How this passionate Indian couple is throwing a completely sustainable wedding
Zero waste, 100 per cent good karma
The couple wanted a sustainable wedding. After some convincing, the families too were game. But then came time to discuss the invitations, and shit hit the fan. Rhinoceros shit, all the way from Kaziranga.
The couple wanted to use paper made from rhino dung, the proceeds of which would go to the management of Kaziranga National Park. “You expect us to offer poop in the form of invites to the gods?” asked one of their mothers. Eventually, they reached a compromise – handmade paper invitations for the tech-unsavvy, and e-vites for the rest.
Ashwin Malwade, a chief officer in the Merchant Navy, and Nupur Agarwal, market researcher, met through common friends and bonded at a beach clean-up. It has become their weekend ritual. “I don’t think I’d be able to spend my life with someone who wasn’t equally passionate about the environment,” says Ashwin. “It just becomes very hard to co-exist.”
“Sometimes, our zero-waste approach becomes overwhelming even for our friends, that’s why it’s important for both the people in the relationship to be equally driven towards a cause,” Nupur chimes in.
A sustainable wedding was the obvious choice – “Our aim was to have a celebration that was carbon neutral,” balancing the carbon footprint generated as a result of the celebration.
India’s wedding industry is booming. With festivities becoming increasingly elaborate, the waste generated has also grown. Pulling off an eco-friendly wedding might seem easy, but what people don’t account for is the attention to detail required. “It’s only when people ask about our wedding preparations that we realise how time-consuming it is. We’ve hardly had any time to focus on other aspects,” admits Nupur.
The couple stepped away from the marriage mayhem for a bit, to help us chart out a foolproof plan to host a sustainable wedding.
Tweak wasteful traditions instead of doing away with them completely
Maharashtrian weddings involve guests showering the newly married couples with grains of rice as blessings. “The priest told us that this ritual usually involves using seven to eight kgs of rice, and we weren’t okay with that,” says Ashwin. So the couple got together with the priest and devised a plan that retains the sanctity of the ritual but also ensures that no food is wasted.
“We finally decided to only use one bowl of rice for the whole ritual and donate the rest to those in need,” explains Nupur. “The priest was equally enthusiastic to tweak the ritual to be more eco-friendly and less wasteful,” adds Ashwin.
Plastic, wardrobe, venue and decor – Make informed choices and compensate for unavoidable damages
“It was important that we have our wedding at a place that provided the resources we required. Pune has a very evolved recycling system, and that’s why we chose it,” explains Nupur. This also helps reduce carbon footprint with respect to commute. “You always have fewer guests attend if it’s a destination wedding, so that worked in our favour too,” adds Ashwin.
The couple also decided to plant four trees for every person attending their wedding to make up for the expected carbon footprint. “We’ve already planted about 30 odd trees,” reveals Ashwin.
Plastic bottles are probably the biggest contributors to the waste generated during a wedding. “You can’t eliminate plastic altogether, but you can do away with single-use plastic specifically,” explains Ashwin. Their celebrations will have water dispensers installed everywhere for the guests to use.
The couple’s wedding wardrobe will also make a sustainable statement. “Upcycling is the way to go. I’m wearing my mother’s wedding lehenga,” says Nupur. “We’ve also made sure we don’t have anything that has sequin work on it, as that is plastic waste too.”
Ashwin and Nupur went one step ahead and decided to use their outfits to propagate what they believe in – “We have ‘climate change is real’ embroidered on both our wedding outfits. This is what I want them to remember my outfit for,” she adds.
This approach also helps you reduce waste when it comes to decor. “The theme for one of the functions is carnival and we are upcycling umbrellas by painting on them and using them as decor. Nothing new was purchased,” says Ashwin.
Collaborate with local vendors
Educate your vendors about sustainability, its benefits, and the importance of waste segregation. “We encouraged our caterer to use sustainable alternatives like bagasse instead of plastic for the cutlery and crockery. Our caterer was so surprised by how easily it was available and impressed with its benefits that he has decided to use the same for all the events he caters,” said Nupur.
“Ashwin also bought glass bottles in bulk to keep at the hotel our guests are staying at to make sure no bottled water is consumed. We are also planning on leaving the bottles with them,”she added.
Spend less and give back instead
The couple is putting the money they save by having a budget wedding to good use, contributing towards making a local BMC school zero-waste. “Waste segregation, installing solar panels and rain water harvesting are some tasks on my checklist for the school,” says Ashwin.
Responsible waste management, segregation, and disposal is key
“We can’t control the amount of food people put on their plates but we can control what we do with the waste that is generated as a result,” says Ashwin. They opted for composting all the wet waste (food waste and flower decorations).
They’ve also tied up with their caterer and The Robin Hood Army, a volunteer-based organisation that works to get surplus food from restaurants and the community to serve less fortunate people, to put leftover food to good use.
Other organisations that help with responsible waste management are Skrap and Sampurnearth.