In 2017, Shaan Lalwani decided to quit her job and start Coco Custo, a sustainable cleaning products company, in order to simplify one aspect of running a green household. We asked the eco-expert to put together a guide for a less wasteful celebration as the wedding season approaches
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MRUDULA KUVALEKAR
When I got married, I wanted to feel special and what more could I do than wear the same sari as my grandmother; the one she wore not only on her own wedding day but also on her 50th wedding anniversary. I had wanted to work with a designer but couldn’t find one who could conceptualise a modern version that represented my personal style. Among the current host of Indian designers who work with upcycled garments or within the sustainable fabrics space, no one stands out as far as bridal couture is concerned. Perhaps it’s time for the industry to step up to the challenge. In the meantime, the family tailor may be just the person you need.
If you don’t have an heirloom piece, or you aren’t a fan of the sustainable aesthetic, move out of the ‘single-use outfit’ mindset and look for something that can be worn in a number of ways and dressed down to double up as a wedding guest outfit. While working with your designers, push them away from synthetic fabrics and sequins, which qualify as microplastics, and towards more sustainable baubles like glass beads, crystals, badla and thread work. Go the extra mile and suggest cruelty-free silk.
For the understated yet elegant bride there are wonderful brands with sustainable clothing, the list is endless, but here are a few to get you started:
Amrich: — www.amrichdesigns.com
Bun.kar Bihar — www.srijanifoundation.com
SIDRcraft — www.sidrcraft.com
Amba — @ambaweave (Instagram)
Aavaran — Echoes of rural India — @aavaranudaipur (Instagram)
Pracheen (to custom block print a sari using vegetable dyes) — www.pracheen.com
A wedding is the best occasion to wear family heirlooms. Consider revamping old jewellery or using manufactured diamonds, which are molecularly the same but don’t require mining and are completely ethical. Most reliable jewellers should be able to source these for you.
Organic, natural and vegan make-up products have been a part of bridal make-up artist Arshis Javeri’s kit for a while now.
He’s been using a duochrome multi stick from Au Naturale which is his favourite for eyes and cheeks. Juice Beauty is another brand that has a great foundation. Their Phyto-Pigments Flawless Serum Foundation is organic and gives healthier coverage to the skin. It’s non-silicone based but has coconut alkanes. Their 100 per cent pure fruit pigmented mascara and eyeliner are go-to’s when working with organic make-up. However, as these products are not easily available in India, if you want to go local, consider Ruby’s Organic, a favourite for cream blushes. If you opt to go vegan, the new FAE Beauty colour sticks can be used on eyes, cheeks and lips.
Arshis Javeri (hair and make-up artist) — www.arshisjaveri.com
Bridal Party Outfits
If you are planning on coordinating outfits for your bridesmaids, groomsmen, immediate family or any others who will be a part of the ceremony, instead of having custom-made outfits, pick a colour scheme so that each person can wear something that’s already in their wardrobe and will also match their personal style.
With even your grandma on WhatsApp today, there is no time like the present to send out digital invites. E-vites are the best because an RSVP is only a click away. However, if you prefer to go old-school and absolutely must send physical invitations, opt for either recycled or seed paper and get in touch with a block printer who uses vegetable dyes, or a calligrapher who can use natural indigo dye as ink.
Paperless Post, (definitely the best digital invites) — www.paperlesspost.com
Ikon Cards (prints on recycled and seed paper) — www.ikoncards.com
Seed Paper India (suppliers of seed paper…make sure you send invites for seeds indigenous to the area) — www.seedpaperindia.com
Dheeraj Chhipa, (block print wedding invitations using natural dyes) — +91 99286 67334
Most of us send a gift along with the invitations, and the best gift I’ve received is from one of my closest friends who got married in the same week that I did. She sent a beautiful white orchid plant that is still in my home. Another great option is to plant a tree in each guest’s name. It would be fun to go visit the area on your 10th anniversary and see all the trees you are responsible for. And with climate change looming, reforestation is one of the strongest actions you can take to mitigate global warming. Seed bombs are another fun gift, especially for children.
Forest Creators (to plant a personal forest) — www.forestcreators.com
If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of GHG (greenhouse gas) methane. Right behind USA and China at 4.4 gigatons a year. Being the gracious hosts we Indians are, we want to make sure that the food is both fabulous and plentiful. So, while we make sure all our guests are well fed, we can also make sure none of the leftovers are wasted and do some good in the process. There are plenty of NGOs out there that will take the leftover food. I remember having over 50 portions of leftover dessert which we had no trouble giving away.
It’s best (and far more classy) to avoid disposable dinnerware, yet if you must, go for areca leaf plates and spoons. It’s the most robust of the sustainable options and is 100 per cent plastic free.
• Insist on local ingredients; importing food has a huge carbon footprint because it is usually flown in fresh or transported in refrigerated containers.
• Talk to your caterer about in-season produce; more pesticides and fertilisers are required to grow produce out of season.
• Use reusable cutlery and crockery or areca leaf plates and cutlery. Alternatively, guests can be served on banana leaves like in the old days.
• Use real glasses and skip the straws, or ask your caterer if they already have steel straws as part of their inventory.
• No PET bottles for aerated beverages. Returnable glass bottles are still available, and cans are a 100 per cent recyclable option.
• For juices, install a fresh juicing station and once again, use in-season fruits.
• Refuse single-use mineral water bottles and have a waiter walk around with filled glasses or a jug to refill for guests.
• Use reusable cloth napkins, since trees need to be cut down to be turned into paper tissues.
• Bring a zero waste food consultant on board — Arina Suchde (firstname.lastname@example.org) will consult with your caterer to conceptualise dishes made with parts of the produce that are generally wasted. For instance she turns rinds of watermelons into a som tam salad.
• Make sure you get guests to RSVP since this will help you get your numbers right and plan the volume of food accordingly.
List of NGOs who will take away leftover food:
Feeding India — www.feedingindia.org
List of composters who will pick up waste:
Phool, (If you’re lucky enough to live in Kanpur, you can have the amazing guys from Phool collect your leftover flowers, which they turn into chemical free agarbattis. If not, you can still help their cause by using their agarbattis in your ceremony, if you need them) — www.phool.co
Skrap, (will organise and execute end-to-end waste segregation and management) — www.skrap.in
Green Practices, (will pick up both dry and wet waste from your event) — www.greenpractices.in
After the outfit, the venue and decor are definitely number two on the list when a girl dreams of her wedding and starts putting that Pinterest board together.
The key to minimising decor is to pick a venue which is beautiful in itself. But alas, even the most perfect places need some dressing up.
• Avoid plastic and styrofoam. Opt for plant-based decor instead.
• Insist that your wedding designer does not transport decorative items or sets. One way to do this is to choose a decorator local to the destination or ask your wedding designer to do a local collaboration.
• Minimise the use of flowers. If you must, use in-season flowers available locally. Did you know that orchids imported from Thailand come in individual plastic tubes, while Indian orchids simply come in damp cotton wool?
• Ask for potted plants when possible.
• Avoid floral foam; it’s essentially made of plastic and will end up in a landfill.
• Choose LED lights over halogens. Not only do halogens use more energy themselves, they also emanate heat which can stress the air conditioning system.
• Candles should be made of soy wax and not paraffin, which is made from petrochemicals.
• Ask your decorator what they already have available and adapt it to suit your needs.
Devika Narain (wedding designer who weaves sustainability through creativity into her Pinterest-worthy decor. She has been known to creatively reuse bamboo scaffolding to create sustainable, yet dramatic decor) — www.devikanarain.com
Your best option is to go local. Transportation to and from a destination wedding, especially the flights, can leave a huge carbon footprint. However, if you are going in for a destination wedding, look for a hotel at an eco-friendly resort or one that has a gold or platinum LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
Look for a venue with plenty of natural light and ventilation. You could opt for a day function in an outdoor location with natural shade and foliage.
If the hotel has single-use toiletries, you can give sustainable shampoo and conditioner cubes, natural soaps and tooth tablets from brands like The Nature Masons — @thenaturemasons as part of the welcome hamper along with plastic-free snacks in glass jars for when the munchies strike. If you’re having a beach wedding, definitely add some reef safe sunscreen to the care kit.
ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru — www.itchotels.in/hotels/bengaluru/itcgardenia.html
The Casino Group Hotels, Kerala — www.casinogroupkerala.com
Gifts for the Newlyweds
Here’s a final tip that’s more for the guests. Studies have shown that experiences create more lasting happiness than possessions can. In that spirit, rethink what you’re gifting the couple. You could find out where they are heading for their honeymoon and present them unique experiences through their hotel or in that locality. Chip in with a few friends to gift the couple going to the Maldives a romantic barbeque on a private island or a paragliding experience for one heading to the California Coast.