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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.

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person with shopping bags

As another Christmas lurks around the corner, I have been drawn to the thought of why do we need more stuff?

In recent conversations I have heard people complain about what to buy for those who have everything? In our society, incredibly, most of us have more things than we know what to do with and therefore don’t relish the thought of receiving more objects.

Fortunately we are gradually finding our way to more meaningful presents. Many charities including World Vision and Oxfam offer the chance to buy a goat, seeds, school supplies etc for people who are less well off materially.

Alternatively buying an “experience” for someone such as a theatre ticket, skydiving or dance lesson, can help expand their world without expanding their wardrobe or waistline.

Even better just spending time with those who would like to see you or who need company, can be a gift that is much more meaningful than things.

The Story of Stuff provides an interesting background to the way we make, use and throw away all our stuff.

Also as we head into Christmas, an example of why free (or almost free) toys can be best, see The Five Best Toys of All Time.

retro floral towels and salt & pepper shakers

I have recently discovered the joys of second hand shopping, also known as “op shopping”. Previously, the impatient, younger version of me would skim in and out of these stores as fast as I could, and then be surprised that I could never find anything decent.

Now, with children who enjoy exploring op shops, I have finally discovered the art of browsing. Amazingly, when you browse you also discover useful and interesting things. Recent finds have included a coin album for my son to house his growing collection of coins, the above towels and an amazing old 1930s dining setting which I am still kicking myself that I didn’t buy!

Anyway as I looked around my house, which is scattered with older pieces of furniture from my grandparents house, I thought it time to coin a new decorating term “Retro Chic”. Clearly shabby chic has been around for over a decade, and done to death, so it must be time for a new decorating trend.

My definition:

Retro Chic – the use of old furnishings and homewares in a new, functional and fashionable way. This trend encompasses environmental concerns by reusing older decorating items in new and unique ways and incorporating them with current fashion.

Let me know if you have any photo examples of Retro Chic as I would love to include them – the best photo gets promoted on this site!

On a recent QANTAS flight I had the fortune to catch a short documentary called Waste Not produced by the Total Environment Centre in Sydney. Waste Not looks at a range of people who are transforming the mountains of rubbish we create into something valuable.

Follow this link to check out the trailer of Waste Not on YouTube:

boy looking at worm factory box

One of our more recent adventures has been the purchase of a worm farm (prior to buy nothing new month!). I was really keen to give it a try – just to see how it worked.

Here’s what we did to set it up.

1) Purchased one worm factory and one box of 1,000 worms (some of these are worm eggs and not live worms).tips for use of worms instructions on box

2) Mixed up some worm soup (peat brick and water).boy mixing muddy water in bucket

3) Set up the box and mounted it on some bricks.green worm farm box

4) Lined the inside of the top level with the cardboard packaging.cardboard instructions lining worm factory box

5) Poured in the worm soup and let it slowly drain.two boys with worm farm

6) Then put in the worms.worms in dirt

Voila, one operating worm farm! The boys had fun and we have now had the worm farm for around 8 weeks and it seems to be working well.

I haven’t put in too many kitchen scraps, as it does advise you not to overload it to start with. I have also noticed that you generally need to cut things a bit finer, whereas with the compost bin I often put vegetable scraps in without dicing them more finely.

One of the main advantages of a compost bin is the worm tea (wee) that comes out the tap at the bottom and if diluted 1:10 with water, is a great fertiliser for your garden.