Zero Waste Wedding Registries and Sustainable Alternatives
Congratulations! You're getting married! Have you stopped and thought about the carbon footprint of your wedding yet though? Nobody wants to rain on your parade but it's important to understand that weddings produce a lot of waste and emit quite a few greenhouse gases. One of the culprits: gifts.
Getting gifts we don't want and buying gifts off of fossil-fuel producers like Amazon raises the carbon footprint of your wedding. The good news is that through some careful planning, you can create a zero waste, sustainable wedding registry that gives you the gifts you want and has a much smaller environmental impact.
This post will cover sustainable online wedding registry options, monetary only wedding registries, and discuss several zero waste alternatives to a registry if you want to skip gifts altogether!
Gifts we don't want create waste
Every gift we get has a carbon footprint. It is made, packaged, shipped, and displayed which all involve fossil fuels. If you get a gift and then return it, shipping it back creates yet more waste. The carbon footprint of your gift gets bigger if you don’t want it - so gifts we don't want inherently generate more waste.
Most returned gifts are tossed, too.
Although you might think returning items is an easy way to swap things you don’t want, returns have a dark side. Many returns are not in fact placed back on the shelves but tossed. Large companies find it cheaper to actually make a whole new product than pay someone to sort through the returned products to see if they are damaged. That’s primarily because of outsourced labor in countries with minimal labor laws and therefore cheap labor. It's cheaper to pay someone in a factory than someone in a US store.
So no. You should not put things on your list just to return them later for what you really want.
Ask for what you actually want
Let's be real. When faced with a blank page where you can ask for anything, many people will be tempted to add a lot of stuff. They may all be things you plan on keeping, but that doesn’t mean you need them.
Weddings are not an opportunity to overconsume! Ask yourself these questions when adding things to your registry:
Does this item add something new to my life?
Does this item replace something that is no longer usable in my house?
Does this item save me money/time by replacing something?
Can I go without this item?
Would I rather just have the cash than this item?
In order to ask for (and get) gifts you really want, you'll need to work with a registry that is flexible. Most traditional registries only partner with big box stores - dramatically limiting what you can ask for.
Sustainable Online Wedding Registries
There are a few online registries that will allow you to list out gifts you would like - with a sustainable twist! They provide the option to add links from anywhere on the web so you can feel free to link to secondhand shops, Etsy, and other local businesses. You can add on a link to your favorite dinner and ask for a gift card. Or add a link to your friend who makes pottery out of her tiny shop! The options are limitless!
The SoKind Registry is the best sustainable online registry for anyone asking for gifts! The registry was created as a project by the Center for Biological Diversity so isn't run by a large corporation looking to sell you something.
It's also completely FREE!
The unique thing about the SoKind Registry is that it acts as a list of things you want, rather than a place to purchase from. For each item, a photo and description can be added in addition to a link. If you want a specific item, you can link to the website where it can be purchased from. This allows you to link to things on Etsy and small businesses that otherwise wouldn't be compatible with larger registry platforms!
There are no restrictions on what can be added! Couples can add in items that they would like that are handmade and secondhand too. They simply add a description and photo with directions on how to gift it to them once it's found/made.
When designing my zero waste wedding, I used the SoKind Registry platform!
Thankful Registry is designed similarly to SoKind but has a one time fee. The benefits of using Thankful is that their website is much more aesthetically pleasing so for those particular about the look of their registry, this small cost might be worth it.
Thankful Registry allows you to link from any site in the internet. It does, unfortunately, require a product to be sold online to be added which means it doesn’t have the flexibility of including homemade gifts nor general requests like SoKind. Basically, you have to be able to link to it in order to include it.
Cost: Free (2.5% fee for cash gifts)
The Blueprint Registry is set up very similarly to both SoKind and Thankful. It allows for any item that's sold on the internet to be added to the registry, regardless of the retailer. Blueprint is run by David's Bridal which is a giant wedding dress company (making it not my favorite option to support out of the three).
However, the Blueprint Registry does have some nice features such as a built in toolbar icon that allows you to easily save any item for sale on the internet to your registry with the click of a button. Whereas with SoKind everything has to be inputted by hand, Blueprint collects the information automatically from the sellers page.
Blueprint can also be integrated with a free wedding website through David's Bridal as well. If you're planning on sending electronic invites, they also have an online RSVP feature.
Blueprint also has a feature allowing cash gifts but they charge a 2.5% processing fee. Guests can either elect to cover this fee themselves or have it passed on to the couple.
Monetary Only Wedding Registries
Cost: ~2.5% of gifted money
HoneyFund is a monetary only wedding registry which means it’s ideal for couples wanting to avoid physical gifts. The fund works by collecting either gift cards or credit card payments on behalf of the guests. Guests can choose to give any amount they desire.
Gift cards don’t have any processing fees so the couple will get the entire amount given. To give a credit card payment however, the couple will have to sacrifice around 2.5% of the gifted amount to HoneyFund.
If you think your guests can manage sending a paper check or bringing a card straight to your wedding, you’d save money that way for sure. But for the couple wanting to be completely hands off or that’s not having an in-person wedding, this might be a perfect option.
Venmo / Cash app
It may seem tacky but just about everyone uses Venmo nowadays! The benefit to using an money transferring app such as Venmo or the Cash App it that there are no processing fees.
The downside it that nothing is anonymous and payments will be sent instantaneously, taking the surprise out of opening up a card or waiting to till the big day to see how much was gifted towards your honey moon fund.
If you skip an online registry altogether, make sure to indicate on your wedding website how guests can send you money for your "honeymoon fund" by including your mailing address and/or your Venmo handle.
There is nothing wrong with simply letting guests know that you are not asking for gifts but will happily accept monetary contributions towards your new marriage.
You can decide whether it feels best to place your mailing address on your wedding website or kindly suggest guests bring cards to the wedding. Don't forget then to have a basket for the cards to be set in and kept safe!
Some couples may find themselves wanting to avoid all the extra gifts and packaging that typically arrive on their wedding day. In that case, having an alternative to a wedding registry is absolutely recommended! By choosing one of these zero waste alternatives, it'll also lower the carbon footprint of your big day.
Zero Waste Alternatives to Wedding Registries
No registry at all
There is no requirement that you have a wedding registry at all! Although capitalism would like us to believe that gifts are all that matter, that simply isn't true. Your wedding will be beautiful and meaningful, whether or not gifts are involved.
Simply let your guests know that you are not asking for nor accepting gifts for your wedding.
Instead of asking for gifts or money for yourself, you can ask your guests to donate to a charity on your behalf. You and your fiancé can discuss with each other an organization that matches your values. When sending out your invite, include details in your description or link to where you want them to donate on your RSVP site.
Cost: Free (but read below!)
The Good Beginning is a website that gathers together donations from guests to pass along to a charity. Unfortunately only 89% of the money contributed by your guests will actually be donated to the charity in the end. Part if it goes to the company for administrative fees and for processing credit cards.
For that reason, I’d recommend going with the option above of simply linking straight to a charity through your RSVP page or one of the more flexible registries listed above.
Another fun way to have your guests provide you with gifts in a non-traditional way is to have a bring your own (BYO) item at your wedding!
For example, you could have appetizers and late night snacks supplied by your guests (if allowed at your venue). The dinner could even be completely potluck style with each guest bringing a dish!
You could also ask them bring their own plate, napkin, or beer glass! Although they definitely don't have to gift these to you afterwards, it will save you money on renting the items and add a fun twist to your special day!