What went wrong in the attempt to reduce my wedding waste
My blood boils when I see a close friend or a family member buy a plastic bottle.
I haven't bought a single packaged drinking bottle in the last 2.5 years. This was my first step towards reducing my waste and actually the easiest one. I got married on 12th July’21 and just like any other millennial I pictured my wedding without any unnecessary rituals, no 1000+ guest list, no limit bar but most importantly, no waste. We had less than a month to prepare, so I decided to focus on reducing single-use plastic consumption at my wedding.
This blog is a compilation of why I failed despite my best intentions and a quick checklist on how to plan in order to reduce your wedding waste. Remember, there are many stakeholders involved and early planning is the way to go.
What actually happened at my wedding:
First, we requested all our guests to bring their own water bottles and avoid buying plastic bottles on their way to the venue. They all knew how much avoiding plastic waste means to me so thankfully everyone agreed.
Next we spoke to the hotel management.
Me: “Please don’t keep plastic water bottles in any of our rooms. Alternatively, you may provide water dispensers so our guests can refill their own bottles”
Hotel manager: “We can’t provide water dispensers. They don’t go with the aesthetics of our hotel”
We booked almost half of the hotel for 3 days and were amazed that the “Aesthetic” is the hurdle in minimizing waste and also over a guest’s genuine request.So i went online to look for another alternative and found that ANI Beverages provide 20 Lts campers for just Rs. 35-40. Seems like a perfect solution! I approached the hotel management again.
Me: “We have found a solution. We will place one camper in each room and a few at the banquet hall. This way there will be no waste and you won’t have to go completely out of the way to help us out” (Seemed like a win win situation at that point)
Hotel manager: “We will think about it sir”
They delayed their agreement for the same until the very last moment, and a couple of days before the event, they confirmed that they will provide a camper in each room. Phew! That was a relief. The day of my wedding when I reached the venue, the first thing I saw was plenty of 200ml plastic water bottles kept at the table and my friends using the same. I got furious and I immediately asked the management to replace them with the jugs. They obliged.
Even though I was pissed, I tried to keep calm. I immediately rushed towards the room. There was a camper in each room. If you were there, you could see the relief on my face but it did not last long as I saw two plastic bottles given complimentary by the hotel in all our rooms.
WHY CAN’T THEY UNDERSTAND A SIMPLE THING, WAS JUST BEYOND MY UNDERSTANDING. ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS NOT KEEP ANY PLASTIC BOTTLES.
A LEARNING: The venue management needs to align with your values. In our case, the hotel just did not care about our values and beliefs.
Now my next step was to personally request each guest to use the camper and avoid using plastic bottles. I was beginning to get happy that we could reduce some waste at the functions but then comes the first blow followed by many more.
- Haldi: This event was outdoors. It was hot and humid and no one remembered arranging for water, especially the hotel management. Last moment arrangement was done with a camper and a few reusable glasses. Our guests found that the waiter was not cleaning the glasses and serving water in the used ones.
- Sangeet: No arrangement of camper by the management. There were small plastic bottles everywhere.
- Baraat: Sigh! I saw my friends dancing and drinking from mini 200 ml plastic bottles
- Shaadi: Plastic plastic everywhere!
PS-I ensured at least I carry my reusables in every function.
At every function, I sulked a bit looking at those plastic bottles. Not my wedding I used to think. The camper in the room was useful but those 2 plastic bottles were a “firm screw you” to the whole intention. We are so comfortable with plastic bottles that our hands reach out for them first.. Oh did I mention? The management provided two fresh plastic water bottles every morning.
There was a lack of understanding and cooperation from the hotel to help me make my wedding free of something as simple as plastic bottles if not anything else. Were these bottles avoidable? Yes! They are as pointless as flower bouquets at the wedding. Used for a minute and after that no one knows what to do with them. Very easy to avoid and plenty of alternatives, only if you intend to and everyone around you cooperates. Later, we hosted our reception in Kota(Rajasthan) for people who could not attend the wedding and served drinking water with campers and paper cups (I could because this was completely under my control)
Nevertheless, I am now forever guilty for all the plastic waste generated at my wedding. It’s been a month and I can’t stop thinking about what I could have done differently. So, here is a list for you guys, specific on how to avoid water bottles, simple and easy.
Start with identifying areas where consumption of water bottles happen
- Rooms. Solution: Camper + steel glasses or glass
- Function areas. Solution: Water dispenser or camper + paper cups
- Waiting areas. Small jugs and glasses
- Baraat: This is a tough one. I would suggest deploying two people just to carry campers with paper cups. Maybe give them a fancy costume to wear.
- Party rooms/After parties. This one area where people, mostly youngsters gather and chill. Keep extra reusable glasses and paper glasses.
Learning from my mistakes:
- Being more involved in the preparations and choosing a venue which shares your beliefs
- Keeping COVID situation in mind and people’s fear of using reusables, one needs to anticipate a few plastic bottles will be used no matter how much you try. Hence, plan on how those bottles can be collected at one place and sent for recycling, something I wish I had planned better.
- Thorough check on water arrangements before every function starts. You could deploy one person to keep a check on this.
Camper and Paper cups (without plastic lining). You can easily find biodegradable and compostable ones. They may be slightly expensive but worth the investment as compared to using plastic ones and harming our environment.
Stakeholders you should speak with to make them understand your intentions
- Hotel management
- Your parents
- Your guests (small notes like E-instructions or in everyone’s rooms could help)
A Little appreciation for everyone who understood.
- To all the chintus in the house - Everytime they wanted to buy a cold drink they looked at me first. Will I be angry? Yes I was and I will be
- To all the Jiju’s - They were kind enough to take care of my only wish during the wedding. Yes, 20 Baratis went from Kota to Vadodara(wedding venue) and didn’t purchase a single water bottle.
- To Mom and Dad - Thanks for keeping up with my requests and being so understanding.
Using newspaper as plates during our train journey
Our camper - Zero plastic bottles during the journey
Lastly, a big thank you to all those guests who carried their own bottles. We could avoid some waste, because of your efforts, so YAY!
To all the readers- We have accepted plastic bottles as an integral part of our day to day life. As if they have been here since the start of civilization. As if there is no alternative for them,as if no alternative ever existed. I would like to remind you here that it was not earlier than late 1990s when the bottled water industry in India witnessed a boom soon after Bisleri launched its packaged drinking water in the country. This significant growth was fuelled by a surge in advertising that "bottled water was pure and healthy". Don’t believe the advertisements blindly.
So what was it like before 1990,you might ask? My first B’day party was a big one! I guess more guests than my wedding. Date: 13th Aug 1987. I remember asking my dad, what have you planned for all the guests coming?'' He replied “campers and jugs”. This was before I even knew the impact of plastic bottles on us and our environment.
Today’s Pop - Drink - Throw is just a result of our convenience and ignorance. We get bottles in various quantities depending on our needs. Easy to transport, refill with anything you like. We all think,it’s just a small plastic bottle, what harm can it do? Over that we also believe it’s healthy, especially right now in the COVID era as you can use it once and throw it away, believing it saves us from the virus. There is no scientific evidence to it and we are all victims of misleading advertisements.
Sooner or later, we will have to start planting trees, start reducing our waste and understand the importance of fresh air, parks, meditation and morning walks. Sometimes age does this to you too.
My little piece of advice- Start now. Be proud of carrying your own bottle, reusable cutlery and a shopping bag. It’s a beautiful thing to give your best to reduce waste and care for the environment you are surrounded by..
Author- Tarun Gupta ( The groom )
Edited by- Green Feels Team