by Lauren Daley
Happy Earth Day!
In reporting a story on waste reduction strategies for municipalities for our green issue, I was struck by a recurring theme from across various programs. While places like Portland, Boulder, San Francisco and Pittsburgh have strategies for improving waste disposal, much emphasis is put on changing how we think about waste creation.
And there are plenty of inspiring local examples. The South Side Soup Contest, for one, uses Green Gears Pedicabs as transportation, and uses 100% compostable products, keeping nearly a half ton of waste out of a landfill each year.
Then there are folks like Eleanor Wilson, of Rosedale, who try to live a more sustainable, minimal-waste lifestyle. And She applied that same philosophy to her wedding.
There was one thing that bugged Wilson on her wedding day: butter packets.
The tiny, foil-topped packages were some of the only trash created at Wilson’s 2010 nuptials at Northmoreland Park.
Almost everything else was recyclable, compostable or re-usable. Entertainment came from family and friends.
“I had to stand up at the dinner and explain the butter packets couldn’t be composted, and where to put any trash — in a special bag we kept of to the side,” says Wilson, 33. “Most people thought composting on that scale was really neat and different, since not many events do it.”
Their wedding invitations were hand-made from recycled paper. ("My aunt thought the invitation was junk mail and accidentally threw it away. She kept watching for bells and bows and doves in the mail until we called her; she wasn't expecting a Buddhist poem on recycled paper.") Invitations also offered a telephone RSVP so as not to create additional waste. Her dress was a $5 thrift shop find, a “happy sunshine yellow sundress” which she later donated. “I’d like to think a little happy mojo from our wedding went with it to the next home.”
The wedding came almost a year into Wilson’s search for a minimal waste, sustainable lifestyle (Which she often writes about here. ) She had grown up with the ideas of recycling, reusing and repairing imparted from her grandmother. “But convenience is a difficult siren song to resist and I never really thought too carefully about it all.”
Until her job offered an opportunity to work an extra day a week to earn extra money. But then her boyfriend (now husband), made a suggestion.
“He said, 'Hon, What about spending less instead of earning more?’” she says.
Wilson took the idea and ran with it, tackling their spending "like a sumo wrestler.' That led to cooking their own food, riding her bike to work — at one time, 10 miles one way, and another time to a shuttle when her job relocated to more than 30 miles away. She reduced her utilities through websites like No Impact Man and My Plastic Free Life. At the height of using only her bicycle, she estimated saving $200 a month in fuel costs.
It's been a learning process, she admits. And some things are a give-and-take. The month of her wedding. for example, “We didn’t have hot water as I debated the merits of the various options,” she says. “One cold snap and I chose more wisely.”
Interested in throwing a zero-waste event and look for some insight? The Pennsylvania Resources Council offers businesses and residents resources for doing so. There is also a list of "Green" events on this citywide calendar.