When Nupur Aggarwal and Ashwin Malwade, who met each other on Mumbai’s beachside Safa Drive, decided to tie the knot in 2019, they were adamant that their wedding would not contribute more to global warming.
Nupur Aggarwal told DW, “We knew we were going to have a zero-waste wedding because there was no way to generate the waste we picked up on the beach.”
The couple couldn’t find a wedding planning firm that could help them organize their special day in an eco-friendly way, so they decided to do it themselves.
Members of Ashwin’s Barat, the groom’s wedding procession, were instructed to attend in electric vehicles. Nupur wore her mother’s wedding dress, which was upcycled for the occasion and emblazoned with hashtags like #saynotoplastic and #climatecrisisisreal.
‘Zero Waste Hard But Less Waste Easy’
The program was so successful that many couples started contacting them for advice on how to have a zero waste wedding. They decided to turn this sideline into their profession, setting up an event planning and consulting company, called Greenmyna.
In the past three years, they have planned seven weddings and counseled many couples. They say that GreenMina has neutralized more than 2 tons of carbon and composted more than 5 tons of waste.
But the wedding industry is estimated to be the fourth largest economic sector in the country, with an estimated 100 million weddings per year.
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“A typical three-day wedding generates 700 to 800 kg of wet waste and 1,500 kg of dry waste. The carbon emissions for such weddings are around 250 tonnes,” Ashwin Malwade told DW.
Pooja Dewani and Arjun Thakkar, both non-resident Indians, also wanted to do as little damage to the planet as possible by getting married in the western Indian city of Pune. But they invited 140 guests from the United Kingdom.
“The question was, how can we be eco-friendly when we fly people to India?” Pooja Dewani said.
In the end, they decided to offset their carbon footprint by planting trees with the help of Greenmina. “We realized that it is difficult to have a zero waste wedding, but we can easily have a low waste wedding.”
Offsetting carbon emissions
Shanay Jhaveri, who got married in December, also turned to Greenmaina to help reduce carbon emissions, deciding to plant in Miyawaki Forest, a densely planted forest of native species.
“I also had e-invites and I printed invitations on seed papers, which we planted as a ceremony with close relatives.”
Arindam Ghoshal, a project manager based in Dubai, was also looking for ways to plan his sister’s wedding in January in a more sustainable way. He found Climes, a climate finance company that allows individuals and businesses to buy carbon offsets through online credits, and used the company to neutralize 2,250 kilos of carbon dioxide.
“I didn’t know about carbon neutralization until 2021,” Ghoshal explained. “It was after COP 27 that I became interested in learning more about greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Our motto is to cut what you can and neutralize what you can’t,” said founder Anirudh Gupta, who launched the firm in 2021 and now has more than 20 consumer brands as partners.
“We need to simplify climate action, make it easily accessible, economically viable and fun to do,” he said, adding that to make climate action more fun, Climes let wedding guests scan credit and QR codes and choose a climate solution. Project to help financially.
“The money moves in the form of claim credits. Each claim costs 2 Indian rupees (€0.023 and $0.024) and offsets 1 kg of carbon from the atmosphere,” he said.
The company claims to have offset more than 26 tons of carbon emissions from four wedding ceremonies.
Food waste can feed the poor
According to online platform Statista, Indian weddings have the largest number of guests in the world, with an average of 500 attendees. A 2017 study by the Indian Ministry of Consumer Affairs in the Delhi region showed that it was not uncommon for wedding buffets to feature 200 to 300 different dishes.
NGOs often have excessive food waste that is not only harmful to the environment, but can also end up on the poor.
“On an average, the extra food left over from a wedding can feed 100 people,” said Abdul Wahid, who volunteers in New Delhi with the Robin Hood Army, an NGO that distributes food to less fortunate sections of society.