There are approximately 2.4 million weddings every year in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency says that 44 percent of our country's greenhouse gas emissions come from non-food consumer products, which means the manufacturing, packaging, and transporting of wedding gowns and bridal accessories accounts for a large portion of our environmental impact.
The wedding gown industry has begun capitalizing on the eco-conscious bride by offering numerous selections of gowns made from both organic and sustainable fibers; most of which are catwalk-worthy and designer priced. But if you're going to call yourself an eco-conscious bride, you'll need to know more about organic and sustainable fibers, as well as what to do with your gown after the big day.
ECO-FRIENDLY WEDDING DRESS FABRICS
Organic Cotton Pros:
- Organic farming helps fight global warming through carbon sequestration, a process in which carbon dioxide is captured from the atmosphere and incorporated into soil, ocean, and plant matter. So not only does organic cotton forego the use of chemicals and genetically modified organism seeds, it promotes biologically diverse agriculture by nurturing soil health.
- Organic farming also reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide by using 37 percent fewer fossil fuels than conventional farming.
Organic Cotton Cons:
- Even though organic cotton is free of chemicals, its production still requires significant amounts of irrigated water.
- In addition, no organic certification program currently exists for clothing. It is possible for USDA “Certified Organic” cotton clothing to be 100-percent organic, but still contain harmful chemicals, dyes, and finishes. Designers often use fabric blends that incorporate cotton and are therefore not exclusively organic, so be sure to ask about the gown's fabric content before you make a purchase.
- Hemp produces three times as much fiber per acre as conventional cotton and does not require chemical pesticides or herbicides.
- Not only is it capable of growing in a wide range of climates and terrains, hemp benefits soil conditions by adding nutrients, fostering microbial life, and eradicating weed growth.
- Since the farming of industrial hemp has been virtually banned in the United States , it must be imported from countries such as England, Germany, and Canada. The environmental cost of transporting hemp long distances, as well as the higher retail price, should be considered when choosing a hemp wedding gown.
- In addition, converting hemp fiber into hemp fabric often involves the use of water and bleach.
- Bamboo grass is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and contains a natural, internal pesticide called bamboo kun.
- This bamboo kun remains in the fabric and helps to control bacteria growth and moisture levels on the skin.
- Bamboo releases more oxygen and sequesters more carbon dioxide than trees. It is also very adaptable and can grow in a variety of ecosystems.
- Bamboo is primarily grown in China, though small-scale commercial plantations exist in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. And like hemp, the environmental cost of transportation and the additional retail cost can be viewed as a downside when purchasing a bamboo wedding gown.
- Because of its growing popularity, existing forests are often cut down and replaced with bamboo plantations, which negatively impacts biodiversity.
- Unless it's certified organic, you can't be sure that the bamboo hasn't been over-managed with pesticides and fertilizers.
- It's luxurious, durable, biodegradable, and renewable.
- Unless you choose a gown made with Peace Silk, which is produced without the killing of silkworms, your gown will be an animal byproduct and therefore, non-vegan.
- Silk may also be treated with chemical additives in the manufacturing process.
REUSE OR RECYCLE YOUR WEDDING DRESS
Tailors: Tailors are anxious to get their hands on your used wedding gown because they can put it to pieces, modify the design, and transform it.
Costumes: Dye your gown a different color and wear it as a Halloween or theatre costume. Or donate your gown to a costume rental shop as it is, even if it's damaged.
Sell Online: There are numerous websites dedicated to buying and selling used wedding gowns. And by selling yours, you stand to make some money that can be put towards your honeymoon fund or the catering bill. In fact, most brides who sell a designer-name gown right after their wedding recoup 50- to 90 percent of its original cost. Try a site like PreOwned Wedding Dresses, Wore It Once, or Ebay.
Donate: You can either take it to a charitable organization, such as Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul, or you can use one of the many wedding gown donation websites available. Try one like Brides Against Breast Cancer or Donate Wedding Gowns.
Recycle: If you're creatively inclined, use the material from your gown to make various crafts and miscellaneous garments, such as doll clothes or costumes for young relatives. This is a particularly good option if your gown is stained or torn.