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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.


Despite my pledge to “buy nothing new” for the month of October, I am really looking forward to the upcoming ‘Green Savvy Sunday’ on Sunday 9 October at our local Old Bus Depot Markets.

As the focus of the day is all about promoting things green and sustainable I am sure I won’t have any problems finding some recycled, reused or pre-loved goods. I already have the record bowls (above) on my shopping list for the music fans in the family!

The day will also include information sessions from experts in the field including:

  • Dr Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute, on why we need
    a carbon tax, why it won’t destroy the economy.
  • Justin Ryan, Director of Armada Solar discussing the future of solar in Canberra after the Feed In Law, and presenting a new environmental product that makes houses more energy neutral (sounds intriguing!)
  • David Hocking from One-Eco will present on sustainability in the garden, and
  • Nick Mayo sharing information about Canberra’s Sustainable House

Green Savvy Sunday is on from 10am to 4pm on the 9th October; entry is free.

Sounds like a great day out for the school holidays!

This October is ‘Buy Nothing New Month’.

Buy Nothing New is a great campaign being promoted by the Salvos Stores, One Million Women and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, to name a few.  The campaign promotes conscientious consumption. You make a pledge to buy nothing new in October and instead beg, barter, swap or even buy whatever you need, as long as it’s pre-loved (with the exception of necessities such as food, drink, medications and hygiene products).

After some debate I have decided to sign up. As my theory is once you are signed up to something you are committed (if it works for running training then surely it will work for this).

 I would urge you to give it a go also. The Buy Nothing New website also offers a range of tips, hints and inspirational ideas. Here is a sample quote to get you thinking….or pledging to Buy Nothing New this October.

“Our world has enough for each person’s need, but not for his greed.”
– Gandhi

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