Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Earth-Friendly Principle

"Your body is as ancient as the clay of the universe from which it is made; and your feet on the ground are a constant connection with the earth. Your feet bring your private clay in touch with the ancient, mother clay from which you first emerged."

- John O'Donohue

Jeff and I are both quite serious in our commitment to this lovely blue-green gem of a planet that we happen to live on — which is probably not surprising, considering we're tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping, long-haired-hippie Druids. We see our embodied existence as human animals weaving our way through this vast, thriving world of flora, fauna, landscapes and ecosystems to be pretty much the best, most sacred thing ever.

But even if we didn't ground our spiritual lives in the, uh... well, the ground, we'd still be planning to have a "green" wedding. Being environmentally friendly is all the rage these days. Okay, honestly, rage is all the rage these days — including rage over the exploitation, rape and destruction of this unique and beautiful ball of rock we call home. It makes my blood boil! And not just because the planet is literally getting hotter.

It seems to me that any sane person, when thinking about formally acknowledging and celebrating her union with her beloved in the eyes of their community, should probably stop and ask herself where that community is going to end up ten, twenty, fifty years down the road if our bad habits and selfish greed continue. In fact, a sane person might have cause to wonder if she shouldn't expand her concept of "community" to include the soil, water, air, trees, plants and animals that create, shape and sustain her human community, and if all these beings and creatures might not have just as big a role to play in lending their support (and joy and celebration) to a marriage based on mutual love and responsibility. Now maybe there aren't that many sane people in the world these days — or maybe there's a screw or two loose in folks who think they need not just their families and the officiant, but the oceans and the winds and the sunlight and the forests to bless their union — but in any case, Jeff and I strive for sanity as best we can.

Which means we're trying to craft a wedding which, like our marriage, will embody our earth-loving, environmentally sustainable values as much as possible. As physical creatures, we participate in the web of interconnection. Our clay arises and takes on form and meaning from the ancient clay of our earth mother, as does that of our children, and their children — it is to this clay that we all eventually return. Jeff and I try live our lives as deeply as we can with this awareness of our relationship to the earth and its ecosystems, our impact on the beings, entities, organisms and landscapes of the natural world... and their impact on us. Like all things in the natural world, relationship is a two-way street. (Or more accurately, an eat-and-be-eaten, give-and-take, inhale-and-exhale kind of thing.)

So what this means in practice is that we're guiding our wedding planning decisions based on the old familiar principle: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

These days, many people like to skip ahead to that last one, invest in some disposable flatware made from a combination of corn and recycled plastics, and call it a day. But Jeff and I are hardcore. Or methodical. Anyway, we like to start at the beginning.

Reduce. Trying to be eco-friendly is a great excuse to cut down on budget costs and unnecessary miscellany, but really the best part is not getting swept away by the Wedding Industrial Complex and buying lots of stuff you don't really want and can't possibly need. Staying grounded in simplicity is a wonderful tribute to the planet, and quite effective in keeping things eco-friendly as well. We already practice this in our everyday lives, weighing each purchasing or lifestyle choice based on whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs (and we mean all the costs, from financial to environmental, to political, social, psychological, ethical and spiritual). As you can imagine, with so many potential costs to worry about, we've found again and again that simpler is better. Sometimes it's a simple walk in the park instead of a night out at the movies. Sometimes it's a simple home-cooked meal (or better yet, a raw vegan salad!) instead of dinner at a restaurant. You get the picture. And we're hoping our wedding will be much the same: the gift of simplicity brings with it the gifts of creativity, flexibility and often the gift of stress-reduction, too. So if there's a wedding tradition that involves elaborate planning and complex execution.... well, we'll probably be giving it a pass.

Reuse. Now I'm not going to commit to getting my dress at a second-hand shop, though I certainly know brides who have.... but my personal goal for wedding planning is to spend as little as possible on one-time-use and wedding-only items. That means that, while the dress might be new, it probably won't be white, and I'll probably wear it again and again over the years of my married life. It means decorations, besides being sparse (see also: reduce), will likely be things we can incorporate into our home decor, or give away as favors to guests who might have use for them. It means we may be asking friends and family if they're willing to lend a hand, or a dinner platter, or a set of beach chairs. It means that we'll be finding creative ways to kill two or three birds with one stone (except, you know, not literally). And it means that, when it comes to the whole "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" bit — we'll have the "something old, something borrowed" part covered.

Recycle. Yes, our good friend, recycling. Recycling can be so tricky these days, because so much of what we recycle is plastic and, unlike glass and metal, plastic cannot truly be recycled — it can only be "down-cycled" into a less useful form. After only a few rounds of down-cycling, all plastic eventually winds up in the dump. Or, worse, floating in the oceans choking the sea life. So part of our eco-friendly commitment is to avoid, whenever possible, the use of plastics. Anyway, plastic often looks so tacky compared to the elegance of metal, wood and glass. In addition to seeking out non-plastic alternatives for our wedding ceremony and reception, we'll be looking for recycled and recyclable products, and vendors who are committed to earth-friendly practices and heathy recycling habits for their businesses. We'll also be looking into options for both recycling and composting for rubbish from the wedding itself — after all, no matter how "compostable" those disposable plates might be, they won't break down if they're squeezed into layers and layers of a landfill without the necessary aeration or bacteria-and-bug population.

Now, before you go thinking that this wedding is going to be all dull and no fun, remember that for us, being earth-friendly is not only about responsibility, it's also about love. Just as we have an impact on the environment in which we live, that environment also has an impact on us. Recent scientific studies have actually shown that spending time out in the natural world, experiencing the beauty and organic wildness of the earth, has a measurably positive effect on our psychological and physical well-being. And so, the final aspect of our earth-friendly principle is to Get Out of the Way, step aside and allow the earth's inherent beauty and bounty to shine through and inspire the love and awe it so deserves. After all, when we talk about "sustainable living," we don't mean that human beings bear the burden of upholding the weight of existence — we mean that, as human animals, we celebrate our connection and rootedness in the ultimate, self-giving Sustainer: Mother Earth herself.

When we get away from all the buzzing machines, flashing lights and gimmicky plastics of our civilized existence, we discover a chance to realize the truly awesome and amazing nature of the world we share with one another. Jeff and I can't think of a better setting in which to celebrate our love and our community of family and friends, than to share that gift of awe and reverence for the natural with them.

1 comment:

  1. In 1997, we had a very "green" wedding at our farm in Maryland. Our daughter, Rebeccah, an environmental educator, married John, a museum exhibit designer/builder. We rented all the dishes and glassware, had English country dancing, and a maypole as the centerpiece of the wedding ceremony in our woods....which they, of course, wrote. We rented tents, tables and chairs, I made the wedding cake, and Sarah, another daughter, made the gorgeous dupioni silk and point de Venise lace wedding dress. It was a wonderful day, and all of the rentals got returned in the next several days. They wash the dishes!

    Ellen Waff/Eilidh