53 words to help you plan an eco-friendly wedding…

I spend a lot of my time talking to couples and other wedding suppliers about how to have a sustainable or eco-friendly wedding. If you’re a normal couple looking for ways to have a more eco-friendly wedding, it can seem a bit daunting. There are so many different words out there, some describe the same thing, others describe two conflicting approaches. So I’ve put together a comprehensive glossary of all of the words used in the sustainable wedding industry. On this list, I have filtered the words associated with positive sustainability in the industry. Therefore, if you see a word on this list, it will in some way help you have an eco-friendly wedding. You can look for suppliers who talk about these characteristics. In the future, I’ll build up another list of some of the ‘baddies’ to avoid.

For me, being sustainable or eco-friendly means changing our behaviours and buying habits in order to reduce our impact on the environment, balance what we take with what we give back, as well as ensure that we are treating the Earth and her other inhabitants (animal and human) with the respect they deserve. It’s about being conscious and thoughtful of the decisions we make. There’s a great definition of conscious and thoughtful here [a].

My definition is a little wider than most people’s. For most, an eco-friendly wedding is about switching to alternatives whose direct impacts are lower e.g. using local seasonal produce (= reduced carbon emissions). However, I do think we have a broader responsibility to protect other people and animals, as well as the environment. Hence why I also talk about ethical and animal friendly options when considering an eco-friendly wedding.

People differ on their definitions, so if anyone says they are ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘sustainable’, ask them what they mean exactly. What processes, ingredients or products are they using which meet this criteria? Are they really an eco-friendly wedding supplier? Have they made a genuine commitment to sustainability, or are they just jumping on a trend? Don’t take the label at face value.

Eco-Friendly Weddings - Love from lila xx - Hampshire Wedding Cakes

The Eco-Friendly Wedding Glossary

Artisan

Artisan has quite a loose definition, leaving it up to individuals to decide if it’s appropriate for their business/product. Generally, you can expect the product to be made using traditional (hand) methods and likely smaller batches. This can sometimes also imply less energy usage, and/or the avoidance of nasty chemicals. It might also be about preserving traditional processes. It is the direct opposite of mass produced. You might expect an artisan maker to be more informed about their ingredients, products, processes and industry, although not necessarily.

Bee Friendly

This will mostly apply to florists, but it could also apply to gardens and open spaces at venues. Firstly, this might refer to the floral varieties grown (for cutting or in a garden) being pollen rich for bees to feed on. Alternatively, it might be about the responsible use of chemicals in crop production or garden maintenance. Some people may practice both, others may focus on one. Bees are critical pollinators in UK farming, as well as for the wildflowers that sustain our native wildlife [b]. Therefore, it’s important that we look after them! If you wanted to promote this even more as part of your eco-friendly wedding, you could ask for donations to a bumblebee related charity instead of wedding gifts.

Biodegradable

Typically used to describe packaging, biodegradable means that the item will decompose back into natural by-products. If suppliers are using this term responsibly, the item should degrade quicker (and in ‘normal’ conditions) than its traditional counterpart. It should also avoid leaving any toxins [c]. Essentially, this means that the product doesn’t need any more processing to ‘disappear’ from the planet. At landfill, it will just break down and disappear. Food waste and cardboards are both biodegradable (and also compostable, see below). The more swaps you can make in favour of biodegradable or compostable items (vs. ‘normal’ options), the easier it will be to achieve an eco-friendly wedding.

Biodiverse

I can’t think of any product or service that could be described as biodiverse. However, venues and other suppliers may operate in a way designed to protect and promote biodiversity in the environment. Biodiversity is essentially about the variety of plants, animals and other organisms on the planet. It is very critical but often invisible. If we are protecting biodiversity, we are maintaining the complex interrelationships in the environment. For example, bees play a really important role in maintaining farming and countryside wildlife (see bee friendly above). Without bees, our wildflowers (which feed other insects, which feed small animals) and many other plants and crops wouldn’t exist. Biodiversity is not a process that we can support in the short term, it is something that we need to deal with longer term [d].

British

There are a few reasons that British can be synonymous with sustainable. The first is that if a product is British made, it has travelled fewer miles to reach you. Therefore has a lower carbon footprint, in theory. This is almost certainly the case ‘on season’. However off season, because of storage or heating costs, it may be just as efficient to buy something from overseas [e]. Another reason, especially with meat and dairy products, is that in Britain, we have the highest animal welfare standards anywhere in the world. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s one of the best indicators that the animal has been treated with the minimum level of respect. Finally, you may also see the sustainability side of supporting British industry. Supporting British businesses means that Britain can maintain a healthy economy, offer jobs to the population, and re-circulate British wealth to its people.

Carbon Neutral

This one is a little harder to describe as it’s more about the end goal than the process. If a company claims to be carbon neutral, they are removing as much carbon from the environment as they are putting into it. In order to lower their emissions, companies might be looking at more efficient (carbon reducing) processes, using more renewable energies and/or offsetting any remaining carbon emissions. Done well, companies will focus on reducing their carbon footprint, rather than just offsetting. However, there isn’t always a requirement for businesses to reduce before offsetting, so it isn’t perfect.

Chemical Free

This is possibly the widest category on the list, affecting food, make-up and beauty, as well as flowers. It’s also one of the broadest in definition. At a simple level, this may mean using chemical free make-up or looking for organic food and drink. Although do remember, that ‘organic’ is a badge that suppliers must pay for. Therefore, local suppliers might not have organic status but will still grow their produce in an organic way. Even if you don’t look for organic food, anything that is additive free is a good start. Additives might include preservatives, colourings, flavourings, and sweeteners. It’s also worth investigating the benefits/drawbacks of natural vs. synthetic additives [f].

The next level for businesses is to use chemical free cleaning products, offer completely chemical free drinking water, or avoid the use of chemicals in their production processes. It’s a much more complicated step, but it can be a really important part of an eco-friendly wedding supplier’s business. Where companies can’t avoid chemicals in their work, at the very least, reducing usage is a positive step.

Clean

For this glossary, I’m only talking about clean in terms of products you might use on or in your body. For example, food, drinks and beauty products. When producers describe their product as ‘clean’, they are really saying that it doesn’t include any nasty ingredients (natural or synthetic) that could be harmful to your health [g]. This is always a hotly debated area, so if you’re particularly concerned about purchasing clean products, have a look through the ingredients list and google any that you’re unsure of.

Clean Energy

This term is used to describe energy sources with net zero carbon emissions – clean here therefore refers to carbon emissions. It doesn’t comment on other environmental impacts. Renewable energy most definitely meets this definition. However, this definition also encompasses other energy sources, like nuclear, so long as they offset their carbon [h]. Reduction of carbon is always better than unrestrained consumption, but clean energy doesn’t always guarantee that precious natural resources are protected. See renewable energy below for more information.

Compostable

If something is biodegradable, it will also be compostable (although not always vice versa). Compostable is the next step along the ladder meaning that an item will return to the earth and provide nutrients back to the soil [i]. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that every compostable item you buy can just be chucked in your home composting. Often, they require specialist industrial composting in order to compost properly [j]. However, if a company can provide compostable packaging and help you to dispose of it correctly after use, it’s far better than plastic alternatives! You’ll find lots of eco-friendly wedding suppliers talking about these swaps and offering them as standard in their packages.

Cruelty Free

Most commonly used in the beauty industry. Cruelty free products have not been tested on animals [k]. It’s that simple. This does not comment on whether it contains animal ingredients, and/or how they are sourced. There’s also a bit of a grey area around whether a brand (rather than product) can be cruelty free if they (or their supply chain) test on animals. There are a whole host of words used to describe beauty products and they can get confusing at times. If you’re in any doubt, have a look at this blog post [l].

Eco-Friendly

Arguably the most non-descript word on the list! It’s also becoming more and more talked about in the industry – everyone is talking about eco-friendly weddings and suppliers. In reality it can be used to describe lots of different situations e.g. biodegradable, FSC certified, low carbon footprint, organic, sustainably sourced, zero waste. It’s about a product/service being environmentally friendly in the materials it sources or creates and/or using a more environmentally friendly process. Alternatively, it can be used as an umbrella term to describe a product/service that meets more than one of the definitions on this list. It’s also more open to interpretation. Some vegans for example believe that their lifestyle is more eco-friendly than others, and might describe themselves as eco-friendly. However, not everyone shares this opinion, and might argue that vegans are not eco-friendly.

As the term is relatively non-descript, it can be used to describe only loosely environmentally friendly products/processes, so it’s worth asking more questions about what ‘eco-friendly’ means for the particular business.

Energy Saving/Efficient

This term is most likely to be describing a venue, or supplier who uses electrical items as part of their service. There are a whole host of ways that venues can save energy. On a larger scale, it may be about the choices they’ve made when purchasing heating, lighting, windows, kitchen appliances and other electrical items. On a day-to-day level, this may be about changing how energy is used e.g. laundry is managed or offering blankets rather than patio heaters.

Environmentally Friendly

See eco-friendly above!

Ethical

This is another term that is a bit more open to interpretation. If you consult a dictionary, ethical might mean avoiding harm and exploitation of animals and humans. Ultimately, that is what suppliers mean when they use the term ethical. However, they could often use a different word from this list in order to be more specific about the harm they are avoiding. When this term is used really broadly, it can also encompass companies who operate with solid morals e.g. following the spirit of laws rather than interpreting them for personal gain (like tax avoidance). You only have to scroll through the homepage of Ethical Consumer [m] to see some of the hot topics – deforestation, palm oil, human rights, animal rights, and toxic chemicals. Back to my best advice – ask how each particular supplier defines ethical!

Fairtrade

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world [n]. It’s a certified badge that is awarded to products where the supply chain meets those conditions. There are a surprising amount of items available with a Fairtrade badge, including chocolate, coffee, cotton, gold, sugar, wine and beauty products. It’s not without its controversies [o] and complexities [p], but in some situations it may be your only guarantee of no exploitation in a supply chain. Don’t forget, if you’re planning an eco-friendly wedding, you only have to go as far as works for you both as a couple. Something as simple as buying Fairtrade chocolate favours is a step in the right direction!

Floral Foam Free

See no floral foam below!

Free-Range

An ‘official’ label in the UK, free-range eggs and meat must meet a certain set of animal welfare requirements around living space and outdoor access. These rules are designed to give consumers reassurance about the conditions in which their food is produced. Ultimately however, the spirit of these rules are not always followed and free-range has its own problems. If you have a strong stomach, this article is enlightening [q].

My best advice is to look passed the labels. If you have a local farm that produces eggs and meat, ask them how they look after their animals and how they slaughter them. Often, smaller farms exceed the requirements of free-range as they stick to more traditional farming methods – keeping chickens in barns, letting them out in the day, and caring for them with respect. It’s also worth reading the section on non factory farmed for other helpful things to look out for. For more general comparisons of different labels, there’s a fab guide here [r].

FSC Certified

The FSC system allows businesses and consumers to identify, purchase and use wood, paper and other forest products made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources [s]. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. “[They] are an international non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting responsible forestry” [t]. There are 10 principles they advocate as part of ‘responsible forestry’ including looking after the social and economic wellbeing of workers, protecting indigenous populations’ rights, as well as maintaining and restoring ecosystems [u]. This includes replanting or allowing the regeneration of any trees that are harvested [v]. You will find this description on products using wood or paper, like wedding stationery, packaging, photo albums and furniture.

Grass Fed

I think grass fed is 85% about marketing, without any genuine commitment to improved lives for animals. In theory, it should mean that livestock can live ‘naturally’ i.e. out in a field, eating grass, breathing fresh air, roaming with lots of space. When you are dealing with local farms, and especially those who talk about a number of sustainable methods (see my non factory farmed section below), it’s likely that animals do live more naturally. However, when you start purchasing ‘grass fed’ animal produce in the mass market (like a supermarket), I think this definition becomes more loosely interpreted. The other important thing to remember about grass fed is that if the animal’s diet is 100% grass, rather than supplemented by soy based feeds, you can avoid some of the wider issues with factory farming.

Green

Can I confess something here? I hate the word green! It is so wishy washy! For the most part, it will be used for any eco-friendly products and processes. That of course means that it could cover any one, or many, of the words listed in this glossary. Or possibly, not really any at all. As I’ve said before, ask what the supplier means by ‘green’ as this is the only way to truly understand what standards they are meeting.

Green Tourism

Green Tourism is the certification program that provides a framework to achieve a sustainable business in the tourism industry. Businesses can apply for the programme and will be assessed to see whether they meet the requirements of bronze, silver or gold accreditation (or none). These requirements cover aspects like water and energy saving, waste disposal, ethical purchasing, as well as local and seasonal food sourcing [w]. Like some of the other terms in this glossary, it’s a way of independently verifying that a business is meeting certain goals. You’ll also find that more venues sign up to the scheme in order to show people that they’re a great place to be for an eco-friendly wedding.

Handmade/Homemade

Artisan, handmade and homemade are often used interchangeably. However, I do think there is a difference, even if it’s just created by marketers. Artisan products tend to be handmade by experts in their craft, with luxury or premium quality implied. You tend to find handmade used for most products, without any expectation of the maker being an expert or the product being overly luxurious. It’s often used for food items where there aren’t any special ingredients or processes (so it’s not artisan), it’s just a really lovingly made, good quality product. Finally, homemade tends to be used for ‘home producers’ who are perhaps hobbyists or very small quantity producers. Producers here are using methods and ingredients that you would use at home, but saving you the work of making it yourself. There isn’t any luxury implied as it’s all about a ‘homely’ flavour and appearance.

Local

Locally sourcing products aims to meet two goals. Firstly, reducing miles travelled, and therefore reducing carbon emissions. Secondly, support local economies. In some circumstances, locally sourced also achieves other goals indirectly, such as chemical free. If you can source vegetables from a local farm, they’re less likely to be treated with chemicals once picked in order to keep them fresher for longer. Depending on the item in question, ‘local’ can be anything from neighbouring towns to British. However, suppliers typically have a particular mile radius in mind, or are referring to certain bordering counties. As mentioned above, locally sourced foods aren’t always a quick solution to having a more eco-friendly wedding, but can certainly tick a lot of boxes.

Low Carbon Footprint

See carbon neutral above! This is exactly what is says on the tin – low carbon footprint. The company has taken steps to reduce their use of carbon in providing their product or service. This might relate to miles driven, air miles travelled, electricity used, single-use plastics used as well as a whole host of other situations. Many products and services naturally have a lower carbon footprint than others, which may lead suppliers to describe their product as having a low carbon footprint, even if they haven’t taken any additional steps to reduce carbon usage.

Low Energy/Electricity/Energy Conserving

See energy saving above! Essentially, the supplier has switched to more efficient electrical devices, energy saving or energy efficient items, changed their production process, or implemented a suite of policies designed to reduce their energy consumption to a minimal level. It’s a very simple step towards a more eco-friendly wedding venue.

Natural

See clean above! It’s also worth adding that natural can refer to a ‘keep it simple’ approach. By that I mean stripping out anything unnecessary and keeping it to the bare basics that are required for a product to work. It goes beyond avoiding chemicals that may be harmful to your health, and generally avoids any additives, regardless of where they come from. One example might be sourcing beauty products which are as simple as they need to be. I love Honey Bee Beautiful’s stuff [x]. You might think about switching your daily beauty routine in the run up to the wedding, or buying items as eco-friendly wedding gifts.

Naturally Dyed

This one can refer to food products or textiles. I haven’t yet ventured into this world, but I know that there are lots of naturally dyed ribbon suppliers in the UK. It’s about cultivating and using plants to provide dyes free from chemicals and other unnecessary ingredients. It’s a much more wholesome, traditional way of working in harmony with nature. You can read a little more about the process here [y]. You can incorporate ribbons into your cake design, flower arrangements or decor to add to your eco-friendly wedding.

Net Zero

See carbon neutral above!

Non Factory Farmed

Let’s start by understanding factory farmed (a.k.a. intensive farming). A system of rearing livestock using highly intensive methods, by which [animals] are confined indoors under strictly controlled conditions [z]. The aim of factory farming is to rear as much food as possible using as few resources as possible. On the surface, it doesn’t seem too bad, after all, it’s supposed to be resource efficient and gives everyone access to meat at a ‘reasonable’ price. However unfortunately, it’s not that simple, and factory farming is associated with a number of other issues. These include eye-watering animal cruelty, excessive soy consumption (and its issues with deforestation), chemical and carbon intensive processes to grow these soy crops and the routine use of antibiotics on every animal [aa], among others. Ultimately, the animals are treated like machines. Flipping that on its head, non factory farmed meat should be ‘slow grown’ or ‘naturally grown’. Other words you might see include regenerative or small scale farming. It goes back to more traditional methods where animals live naturally in fields. My personal belief is that any animal product sourced through a supermarket cannot be slow grown, so when I talk about non factory farmed products, I’m talking about those from smaller suppliers who can control their own conditions. Every supplier will be different, and you should always ask, but if you’re interested in learning a little bit more, head to Pipers Farm [ab]. Pipers Farm is a brilliant meat supplier based in Devon who provide slow grown meat, grass fed, slaughtered on site and with respect to the nature surrounding it.

No Floral Foam

Floral foam, florist foam, or Oasis are all used by florists to create beautiful arrangements. They help practically by weighing the arrangement down and ensuring it has plenty of water to thrive, and they help aesthetically by allowing florists to place flowers/foliage in a certain place and have them stay there. However, it’s also a pretty nasty piece of work filled with chemicals (including skin irritants) that doesn’t really decompose [ac]. So the industry is moving away from floral foam to more sustainable alternatives like chicken wire. Florists are certainly leading the way for their part in an eco-friendly wedding.

No Fossil Fuels

The terms no fossil fuels and fossil fuel free are used in two ways. The first is heavily used in the financial services industry to describe investment opportunities or products available to consumers which do not support fossil fuel related companies (for example oil and gas). This might be less relevant in the wedding industry (although we may start to see wedding insurance or loan companies referring to this). The second, and less frequent way this is used is in terms of the production process. If a company is using renewable energy to fuel their business, and even possibly avoiding any raw materials produced with fossil fuels, they may also choose to use the term ‘no fossil fuels’. Most commonly though, you would expect to see people talking about renewable energy or clean energy, so it’s worth reading those sections.

Organic

Another ‘official’ label in the UK, organic farms or products have to meet a VERY strict set of requirements. In terms of egg production, organic means smaller flock sizes, unrestricted outdoor access, no beak trimming, antibiotics given when sick (not routinely), GM-free feed [ad]. In terms of dairy production, this also means less intensive milking expectations [ae]. Ultimately, it’s about improving the farming processes for both animal welfare and human nutrition reasons.

Outdoor Bred / Outdoor Reared

There aren’t any clear definitions of outdoor bred and reared, perhaps because it isn’t an ‘official’ label like organic. It is up to the individual producer to make a judgement. However, ultimately there is some guarantee that livestock have had access to fields and fresh air for a portion of their lives [af].

Plastic Free

Plastic free isn’t quite what it says on the tin. It doesn’t mean that an individual, business or product is always 100% free of all plastic in every aspect of their life. That’s just impossible. The plastic free movement is about reducing (and avoiding if possible) the amount of single-use plastic and generally cutting plastic use in society [ag]. If you can find a suitable alternative, switch to it. If you can’t, find another way of using the plastic. For wedding industry professionals, the move to plastic free has seen people switch from plastic bags and packaging to more sustainable cardboard varieties, and also switch out disposable plastic cutlery and straws for better alternatives. Again, this is one of the easiest ways to organise a more eco-friendly wedding.

Reclaimed

You will mostly see this term used to describe wedding décor, and more so for ‘natural’ materials like wood and paper, rather than plastics or metals. It’s used to show that the item has been made from something that might otherwise have gone to waste. It might be being used in a new way (like wedding invitations being used to create lasting wedding keepsakes, glass jam jars used as flower vases, material claimed from older dresses or items made into new wedding dresses) or for a completely different purpose (old pallets being used as wedding signs). As long as people aren’t buying new items (e.g. ordering pallets from a pallet producer) and are instead saving them from going to landfill or recycling, it’s a sustainable way of prolonging the life of items.

Recyclable

It sounds silly to say, but sometimes we must be reminded of items that we can recycle. We’re used to recycling tin cans and cardboard packaging, but when something new comes to us, we don’t automatically know if it can be recycled, so we don’t. Therefore, it’s helpful when suppliers remind us what can and can’t be recycled in normal home recycling. You will commonly find this on cardboard or paper products, and in some cases, plastics will also be recyclable. Some products come with an ‘official’ label with recycling guidance [ah]. If you’d like to understand how to recycle plastic, this is a really helpful article [ai], and this article will explain why different plastics are tricky [aj]. It’s worth checking that the item or packaging can be recycled in home recycling, but most responsible eco-friendly wedding suppliers should use ‘recyclable’ to mean recyclable in home recycling.

Recycled

Pure glass and metal materials can be recycled indefinitely. Paper and cardboard can be recycled a certain number of times before they lose integrity, however, they do often have a ‘second-life’ after that anyway. Recycled plastics are tricky and invariably don’t have a long life afterwards as they lose quality [aj]. Plastics often start life in food packaging (which must be clear of chemicals and other contaminants) and end up in other home products like shampoo bottles. This means there is a high potential for wedding suppliers to source recycled materials. The downside of recycled items is that there is sometimes a trade-off in terms of energy consumption to regenerate them. However, when discussing non-renewable resources, or difficult to regenerate resources, a recycled option is likely better than a ‘virgin’ option.

Regenerative Farming

See non factory farmed above!

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources avoid the use of the Earth’s finite resources (like oil, gas and coal) and instead look to sources which are constantly being renewed and replaced. Some common ones you may have heard of include solar, wind and hydropower. Through the use of technology, we are able to harness electricity from these natural energies. They’re not perfect, but they definitely offer an alternative to fossil fuel sources [ak]. For a wedding venue, this may mean having solar panels on site to power its electricity needs. For someone making products, it may mean their machinery or entire site is run through solar panels or another renewable resource. Alternatively, it may mean that the supplier is sourcing their power through a ‘national grid’ energy company specialising in renewable energy.

Responsibly Sourced

I think Virgin sum up responsibly sourced when they say “To ‘responsibly source’ something may simply mean that a company knows where materials are coming from. Or it might mean that a company can be sure that the way in which they are being produced, grown or made is not having a negative impact on people or the planet” [al]. I certainly hope that the latter is the case for most suppliers.

When I talk about responsibly sourced, there are two things I’m talking about. Firstly, I mean that I’m meeting various sustainable goals (e.g. ethical, environmental) at once. Secondly, it means that I have weighed up the benefits/drawbacks and made a conscious decision to use a raw material which does as much good as possible, or is the best alternative to a worser item. For example, I use Stork in my cakes because it bakes lighter cakes that still taste fantastic. Using butter might save on the plastic tub and the added chemicals, the former of which bothers me, the latter of which doesn’t. Ultimately, Stork is a trade-off where I balance quality of the product with my environmental goals. Across the rest of my ingredients however, it’s much easier to make a choice in favour of sustainability goals, so overall, I describe my cakes as responsibly sourced or eco-conscious.

Responsibly sourced is definitely one of the terms on the list where it’s more open to personal interpretation. That also means it’s open to more loose interpretations, so always ask for more details when people say their products are responsibly sourced. Eco-friendly wedding suppliers who are truly sourcing responsibly will be able to go into lots of details about what and how they purchase raw materials or products.

Seasonal

When something is described as seasonal, it’s often indirectly a more sustainable or environmentally friendly item. The benefit of buying seasonal produce is that it can be grown locally and/or using less ‘interventions’. For example, using strawberries when they are in season means they can be sourced from surrounding counties, and do not require any heating or lighting to grow or store them. Ultimately, this is better than sourcing fruit from abroad or growing it out of season.

Self-Sufficient / Self-Sustaining

This is all about the energy and resources used to run a building or make a product. With new technologies and innovations, it is possible for buildings to run completely or partially self-sufficiently. So they may be producing their own electricity on site (e.g. solar panels), sourcing their own water (e.g. from rain), cleaning and/or recycling water that’s been used. Overall, they will be looking to harvest more renewable resources than they consume. If a venue is fully or even partially self-sufficient, it’s likely there are lots of other ways they are already creating more eco-friendly weddings.

Slow Grown

This word is almost solely used in relation to meat. Where intensive farming and factory farming are all about efficiency (i.e. getting a chicken from farm to supermarket as quickly as possible and therefore reducing costs), slow grown farming is about getting the best out of the meat. Compare 35 days to 81 days. That’s the difference in time that a chicken from a factory farm vs. slow grown farm will be alive before slaughter. The benefits are in higher animal welfare, a lower chance of food poisoning bacteria and fabulous tasting meat [am].

Small Batch

See artisan and handmade for more details. This one is exactly as it says on the tin – made in small batches. This is likely to mean less intensive methods, lower chemical usage and/or no additives. It does tend to be more of a marketing word, and is definitely open to looser definitions. However, when you’re working with local producers and they’re talking about small batches, you should certainly expect the quality to be better. If you really like alcohol, there’s a fascinating article online about the benefits of small batch distilling [an].

Small Scale Farming

See non factory farmed above!

Sustainable

Sustainability is the key theme of this entire post. All of the words and phrases on this list are a step in the right direction for a more sustainable global lifestyle. So what does it really mean? It goes beyond any individual word on this list. It’s not just about reducing harm, but also creating good. I think this definition from EcoCult really sums it up, “Sustainability sets the focus on the future. It means the item or action is generating environmental, social and economic benefits, while not using up too many resources or causing pollution” [ao]. The overall aim is to create a global lifestyle where we protect and benefit future generations, rather than use all of the Earth’s resources that may be needed in the future.

In terms of planning an eco-friendly wedding, or a sustainable wedding, you would be looking to reduce negative aspects and increase positive aspects. One example could be cutting single use plastic and asking guests to plant trees (via a charity) as wedding gifts.

Sustainably Sourced

A business or its processes are usually described as sustainable if the whole system fits some of the eco-friendly terms on this list. However sometimes, a business may not yet have developed a more sustainable process, or it just may not be relevant to them. Therefore, they may choose to use the word sustainably sourced instead. This suggests that they have made swaps in certain areas of their business.

Traditionally Made / Traditional Methods

See artisan for more details!

Vegan

The arguments for a vegan lifestyle being more eco-friendly revolve around the resource consumption of animal production, deforestation for farming land, carbon emissions, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution (from feed crop fertilisers and pesticides) [ap]. I personally (controversially!) don’t believe that all vegan diets are better for the environment (or socially). It’s a surprisingly complex topic and one that we will never agree on – that’s the very nature of life! However, making sensible switches and reducing meat intake are certainly going to benefit the planet. It’s also worth reading more into the topic and finding some vegan switches that make the most sense to you. Alternative milks are a controversial eco topic – but here’s the best up-to-date information about switching to vegan milks to start you off [aq]. I also really like the calculator on this BBC page to help you start thinking about switches [ar].

In terms of looking after our animal populations, then of course, vegan products should help you achieve that. There are some other words on this list that are worth looking at too e.g. cruelty free.

Vegetarian

Please see vegan above!

Water Saving

Why do we talk about water saving in the sustainability world? After all, in the UK, we very rarely have a drought, so can we really argue that water is in short supply? Well, there’s a couple of reasons why it’s worth thinking about. Firstly, it takes a lot of energy to pump water into people’s homes. Therefore, the less water we use, the less energy we use. Secondly, as climate change continues, our water supply (from rainwater) is likely to become more unpredictable. It’s already in more of a desperate situation than we are aware of, so it will only get worse [as].

When it comes to businesses saving water, there are a couple of changes they may have made – described as water conservation or efficiency [at]. Firstly, they may have installed water saving technology or made conscious decisions to cut down on the water they use. Secondly, they may have found ways to re-use their waste water on-site rather than letting it drain away to be treated at a sewage plant. It’s only a small component of a more eco-friendly approach, but is certainly worth understanding the term and asking for more details from suppliers, if it’s important to you.

Zero Waste

I spent a lot of time looking for a succinct, plain English definition of zero waste. In some ways it’s incredibly complicated, in others, it’s incredibly simple. This definition from Going Zero Waste might not be the shortest, but it is certainly the best and explains everything you need to understand. “The simple answer: We aim to send nothing to a landfill. We reduce what we need, reuse as much as we can, send little to be recycled, and compost what we cannot. The less simple answer: It’s really about redefining the system. We currently live in a linear economy where we take resources from the earth and then dump them in a giant hole in the ground. The goal of zero waste is to move to a circular economy where we write trash out of existence…Instead of discarding resources, we create a system where all resources can be resumed fully back into the system” [au].

When thinking about products and suppliers, it’s unlikely that someone is truly zero waste. However, it’s entirely possible that they have cut down waste to a very low level. I’ve seen dress designers pass on their offcuts to other businesses. Or caterers pass on leftovers to charities. When looking for suppliers, it’s worth asking how they reduce waste, or pass on by-products. This is another easy way to plan a more eco-friendly wedding.

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Decoys – No Impact on Your Eco-Friendly Wedding

Acid Free

This term is mostly used when discussing wedding dress storage but it might also be found to describe stationery too. It refers to ‘acid free tissue paper’ which is a type of tissue paper that won’t turn acidic over time [av]. Any tissue paper that turns acidic over time has the potential to stain or damage the contents it’s designed to protect. Although acid free sounds good, it doesn’t have any different environmental impacts than standard tissue paper. However of course, its ability to protect items indefinitely will depend upon its classification as acid free or standard so it’s still important to understand.

Sources

[a] – https://ecocult.com/whats-the-difference-between-green-sustainable-eco-friendly-ethical-fair-trade-clean-organic-non-toxic-and-conscious/

[b] – https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/why-bees-need-our-help/

[c] – https://www.food.ee/blog/compostable-vs-recyclable-vs-biodegradable/

[d] – https://www.conservation.org/blog/why-is-biodiversity-important

[e] – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/mar/23/food.ethicalliving

[f] – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/common-food-additives#section3

[g] – https://ecocult.com/whats-the-difference-between-green-sustainable-eco-friendly-ethical-fair-trade-clean-organic-non-toxic-and-conscious/

[h] – https://www.utilitydive.com/news/the-devils-in-the-details-policy-implications-of-clean-vs-renewable/550441/

[i] – https://www.heritagepaper.net/the-difference-between-biodegradable-and-compostable-packaging-materials/

[j] – https://www.carbonsmart.co.uk/compostableplastics/

[k] – https://ethicalelephant.com/crueltyfree-vs-vegan/

[l] – https://ethicalelephant.com/cruelty-free-vegan-labels-logos/

[m] – https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/

[n] – https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/for%20business/

[o] – https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/05/25/surprise-fairtrade-doesnt-benefit-the-poor-peasants/#299880f1370d

[p] – http://www.shaminidhana.com/journal/fair-trade-vs-fairtrade-and-why-it-matters

[q] – https://www.peta.org.uk/features/this-is-free-range/

[r] – https://farmshttps://assets.ciwf.org/media/7432869/compassionate_food_guide_web_download.pdfnotfactories.org/resources/labelling/

[s] – https://www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk/about-fsc/what-is-fsc

[t] – https://www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk/about-fsc/what-is-fsc/frequently-asked-questions

[u] – https://www.fsc-uk.org/en-uk/about-fsc/what-is-fsc/fsc-principles

[v] – https://www.fsc-uk.org/preview.what-is-the-forest-stewardship-council-fsc-factsheet.a-158.pdf

[w] – https://www.green-tourism.com/about-us

[x] – https://www.honeybeebeautiful.co.uk/

[y] – https://www.northern-hands-uk.com/

[z] – https://www.lexico.com/definition/factory_farming

[aa] – https://www.ciwf.org.uk/factory-farming/why-does-factory-farming-still-exist/

[ab] – https://pipersfarm.com/pages/sustainable-farming

[ac] – https://www.greatbritishflorist.co.uk/blogs/blog/foam-free-floristry-great-british-florist

[ad] – https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/what-is-organic/organic-eggs/

[ae] – https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/what-is-organic/organic-milk-dairy/

[af] – https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/meat-poultry/pork-and-bacon/

[ag] – https://treadingmyownpath.com/2017/11/09/actually-living-plastic-free/

[ah] – https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained

[ai] – https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/g804/recycling-symbols-plastics-460321/

[aj] – https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2018/04/04/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-plastic-and-recycling/

[ak] – https://www.justenergy.com/blog/7-types-of-renewable-energy-the-future-of-energy/

[al] – https://www.virgin.com/virgin-unite/what-does-responsible-sourcing-actually-mean

[am] – https://www.farmdrop.com/blog/slow-grown-chicken/

[an] – https://www.englishspirit.uk/post/the-definition-of-small-batch-distilling

[ao] – https://ecocult.com/whats-the-difference-between-green-sustainable-eco-friendly-ethical-fair-trade-clean-organic-non-toxic-and-conscious/

[ap] – https://www.livekindly.co/this-is-why-a-vegan-diet-is-better-for-the-environment/

[aq] – https://www.greenmatters.com/p/eco-friendly-non-dairy-milks

[ar] – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46654042

[as] – https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/blog/why-we-should-all-be-saving-water

[at] – https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/water-conservation-efficiency/

[au] – https://www.goingzerowaste.com/zero-waste-1

[av] – https://www.rajapack.co.uk/blog-uk/tissue-paper-questions-answered/