Just in case you’ve been totally off the grid in recent days, there’s a royal wedding on the horizon: Great Britain’s Prince William and long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton announced their engagement this week. While the royal family is already hinting that this wedding won’t be the extravaganza seen in 1981 when Prince Charles married Princess Diana, there’s no doubt this will be a big affair… with a big carbon footprint to accompany it.
I don’t want to rain on the young couple’s parade — they’re certainly due the celebration they choose. But as Charles has become one of the world’s leading proponents of the green movement (he’s even building William and Kate a “green mansion“), wedding plans that take environmental impacts into account seem fitting… and actually work well with the plans for something a bit lower key.
So, as the Prince and Princess-to-be start their preparations, and staff starts shopping for invitations, flowers, and food, I’ll take the admittedly bold step of suggesting some ways to keep this royal wedding somewhat closer to the environmental impact we commoners might create.
A few ways Prince William and Kate can green their wedding…
- Trim the guest list: OK, a prince probably has a much bigger “must invite” list than the rest of us, but using Charles and Diana’s wedding as a baseline, they can probably get away with inviting many fewer people than the 3,500 that stood in St. Paul’s Cathedral in the early 80s. Guests create impact, period: traveling and lodging each have their carbon footprint. Something more intimate may be more meaningful to the couple… and also keeps the resource use down.
- Encourage European guests to take the train: No doubt we’re talking about many, many guests that belong to the private jet club… but Europe and Great Britain have extensive passenger rail networks, so why not encourage guests to use them. Push the “leisurely” angle… and, if it helps, the significant difference in carbon emissions per traveler.
- Consider a 100-mile wedding dinner/reception: OK, you may be thinking “British cuisine’ is an oxymoron”… but that’s at least partly a gross generalization, and doesn’t take into account the kitchen help these folks can afford. While Oliver Rowe’s “inside the M25” restaurant didn’t take off (unfortunately), it could serve as a model for the young royal couples wedding dinner… perhaps a “celebration of British food” theme? There’s even sparkling wine within this foodshed, so no need for imported champagne.
- Order native organic flowers: Why ship in pesticide-laden flowers from South America? Go with organic British plant and floral arrangements… and compost cut flowers after the ceremony and celebration.
- Skip the gifts: I mean, what are you going to buy for a prince and princess anyway? How about asking guests to forgo the gifts, and make a donation to worthy environmental non-profit?
- How about an island honeymoon? That is, the British Isles… Sure, William and Kate can afford to travel anywhere they’d like, but Great Britain’s full of quiet, secluded, and, yes, romantic spots… and they can probably follow their guests’ lead and take the train.
- And, last, offset: Once everything else has been done to lighten the impact of the wedding, the new couple could buy carbon offsets for the rest… or maybe ask for offset purchases as gifts.
Of course, there are other items that can be greened: the wedding dress and invitations come to mind (though these are more symbolic than substantive). Overall, though, Prince William and Kate have the opportunity to show the world that even a royal wedding doesn’t have to consume massive amounts of resources in order to be beautiful and meaningful.