some beautifully decorated rooms where the floral designer used potted orchids as the centerpiece, so I suggested we do the same because the plants could also be used as gifts for those who wanted to take one home with them. I used willow branches, moss and glass vases with rocks to pot the orchids, and they looked beautiful in the room. Around the centerpieces I added some moss and branches I had found from the sea and that had dropped from trees in the mountains. We decided a slightly mountain-y feel would go well for where the Chaminade is located (in the Santa Cruz mountains). The ceilings were bare and we needed some height in the design, so the tall orchid centerpieces did the job wonderfully. We also wanted to add some color to the tables but didn't want to have to buy tablecloths or order special cloth so I found some elephant dung paper (paper made from elephant poo, tree free, recycled and biodegradable) that came in a dark orange that Heidi was fond of. We used the paper at each place setting and used if for the tablecards and table numbers. I snuck in a little purple with some of the green flowering kale for the cake table. Throughout all of the tables we used floating candles and votive candles for ambiance. The dinner was in the evening, so to create an atmospheric light without turning up the electrical lights made it feel very romantic. There were a lot of windows in the room, so we also strung up some hanging glass votive holders in the windows, which also added a soft light and twinkling. For the Bridal party's flowers, I used what was in season from some local flower growers. Heidi wanted Calla lilies and flowering kale matched the color scheme, so we used them for the bouquets. I also used veriflora certified roses for some of the boutonnieres and for the Bridal Bouquet. Overall, the wedding looked beautiful and the atmosphere during dinner was very romantic. Using local and fair trade flowers made the wedding a conscious wedding, that matched the lives of the bride and the groom. For more information about green wedding planning and floral design, visit us at www.gorgeousandgreenevents.com In Green and Health G&G
A Green Wedding that saves you green (money)?What if I told you as a flower designer and event planner, my real skill is saving you money as well as the planet? It's the inheritance of working sustainably. It makes perfect sense. Use less materials, less shipping, less new things, and you're going to lower costs somewhere. When I work on an event or project I'm thinking sustainablility. What can I get nearby that will work perfectly for this theme? What could I decorate with that is biodegradable or I can find used? Who is growing those flowers nearby, rather than overseas. Yes, it takes a little more work and a different way of thinking, but once you start viewing the world through the sustainable lens, it becomes very common sense. So here's an example of a wedding I did on a budget. And I didn't skimp on beauty and feeling. The location was perfect. An outside venue in September, wonderful weather for a late summer/early fall day. The couple chose to have the ceremony in the redwood grove in the Berkeley Botanical Gardens and the reception outside on a patio near succulents and greenhouses. We had two small areas to decorate, but luckily those areas already came full of beautiful colors and ambiance. The Redwood grove was so lush and magical, we just added a few special touches here and there to add a romantic and bright feeling. The patio already had large succulents and plants around, so just a few splashes of color did the trick to enhance the atmosphere. We focused on beautiful bouquets that matched the bright bridemaid dresses and a blossoming and bright bouquet to enhance the bride's simple column dress. It turned out beautifully, and the flowers cost under $1,000. Amazing at best.
For more information about Gorgeous and Green Events and our sustainable practices visit our website: www.gorgeousandgreenevents.com
All the beautiful pictures are taken by local photographer Cara at Cara Mia Photography www.caramiaphotography.comWe used organic and fair trade roses and locally grown hydgrangea (I grow myself) as well as locally grown hypericum berries, bells of ireland and amaranthus from flower growers who bring their goods to the local flower markets. They didn't travel far, and I use recycled vegetable oil to power my vehicles, so gasoline usage was at a minimum.
Using organic, local and fair trade flowers means less toxic pollution for the special events we enjoy with loved ones and the rest of the world. It also means supporting local businesses and helping small businesses thrive. More people and families are supported, less harm is done to the world around us. All that great energy and care shines through the event, through the flowers, the people and the environment that is taken into consideration. Buy local and organic, think sustainably, care for the world.
In Green and Health, G&G
Details of a Green WeddingThe small pieces of an event or wedding are always the most tedious and possibly some of the most important. Flower colors, number of birthday candles, seating charts, the 1st song, etc. etc. And when it comes to a green event, making some of these details green and sustainable can get overwhelming. Yet, people have been celebrating green for centuries, and really it just means we have to go back to our roots to find our sustainable ways. At Gorgeous and Green Events we believe green design and event planning start with what's available in your area and what can be made and planned for without a lot of out of town materials or out of town vendors. It's rather simple to do, but we've made it more difficult for ourselves in the US because we use cars, trucks and airplanes to transfer people and objects all around the world with the swipe of a credit card. Not to mention all the chemicals we use to make things grow and appear in new ways and at different times of the year. With our wedding in Baja, my fiance and I decided to make even the small details green. My mother and I contacted local flower growers in Baja (about 5 miles away from the wedding site) and ordered flowers that could be used in bouquets and arrangements for the wedding. We picked those up the day before the wedding, so the florist, who also came down to Baja to work, could include those flowers in the arrangements.
Bouquet by Heavenly Florist, San DiegoWe chose to print our own maps and invitations at home. I illustrated the map using information about mileage and freeways for guests I could find on the internet. Since I had driven down Baja many times, it was helpful for me to add some additional driving pointers. We just scanned and printed them at home. Very cost-effective. The Invitation papers we bought from www.invitesite.com . A great place to get invitations sets for printing at home, and they offer sustainable designs that include tree free paper, recycled paper and raffia.
Invite Site's Hampton'sIf you have a chance, however, you can find recycled paper and envelopes in different colors from art stores and paper stores in your area, and print out your own invites at home. You might even find a local printer who can do them for you sustainably, and cut out the extra travel carbons.
Here are some sustainable invitation vendors or companies that provide eco-friendly options:
I chose to decorate our cocktail napkins and table cards using some rubber stamps that I had bought at a local art supply store. Rather than send out for printed napkins with our names or logo on it, I felt the stamps gave a festive and personal touch. The place cards were printed on recycled cardstock and they were attached to small shells that sat in sand at the entrance to the reception.
Table CardsI made the ceremony programs by sewing sheets of printed vellum and recycled cardstock together and then adding a cutout from a piece of design paper I bought at the art store. They were very special and were made at home! Less travel carbons and a bit cheaper than having them done elsewhere. We had a lot of space to decorate, and really no amount of flowers would have added to the magnificent decor of the beach and beautiful blue sea. So we opted to stay light on the table flowers and added some decor in the sky such as some paper flowers I made from tissue paper and tree-free paper that were strung up at the reception entrance. Not only were they compact and pesticide free, we could recycle them when we were done.
Sky paper flowers
We also needed more light on the patio where the reception was being held so we needed to buy or rent lighting. I made some lanterns out of jelly jars and wire and hung those around and we opted for turquoise paper lighted lanterns around the space that looked magnificent by day and glowing at night. Not only beautiful, but these lights were made of paper and old jars, recyclable or reusable materials for another event.
Lanterns at NightFor wearable details besides my dress, I opted to go vintage. I began looking for the perfect necklace months before, and found it close to home at a local jewelry shop that specialized in antique Native American jewelry. I found a wonderful necklace of full turquoise, which not only is a favorite stone but also was one of our wedding colors. I also found at a local vintage store a beautiful vintage hair comb with blue crystals. It went perfectly with my dress and overall look, which had a special Spanish/Mexican Colonial feel.
Vintage Hair Comb and NecklaceThere were many more details that I could go on and on about, but the take home message is really about simplifying and keeping things local and free of toxins. If you can buy it near you, if it was made or grown near you, if it was grown and made without added chemicals and toxins, and if it was already used by someone else, you've made quite an attempt at keeping your event and your life green. All the beautiful event photographs were taken by Erin Beach at www.erinbeach.com