Despite significant strides forward in contemporary wedding culture, the prevailing narrative remains that it should be one of the “biggest days” of a couple’s life. One of the downsides to this narrative, beyond the immense financial cost, is that it often yields a punishing carbon footprint. In 2017, Stanford Magazine reported that the average *non-*destination wedding of 200 guests produces about 56 tons of carbon emissions — about three times the average American’s annual footprint. With more and more couples today choosing to have destination weddings, that figure has only increased to accommodate round trip domestic or international flights, car rentals, and buses to and from venues.
While there are plenty of ways to cut down on the actual carbon emissions of one’s wedding (you can find a full guide here), one of the best options for hosting your dream wedding responsibly is to purchase carbon offsets for all emissions produced. More sustainability-minded couples are opting for this option to achieve carbon neutrality on their big day, ensuring that their festivities don’t come at the expense of our changing climate.
What is a Carbon Offset?
A carbon offset refers to a reduction or mitigation of carbon emissions, often purchased to compensate for emissions produced as a result of commercial or recreational activity. This carbon reduction or mitigation can be achieved in a number of ways, including land restoration, tree planting, landfill gas capture, or investment in green technology — and purveyors of carbon offsets can provide information as to what efforts your purchase will support.
How Do I Estimate My Wedding’s Carbon Impact?
There are a number of online resources to estimate your wedding’s carbon impact. For a hyper-specific approach, we recommend Less Stuff More Meaning’s calculator, which is incredibly thorough in considering everything from transportation and lodging to the flowers and apparel you and your wedding party will wear. And if you aren’t sure of some inputs, their researched assumptions will allow you to come to a data-informed answer nonetheless.
If you prefer to skip this exercise, other platforms like Terra Pass offer simplified means of estimating and purchasing offsets based on the number of guests, with tiers dependent on domestic or international wedding. You can also use estimates like the 56 tons / 200 guests data point above.
While none of these methods will capture the precise carbon impact of your event, they can all aid you in arriving at a directional answer, then to purchase commensurate offsets.
Where to Purchase Carbon Offsets
Once you’ve estimated the carbon footprint of your wedding, there are a number of places to purchase offsets. To ensure your money is going to legitimate projects, check for certifications from The Gold Standard or Green-E, which also serve as databases for various projects.
Because various reduction and mitigation projects require different costs to run, there is no standard price for a carbon offset per metric ton.
In deciding where to purchase, you should keep both your budget and the goals of the project in mind. For instance, a project that builds solar power technology in the developing world might cost more than a domestic landfill methane capture but have an added human impact. You should conduct research alongside your partner to find a certified project that speaks to you, or allocate your offset budget to several efforts that together address the total carbon footprint of your wedding.