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Farm barn with chairs stacked in front

Before Christmas I had a chat to my friend Alison, who had organised her wedding with the explicit purpose of reducing the carbon footprint of her wedding. Here are some of her ideas on making your wedding day not only more environmentally aware and low carbon, but also one that focuses on relationships and community and not just spending money and getting stressed in the process.

Boy with buffalo Oxfam Australia

1)      Try a different approach to gift giving

If you are a couple who already has most of what you need for your life together, why not give people an alternate option for gift giving? Alison and Dan (her husband to be) asked everyone to donate to Oxfam with the aim of purchasing a buffalo, for a community in a developing country. This approach was so successful that ultimately three buffalo’s were purchased through gift donations. The online option of donating also allowed people to write wishes to the wedding couple, either online or by sending a card. The certificate received at the end is now a happy reminder of the big day.

2)      Get everyone to chip in

One way to save money and get people participating is to ask everyone who is coming if they could contribute in some way. Ideally people will be able to volunteer and contribute with things that they are gifted in, or enjoy doing. For example someone who enjoys sewing may be able to hem some tablecloths, your musical friends (or family) can perform and those who like cooking may be able to provide some special dishes.

Man singing while playing guitar

3)      Recycle

Alison and Dan decided that all the crockery and cutlery they used would be purchased from second-hand stores and then re-donated to the stores afterwards. In total this cost them around $100 or less and was probably a cheaper option than hiring tableware and a more environmentally sound option than plastic plates and cups.

People cutting vegetables with cooking pot

4)      Source things locally

Athough Alison and Dan weren’t married in their hometown, they did their best to find food that was grown or made in the region where they were getting married. This included locally made ice cream and fresh food from a local market garden.

Sign and balloons on fence with farm landscape background

5)      Reduce travel or offset

As most guests were travelling to get to the wedding there was an emphasis on car pooling. One wedding guest was kind enough to purchase a green fleet carbon offset for all the travel to the wedding.

6)      Reuse your wedding dress

Alison’s wedding dress was made by a local designer and was deliberately designed to be wearable not just for the wedding, but also future occasions. Each anniversary the couple wear their wedding outfits to remember and celebrate their wedding day.

Man and woman kissing

Overall Dan and Alison found that their wedding was not only a unique and special day for them, but a chance to build community by sharing the preparation and organisation activities for the day with family and friends. Guests were given the option to participate as much or as little as they liked, resulting in a relaxed and informal celebration. Although the emphasis was on everyone chipping in, they do recommend paying for certain jobs to get done, such as washing the dishes, as no-one wants to be left with this job on the day!

Other gift-giving alternatives, for those who want to give something more personal can include “living” gifts, such as a plant or sapling or something home-made. Alternatively chipping in some money for something desperately needed such as a washing-machine can also be of great assistance.


fresh vegetables on table at local farmers market

I have grown to appreciate our local Southside Farmer’s Markets.

Initially the clash with our lazy Sunday schedule did not appeal. But now with kids waking us up at the crack of dawn,  we have become more enamoured with getting out, having a browse, picking up a few goodies and a coffee before heading off to the next thing.

In Canberra’s colder months we were market regulars and loved the incidental meeting up with friends. Favourite purchases included the honey mustard sausages, macaroons, foccacias and of course the fresh fruit and vegies.

Stall holders come from around the region and need to be selling fresh, seasonal or regional produce. This interactive produce map shows you where all the food comes from.

If you are looking for a different experience to the weekly grocery shop at one of the big chain supermarkets, then I would definitely recommend checking out the markets!

Well it’s amazing the things I get excited about! My latest discovery is EnviroLove a business focused on the collection and recycling of organic waste.

Image: Grant Cochrane /

They have already made great headways into recycling commercial organic waste in Canberra. Essentially they are collecting food waste coming out of cafes, restaurants and teaching facilities and converting it back into soil – brilliant! Why didn’t someone think of this before?

I have been amazed when I have asked at cafes what they do with their leftover coffee grounds and they have looked at me blankly and said “throw them in the bin with everything else”. Anyway great work EnviroLove hoping to hear more about you in the future.

Also check out the article on Jahne Meyer the founder of EnviroLove at Brilliant Idea.

By the way I have finally found a place that packages their coffee grounds for gardeners/composters to take home!

In my travels around Canberra, I encounter various places that I enjoy and sometimes love and want to share with others. I hope that for locals, being aware of these places, may help them to ‘live local’ and frequent local businesses close to their home, or owned by local Canberrans.

Here are a few places I would recommend, with the hope that I can continue to expand the list.

A Bite to Eat (Chifley Shops) For those who enjoy sharing a coffee or meal with friends in a relaxed atmosphere, surrounded by funky retro fabrics and furnishings.

Deek’s Bakery (Pearce Shops and Dickson Shopping Centre) Owned by local hero Robert de Castella (marathon runner extraordinaire). Deek’s offers a whole host of gluten-free delicacies to either eat in or take away, including bread, biscuits, cake and fresh pasta.


Shabby Attic (Carlton Village, Kambah) This lovely little shop offers shabby chic gifts and furnishings, together with a cafe if you want to hang around and enjoy a coffee and cake.

Q Bookshop (Curtin Shops) What a find! Tucked in the basement of the Curtin shops, offering a mass of second hand books and cafe offering food and live music most weekends. Check out their website for more details of upcoming events.

Only recently had I heard the term Carrotmob, and had absolutely no idea what it was!

Now that I am in the know, I can inform you that a Carrotmob is a group of people taking positive action on climate change, by selecting a day or time to purchase goods at a particular store that has agreed to spend part, or all profits made on the day, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Such as by installing solar panels, retrofitting with more efficient lights, recycling waste etc. 

The concept of a Carrotmob emerged in San Francisco, with the name reflecting the “carrot” rather than the “stick” approach to encouraging people to make changes to how they ran their businesses through positive consumer activism. The first Carrotmob campaign was successfully pulled off in 2008 and from what I understand there have been many Carrotmobs since!

As part of this Carrotmob phenomenon a group of enterprising Canberrans have approached IGAs across the inner north and asked them what they would do to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in exchange for being mobbed by a large group of customers.  Ainslie IGA offered to put 100% of the money spent on the day towards reducing the stores emissions. So if you are interested and in Canberra Saturday 11 June 2011, come join the mob at Ainslie IGA!

To find out more see Carrotmob Canberra or Time article (2009) Shoppers, Unite! Carrotmobs Are Cooler than Boycotts