If you’re planning an eco-friendly wedding, one of the first steps you need to take is label education. Not all green labels and terms are created equal, and it can get confusing. For example, are those wedding favors you found organic, recycled, sustainable or natural? Which is best?
You need to know which terms are best because you’re going to run into label issues when it comes to lighting, food, wedding attire, paper products, decor, jewelry and much more.
Here are the key terms you’ll need to have an eco-friendly wedding…
ORGANIC: Organic can, and cannot be an actual eco-term. When partnered with the USDA organic seal, you can be sure you’re getting real organics. However, keep in mind that the term organic, and the USDA organic seal can only be applied to agricultural items, or items that are grown, for example cotton used for clothing and textiles; body care products containing plants, herbs or flowers; soy used for candles; flowers and of course food.
Organic is also sometimes applied to jewelry, but when used this way, organic means the style of jewelry, it’s not a sustainable term at this point.
Sustainable is a real term, and it can define truly eco-friendly products, but you have to be careful. What sustainable is not, is an official label. Anyone can call their product sustainable, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for you or the planet. True sustainable materials or products mean items that can be created, or harvested with less of an impact on the planet.
For example, plastic plates are not sustainable because plastic is made with non-renewable oil. Plates made with recycled plastic or easily renewable bamboo would be a better sustainable choice. Another example is paper. Virgin paper invitations, made from trees are not a sustainable choice, because it harms the environment to cut down whole forests just to make paper. On the flip side (the sustainable side) would be treeless paper, recycled paper or paper made from alternative, easy to grow crops, like hemp. Reclaimed wood products is another sustainable example.
In terms of labels, “Green” means nothing. There are no official green product labels. Green is a marketing term more than anything. That said, a company may still be truly eco-friendly if they say they’re green.
Example of when “green” is used right: a honey company calls themselves “green.” They aren’t certified organic, but do use organic methods for harvesting their honey (if a company makes less than $5,000 a year, they can be organic, but not certified). This company also use recycled jars and they print their labels with non-toxic ink on recycled paper. They also offset shipping emissions. This would be an actual green company.
Example of when “green” is used wrong: a soap company markets themselves as “green.” While this company does use some lavender in their soap, it’s not organic and they also use chemicals and non-organic essential oils in their soap. They wrap their soap in recycled paper, but then double wrap that soap in plastic. They call themselves “green” because of the recycled paper, but they’re really misusing the term, and aren’t actually all that eco-friendly.
Often a company will claim a product is sustainable, green or eco-friendly when in fact, it’s anything but. That’s called greenwashing, and you should learn to avoid it.
NATURAL OR ECO-FRIENDLY:
Natural and eco-friendly are not a real eco-term. Neither has an official label and both are used in much the same way as “green.”
Recycled products like paper, cotton and glass abound. What makes recycled products green is the fact that you’re reusing items, not simply tossing them in a landfill. Keep in mind that some recycled products are better than others. For example, you can find 100% recycled paper invitations or 30% recycled paper invites. Aim for products that use more, not less recycled content.
Reclaimed is not an official label, but you will see it related to some wedding products and it can be a true sustainable term. For example, sometimes a jewelry maker will say, “Reclaimed” when talking about a piece made with found glass or recycled silver. Reclaimed and recycled are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same.
This is a real label from the Forest Stewardship Council. A products bearing the FSC logo guarantees that the product is made with wood from a certified well-managed forest. FSC-certified products such as paper, furniture, wedding gifts, cake toppers, cosmetics and kitchenware are available.
Efficient is used with regards to energy and water issues most of the time. For example, energy efficient LED lighting is a green wedding choice. Plants and flowers that need less water to grow, would be water efficient.
Biodegradable is a huge green buzz word right now, but it’s not really all that eco-friendly. There are MANY problems with purchasing biodegradable wedding products. You’re much better off purchasing products that actually go away when they’re used up, such as cookies, bird seed favors or sugar art than purchasing biodegradable products.
- Learn about eco-friendly wedding flower labels.
- Grow Your Own Green Wedding – labels not needed.
- Learn about green wedding rings.
[usda organic seal image via Organic Trade Association]