At 10:30pm, I was sitting on the floor of the cottage kitchen scooping hummus out by the handful from all the other trash that was thrown into a “trash bag.” It didn’t matter to the person who did it that we had provided a food bucket and shown it to them. It didn’t matter that this was the second time that day that I had to sort sticky pineapple rinds and plastic wrap, wiping the slime of dip off my fingers to be able to pick up the champagne bottles that had been thrown all into one bag. The offending party apologized both times. It wasn't that they expected me to sort it all for them. It just wasn't second nature to them to do that, and it was silly looking, that I was on the floor, picking through their mistakes. Why not just let it go and throw it all away...
This is not one instance, this is virtually every wedding. It might be a family member, the entire wedding party, or even the caterer. But at most every event, one of us or our staff gets to sort food from plastic, glass from aluminum, rinse it all off, and put it in the right bin. Often, it happens right in front of the offending person. Most just pretend they don’t see. Some apologize and realize they missed the lettering on the side of the can proclaiming “PLASTIC” or “GLASS.”
I don’t tell you this to be disheartening. Maybe as I sat there explaining how food doesn’t biodegrade in an anerobic environment as I painstakingly looked for all the cheese and crackers and sorted it from the wax paper and fake eyelashes and the empty container of some kind of boob tape they, on some level, heard me.
Maybe the person who threw away a plastic bottle thinks a second next time, because I immediately picked it out of the trash and asked, “oh, is this recyclable?” It was. The person then went and rinsed it out, and put it in the right can. It's not anything malicious. It's habit.
I never know if we make a difference in people. I hope we do.
All I know is, we make a difference in the waste that leaves our venue. It makes a difference for the couple who booked our venue in part, because we care. It means they are free to celebrate their wedding knowing the footprint they leave behind is made as small as possible.
The average wedding of 100 to 125 guests (which is our size) produces 400-600 pounds of trash and 63 tons of carbon dioxide. The food waste from our own wedding, 22 years ago, is probably still identifiable deep in some central Florida landfill. We did have real plates and silverware and glassware at our wedding, though we did it because it was classy, not because we thought about our wedding’s environmental impact.
I’m grateful to the couples who book us. I love it when they tell us our green policies make them happy. But even if it doesn’t matter to them, if they booked us because the mossy rocks and undisturbed forest are gorgeous, I’m still happy because we are diverting as much trash as possible away from the landfill.
Our staff cares. Even the ones who admit they themselves don’t really care about it, they care while they are here because Dave and I care. Some have found themselves looking at waste from their full-time jobs with new eyes and tried to urge change with their employers.
Much of the push to save the environment, to live more responsibly, falls on deaf ears. But change can still happen, sometimes it’s as small as how one person is dismayed at finding a business doesn’t recycle, and quietly says “Don’t look, Mom,” while gently putting their empty bottle into a waste can.
You never know if your small act matters.
And that’s what I tell myself while scooping hummus out of a “trash bag.”