Couples put green touch on weddings

by Saori Miyagawa

Kyodo News

Weddings and the parties that follow usually leave a mountain of waste in their wake. Now an increasing number of couples are seeking ways to make their nuptials more environmentally friendly.

Some are trying to reduce leftover food and giving “hikidemono” presents featuring organic materials. Hikidemono is the customary thank-you gift to be taken home by wedding guests.

One unique example of a green nuptial was designed by Shigeru Komori, 42, an official of the Environment Ministry, and Tomoko Hoshino, 40, who works for the Global Environment Outreach Center run by United Nations University.

Before their wedding party at a Tokyo restaurant in April 2009, they sent the invitations by e-mail to reduce use of paper as much as possible. To explain why they didn’t send formal letters, they said at the end of the e-mailed message, “Please understand that we are trying to be kind to the environment.”

For the reception, they served a buffet of organic food. Rather than a traditional wedding gown, the bride wore a dress made with corn fiber that she would continue to use after the ceremony.

The newlyweds eschewed the traditional cake-cutting ceremony and planted a peach tree instead. The hikidemono was soap made with natural ingredients that came in simple wrapping.

In a show of their commitment to the environmental cause, the couple signed up for a Brazilian program on reducing greenhouse gases. To offset the carbon dioxide estimated to have been produced through their wedding and honeymoon, they contributed ¥60,000 for an estimated 8 tons of emissions.

“It cost a lot of time and money, but we were able to start our life together in our own way,” Hoshino said.

Talking about the peach tree placed on the balcony of their new home, she said, “We intend to continue nurturing it even if we move home and replant it elsewhere, because it will be a testament to the way we have traveled as a married couple.”

Admittedly, they are committed environmentalists and their careers are wedded to the environment, so theirs may not be everyone’s ideal nuptial. But Hoshino said she wants everyone to do what they can to orchestrate an environmentally friendly wedding.

Her friend, Yoshihito Miyakoshi, 31, is planning a green wedding when he ties the knot this autumn.

“I’m already full of ideas and thinking of having environmental groups set up booths at our wedding” to promote their environmental projects, he said.

Taro Katsura, head of Ladirb, a Tokyo provider of bridal services, said about 30 percent of the company’s clients are looking for ways to reduce their wedding’s carbon footprint.

The trend is spreading outside Tokyo as well, Katsura said.

Many couples dispense with gift-wrapping in presenting hikidemono and present them in reusable tote bags or cover them with pieces of Japanese “furoshiki” fabric.

Others provide guests with reusable chopsticks they can take home instead of putting on their tables the disposable variety still widely used in Japan. Some ask guests in advance how much food they wish to consume and adjust serving sizes for each individual.

“People tend to associate eco-friendliness with simplicity and cost-reduction, but that’s not always the case,” said Ladirb’s Katsura.

“In planning a wedding, it’s important not to go overboard and obsess too much on fulfilling your own desire to protect the environment,” he said. “The couple should not forget about making their guests feel good, and it is desirable that both the couple and guests will later remember the ceremony with fond memories.”