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Wedding without waste: how I got married without the usual 400lb of trash
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Wedding without waste: how I got married without the usual 400lb of trash

Among food, travel, decor and single-use items, parties can create an enormous amount of waste – and weddings are among the most egregious offenders.

For Cindy Villaseñor, 33, that reality just didn’t sit right with her eco-conscious mindset. So when it came time to plan her own wedding, she and her partner agreed to do things differently.

From a makeshift dressing room at a Yosemite campsite to salvaging flowers, Villaseñor reveals how she created a vibrant and memorable day that honored her Mexican American heritage and left behind minimal waste.


I grew up in Los Angeles in a typical Mexican household, where my mom would reuse butter containers for salsa and repurpose plastic ice cream containers to store frijoles in the freezer. But I didn’t prioritize eco-friendliness until I attended college, where my passion for low-waste living began.

By the time I got engaged, I was aware of how much waste and trash is created by big events. An average wedding produces about 400lb of waste and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. There’s a lot of single-use stuff. I wanted to be mindful and conscious about the materials we were using and create as little waste as possible.

One of the first camping trips I took with my boyfriend, now husband, was to Yosemite national park, and we fell in love with the place. We’d try to visit at least once a year and we thought about getting married in Yosemite, but we realized we didn’t have the budget. And having a bunch of people drive up to Yosemite wasn’t going to be sustainable when we could have the wedding locally in Los Angeles.

couple holds up cups at wedding tableView image in fullscreen

So a few days before the official wedding, we carpooled to Yosemite with our friends, who were the photographer and one of my bridesmaids, for our first look and vow exchange and to take photos at sunrise. We set up camp the day before and then at 3am I had to wake up in the tent and go to the camp bathrooms to get ready. I remember taking a selfie with my headlamp on.

I knew I was most likely going to wear my wedding dress only once, so I looked for a secondhand dress. I ended up going to a sample sale with my mom. Usually those dresses have been tried on multiple times. They may have a few holes or be a little bit dirty. I found a dress and got it cleaned and altered and found a sample veil as well.

I didn’t want to buy a pair of shoes I’d never wear again, so I ended up getting a pair of hiking sandals. I wore them for the wedding vows and on the actual day of the party and I continue to wear them. I had a small bridal party and they wore traditional Mexican embroidered dresses – two of the three were already in our closets. My husband wore a suit he could keep and wear separately or together again.

For our legal ceremony and reception, we picked a nursery in LA’s Highland Park neighborhood that hosted events. At the time, I was working as a garden ranger for a non-profit that builds and maintains school gardens in the LA area, so I would visit different nurseries to pick up different plants for the garden. I figured whichever plants were on site that day could be used for decor, so I didn’t have to buy too much extra.

woman’s hands on bouquetView image in fullscreen

The wedding welcome sign and box we used for wedding cards was secondhand, from Facebook Marketplace. We upcycled kombucha bottles as vases, and thrifted glasses and wrote our guests’ names on them instead of using place cards and single-use cups. The table runners were Mexican blankets that I had cut up and finished on the ends.

At the time, I was also working at Trader Joe’s. They typically check their stock for flowers that should be composted each day so I asked if they could give some to me. I also thrifted a vintage Mexican blanket that was used at the entrance with the table numbers and favors.

We had a vegan taco stand provide the food along with side dishes my mom made, like a cactus salad and lentil salad. We had aguas frescas in big jugs, which helped reduce waste, and beer kegs to avoid excess cans and bottles. We had a vegan cake and vegan conchas from a local bakery near the venue.

For wedding favors, we gave out soaps from No Tox Life that had compostable little wraps made from Trader Joe’s grocery bags that said “Cindy and Edgar”. I wanted to give our guests something consumable that wouldn’t just sit on a shelf and collect dust. We asked for no material gifts because we didn’t want to get extra things we might not use and because we’d already moved in together and had our own things.

We ended up creating about 35lb of trash by the end of the wedding. My ultimate goal was to compost the biodegradable plates and the cake at the end of the night but I couldn’t do that because we were leaving for our honeymoon the next day. I’d recommend having someone like a wedding planner or coordinator help you if you want to have a low-waste wedding. There are services like Sustain LA that can help with rentals and composting options. Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up and thrift stores are also great ideas for keeping your wedding eco-friendly.

  • My DIY climate hack is a series about everyday people across the US using their own ingenuity to tackle the climate crisis in their neighborhoods, homes and backyards. If you would like to share your story, email us at [email protected]

Source: theguardian.com