If there is one industry that’s recession-proof – it’s the Indian wedding industry. As per some estimates, there are over 10 million weddings in India every year. Estimated to be worth over $40bn and growing at 20% to 25% annually, it’s one industry that hasn’t seen a slowdown. Families and parents of married couples usually start saving very early in their lives to make the marriage events as spectacular and grand as possible. The events are a dazzling affair, with elaborate arrangments made on gifts, clothes, jewelry, food, hospitality, and all the glitz and glamour. Generally, the duration of an Indian wedding calendar can be somewhere between 3 to 7 days. In name of tradition, culture or simply pretentious show-offs, lots of money is spent.
Just to put things in perspective, in December 2018, India witnessed one of the most opulent weddings in recent times, when two of India’s wealthiest families united. Isha Ambani, daughter of India’s richest man and owner of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, married Anand Piramal, the heir of the Piramal Group. As per media reports, this wedding had a budget of $100 million (Rs 700 crore). Celebrities from all over the world came to grace the occasion.
One cannot argue if someone is spending one’s personal wealth in the way one wants, but what about things which very few cares for – the wastage aspects, environmental damage. The things which don’t get used, end up in landfills. Who should be responsible for the mess people create after marriage or any other events associated with it? Whether it is plastic, food, paper, power – lots of these items get consumed and wasted as well. Don’t want to be a spoilsport, but can we be a little more responsible, in terms of some judicious planning of waste management.
Marriages are made in Heaven – Can it be a Sustainable Heaven?
Here are a few suggestions and ideas on how to host a “sustainable wedding”. Probably not all guests would appreciate, few might even squirm at these thoughts. Let’s take a look –
1.Wedding Invitation – how about getting phygital
The precursor to all the wedding activities is the event invitation card, which at most times runs into a multitude of pages. These are not simple pages, they are thick, glossy and comes with accessories. The disappointing part is, the invitation card does not even hold good for more than a few minutes, sometimes even seconds. While guests will appreciate a wonderfully written and decorated card, but after a few minutes, the card ends up either in the dustbin or in between the pile of waste papers.
We are living in a digital world, half of the country’s population is internet savvy, connected on WhatsApp, Emails, etc. Instead of paper-based cards, can we resort to electronic mediums? If we exclude the treasure chest from the invitation, an average paper card can be in the range of Rs 10 to Rs 100 ($0.2 to $1.5). If the family is distributing to about 100 guests and families. The simple calculation works out to be in the range of Rs 1000 to Rs 10000 ($15 to $150). With the same or even less money, can we not create a few minutes video. It could be as simple as image-based or something where a couple or family speaks about the occasions and events schedule.
If this sounds little uncourteous, we can have the invitation cards made with recycled paper, even better could be cards that are infused with seeds that make the entire card plantable.
2. Gift a Plant – Bless the couple with more Oxygen
Instead of presenting something which no one is going to use or something which people will wait to parcel to someone else (read Sohan Papdi) or a sweet box, wouldn’t it be better to gift something which in all likelihood, people will keep on their terrace or gardens?
Gifting a pot of air-purifying plants like – Chrysanthemum, Spider or Snake Plant, Aloe Vera, can do a world of good. Even if only half of them are able to maintain for the long term, it would be awesome to have a greener and healthier society. The pots of the plants can have the name of the couple inscribed for lasting memories.
3. Power Usage – Power Couple fueled by Solar
Though this is something not manageable at a personal level, can we plan this along with the event management & decoration companies? These days, there are plenty of decorative solar power lights options available in the market. These are not only environment-friendly but would also reduce electricity costs.
4. Food – Good for eating, not throwing
The hosts leave no stone unturned in offering a variety of food choices from salads to desserts, from Indian to continental, there is an option for everyone. Many a time, the success of a marriage function is decided by the food menu. There is a problem of plenty, which leads to guests, filling their plates to the brim and then depositing anything which they don’t like in the dustbin. In addition, there are loads of food which remain uneaten, many times this also goes to landfills.
There are thousands of people who sleep hungry on many nights, it just requires a little awareness. Hosts can even ensure that some NGO or charitable organization is contacted in case of excess unserved food, who can, in turn, distribute it to the needy.
Any leftover food can be segregated as wet waste which can be sent for compost, while dry waste like plastic wrappers can be sent for re-cycle.
5. Plastic – Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose
Cutlery, decorations, packaging — there is plastic, paper, thermocol everywhere. Serving food on the plastic plates is the biggest culprit, on average at least 3 to 5 cutlery items are used by guests for eating different foods. Simply replacing it with glass, metalware or good old banana leaves can prevent a lot of plastic going to landfills. Generally, in South India’s marriage functions, the food is served on the banana leaves, which not only looks awesome, but it is extremely eco-friendly. If arranging banana leaves is a challenge, getting organic or bamboo cutlery will be far more accessible. Plastic drinking water bottles can be replaced with glass jars and copper glasses.
On the decoration side, flower pots can be a more elegant resource rather than balloons or thermocol. Guests can be requested to not wrap gifts in plastic instead they can use an old newspaper or fancy cloth bag.
Whether it is convenience or laziness, in the current days and time, people have forgotten the traditional Indian methods of resourcefulness, simplicity, and austerity making it a sustainable wedding practice for long. That has given way to extravagance, grandeur, and showoff. This has become a kind of trend, where the worlds wealthiest make these social events as a mode to show off their good fortune. What is disturbing, when less affluent people who cannot afford such extravagance, many times resort to loans and debts for over the top celebrations, just for one-upmanship.
This is not just restricted to marriages, celebrating events like birthday, wedding anniversary are also quite popular. Though this was written in an Indian context, many of these things are applicable to a lot of other countries as well. These suggestions are not to make the wedding event boring, but adding a dash of sustainability will only help the event to stand out and give the organizers a self-satisfaction of doing things that are unique and environment friendly.