Is it ethical to get married?

Is it ethical to get married?

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Science & Tech

Dear Ethan,

I am writing to you from my solar-powered “Green”berry in my honeymoon hotel in north Africa. You see, last weekend I got married, but now I’m thinking to myself: was that an ethical thing to do? Does tying the knot mean tying the planet in chains? Please advise! I will plant as many trees as it takes to make up for my nuptials.

Helen Cox

Dear Helen,

Marriage can be a beautiful thing. Sheba and I tied the knot in an open-air ceremony in Dorset. She wanted to wear a traditional meringue-style starch-white dress until I reminded her that polyester, from which most wedding dresses are made, consists of petrochemicals and is non-biodegradable, and that silk dresses involve boiling alive or electrocuting silk worms in order to extract the silk from their cocoons. In a pre-wedding heart-to-heart, I explained I couldn’t marry a woman who was willing to wear a garment spawned from worm torture, and thankfully she compromised!

She wore an off-white dress (to symbolise the staining effect man has on the planet) constructed from natural bamboo. It was made (or should that be built?!) by those marvellous men and women at the fashion house Bamboosa, who point out that Bamboo is ‘nature’s most sustainable resource, is grown without pesticides or chemicals and is 100 per cent biodegradable’. After the ceremony we recycled the dress by posting it – freight class – to a Panda sanctuary in western China where it was fed to a bear called Ziyi and her four cubs. Sheba had a rash for a few days afterwards, and even kicked me out of the marital bed over ‘that bloody bamboo dress’! When she calmed down I explained it was probably just nature’s way of warning us not to take Her plants for granted.

I wore one of those hilarious t-shirts that looks like a tuxedo (!!!), which both raised a smile amongst our friends and families and saved me from having to splash out on a wasteful three-piece suit that had probably been hand-stitched by a nine-year-old in some sweatshop in the Far East and, worse, flown here by aeroplane. (There are an estimated 300,000 weddings in Britain each year, for which around 100,000 garments are flown over from factories abroad. That means Tuxedo and Wedding Dress Miles account for a whopping 140,000 tonnes of CO2 EVERY YEAR.)

We used sycamore seeds as confetti, because it is part of their evolutionary purpose to be thrown and to fly. Friends said they were quite moved by the act of throwing sycamore seeds, feeling honoured to do the kind of thing normally done so well by Wind and Rain. Our bouquets were made of grass, held together by knots of straw. After the wedding we held a special Throwing-The-Bouquet ceremony where we deposited them in a friend’s compost toilet. There, our grass bouquets mixed with natural waste to create a beautiful (if pongy!) fertiliser. Between feeding the dress to Ziyi and fertilising the soil with our bouquets, we expressed our eternal love for the Earth as well as each other.

However, not everyone has a Green Wedding; some people still insist on having a White Wedding, or what I like to call Noxious Nuptials….and if you had one of those, Helen, then shame on you!

That wonderful organisation Climate Care estimates that the average wedding emits around 14.5 tonnes of CO2. That is more in one day than the average person emits in a year, which is 12 tonnes. The clothes, the transport of friends and family – sometimes from abroad – plus the preparation and cooking of food all take their toll on the planet. But there are ways to have an ethical wedding. Firstly, take a tip from Sheba and me and wear naturally made clothing. You can choose from bamboo, straw or grass, and there is a wonderful fashion house that makes shoes from old discarded tyres. Wearing its striking footwear on your wedding day would be such a cool way to stick up two fingers (excuse my French!) at the rampant motoring and oil industry. Imagine, you would be taking their products, which are designed to speed cars, choke out smog and mow down unsuspecting pensioners and children, and using them in a loving ceremony.

Despite the best efforts of my friends in the Anti-Confetti Campaign, who protest outside church and registry-office weddings most Saturdays and Sunday, some people STILL throw confetti. They don’t realise that confetti consists of bleach and artificial colourings that leach into the dirt and soil. It is the Wedding Day equivalent of acid rain. Throw seeds, nuts or sycamores instead, which can then take root in the ground. (Don’t throw Brazil nuts! A friend of mine made the mistake of throwing them at Zac Goldsmith’s wedding to Sheherazade Ventura-Bentley in 1999, and we ended up with a battered and bruised bride and bridegroom!)

And instead of brides-to-be selfishly demanding expensive diamond rings – the product of diamond-mining, which is like a scar on the beautiful continent of Africa – they should look to buy metallic and synthetic-diamond jewellery from wonderful outlets such as GreenKarat, the ecologically responsible jewellers. Even better, they should make their own wedding jewellery from stone or wood, which has the benefit of being recyclable if, Mother Nature forbid, they should ever split from or divorce their husbands.

However, Helen, easily the WORST aspect of Noxious Nuptials is the honeymoon – and I see from your email that you are already on yours. I am very disappointed. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that man-made flight is propelling us into a future of floods, droughts, disastrous warming and potentially a new Ice Age. Sheba and I honeymooned in our garden, in an eco-friendly tent and with only the birds and the bees (if you get my drift!) to keep us company. That, Helen, is true love….whereas swanning off to Morocco is, I’m afraid, true hate. You must plant 65 trees and 10 shrubberies to neutralise your nuptials.

Ethan Greenhart is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him at {encode=”” title=””}. Read his earlier columns here.

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Topics Science & Tech


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