How many people get married each year? 2,152,00, according to this wedding report. (Imagine how that will grow as marriage equality becomes reality!)
Ok, so there are more than two million events each year. Some are small, just close family and friends at city hall or in a house of worship. However, the same report figures the average number of guests per wedding at 128. So to balance out all the ten person weddings, there are some weddings with several hundred people in attendance.
All these guests have to be provided with refreshments and seating and entertainment, and therein lies a huge potential for positive change.
I'm inspired by the Green Congregations movement, in which Christian congregations affirm their commitment
to care for creation ... [and] affirm the creation in all its glory and beauty. [They] acknowledge God as the source of all things.... As a result, [they] strive to respect all of life as sacramental. [They] accept our vocation as earth-keepers who care for creation. ...
What I like about this statement is that it's not dogmatic or sanctimonious. It does not say how congregations should express their care for creation, only that they value God's creation and affirm their duty to protect it.
Further on in the Green Congregation handbook, specific steps are suggested, first for taking an inventory of how the congregation does business, including Worship, Education, Building and Grounds, and Public Ministry, and then suggests ways that congregations might work to lessen impacts in these areas (eg., install compact fluorescent bulbs in church buildings, reduce the use of pesticides on church lawns).
Imagine how much difference just one of these actions would make: if every house of worship in the country stopped using toxic herbicides and pesticides on their lawns and gardens, we'd have many, many fewer tons of toxic compounds running off into storm drains, rivers, lakes and oceans. And that's just from one tiny change.
Another example is Transition Towns, communities where folks gather to explore the question: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?
They raise awareness about current conditions, connect with existing groups in their towns, and assess various sectors of the town (food, energy, transport, health, etc.) to find out what actions are needed to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and create a more sustainable and liveable community.
I'm talking about the power of community here. If people in a particular community, whether religious or secular, chose to change their lifestyles to take the well-being of the Earth into greater consideration, the cumulative impact of those actions can be HUGE!
Interfaith Power and Light is one such organization that helps religious congregations walk their talk in caring for creation. Interfaith Power and Light
[helps] buy energy efficient lights and appliances, provid[es] energy audits and iimplement[s] the recommendations, encourag[es] people to buy more fuel efficient vehicles and to drive less, support[s] renewable energy development through “greentags,” [and] work[s] on large-scale renewable energy installation projects such as rooftop solar and advocating for sensible energy and global warming policy.
Since weddings are (often) religious and spiritual events (supposedly 80% occur in churches and synagogues, but I'm not leaving you out, secularists), can we build on these ideas toward a Green Wedding movement? Toward an authentic environmentally-conscious wedding movement, not another shopping spree for eco-friendly favors (though that could be part of it, if favors are a must).
Not a 'greener-than-thou' competition over whose Mason jars have been used more often (passed down from my grandmother!) or how many tons of waste have been diverted from the landfill by forgoing disposable aisle runners and paper decorations, but a movement that begins with a thoughtful approach of assessing what is involved in the wedding, like the Green Congregations movement, and then thinking about how each of those components might be adapted to lessen their environmental impact.
Maybe consultants like Interfaith Power and Light would spring up to assist couples in reducing their environmental impact. Many of us already take on a careful calculus in seeking to lessen budgetary impact. Can we incorporate environmental considerations, too?