There’s no doubt about it: Plastic has a deleterious impact on the environment and our health. Studies have shown that when plastic enters an ecosystem, it can harm animals, damage habitats, and potentially transfer chemicals to wildlife and humans alike. In fact, according to a recent PEW report, “the rapid increase in plastic pollution in the past few decades is due in part to an to an increase in single-use plastic consumption and a growing throwaway culture.”
That’s why, these days, so many couples are looking for ways to reduce plastic consumption on their big day. To help, we asked wedding professionals, including Heather Rouffe, Heather Jones, Mary Angelini, Joan Wyndrum and Kristen Gosselin, to identify common single-use plastics used at weddings—and the alternatives they suggest turning to, instead.
Related: 18 Ways to Plan an Eco-Friendly Wedding
Skip these helium-filled decorations for your party and opt, instead, for decorations made from recycled paper. You can still get the same pop of color and celebratory feel from large paper lanterns, tissue paper orbs, and environmentally friendly pieces, note our experts.
Disposable Plates, Glasses, and Flatware
It may be tempting to purchase a bunch of disposable products for your guests at one-time events, like engagement parties, bridal showers, or bachelor and bachelorette celebrations, but the waste will add up quickly. Instead, consider renting glass or high-end plastic products. It will cost a little more than disposable (and require more clean up), but will be significantly better for the environment.
The rental company that provides your tables and chairs may also offer a cloth alternative to plastic covers. As a bonus, most companies will launder them for you, as well.
Plastic Bar Cups
If your reception venue serves their bar drinks in plastic cups, ask if you can provide your own glassware for the event. You can upcycle antique goblets and barware, and have guests take them home as favors. Consider having the glasses personalized or adorned in a way that allows them to speak to your big-day theme.
It’s no secret that, eventually, many plastic favors will make their way into a landfill. Instead of giving your shower or wedding attendees parting gifts made or wrapped in plastic, try a plantable option, like seed packets or potted plants.
Exit Toss Materials
Most couples have an elaborate exit toss planned for their late-night send-off. Traditionally, guests throw rice—but duos might offer anything from confetti to bubbles. Swap any plastic options for a biodegradable product or birdseed; avoid rice, though, which can become squishy when wet and impact local avians.
These once-ubiquitous drink garnishes are now outlawed in some jurisdictions. If your wedding is taking place somewhere that still allows them, we suggest replacing the plastic ones with paper, stainless steel, or even silicone. Just remember that the venue will likely ask you to foot the bill for the alternatives.
Foam-Anchored Floral Arrangements
Ask your florist to swap arrangements that require the use of floral foam for ones that don’t require the additional support. If your heart is set on a centerpiece that does, ask them to use fillers (not foam!) that can be reused, like seashells, glass beads, or pebbles.
It may seem like a challenging party staple to get around—especially if you’re hosting a backyard pre-nuptial event, like a casual engagement party—but there are plenty of alternatives to plastic water bottles. For smaller gatherings, for example, fill a pitcher of water and offer a selection of cups for your guests to self-serve as needed.