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The Green Life: Trendsetter

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June 01, 2007

Trendsetter

Susan Angel
Green-wedding planner
Angel & Company

A social worker for 20 years, Susan Angel wanted to use her people skills in an ecofriendly pursuit. After considering other business opportunities, including a green home store or one for recycled building supplies, the Boise, Idaho, resident hung out her shingle as a wedding planner.

How do prospective clients feel about going green?

It's a new business for me, and most of the brides I'm working with are more traditional, so it's going to take a bit of time. This first year I see myself as more of an educator, getting the word out, before I have brides who really "get" it. But some people are already incorporating green practices without even thinking about it--like having the reception and ceremony at same place, or serving local foods, or donating leftover food and cake. People don't necessarily see these things as "green," but they're willing to do them.

How do you start out planning a green wedding?

Couples are already engaged by the time I talk to them, so I can't talk about conflict-free diamonds. So the first steps are the same as for any wedding: figuring out where they're going to have it, and how much travel and transportation will be required. Then it's finding an organic baker, organic beverages, and a caterer who uses local and organic foods; and looking for invitations on recycled paper, or even doing all your invitations via the computer--I think that's going to take a while [to be accepted], but it's a huge way to cut down on waste. At the ceremony, you want to make sure everything is going to be recycled. There's an organization here in Boise that works with restaurants to give leftover food to our food bank, and you can do the same concept at weddings: some can be donated, some composted, but all used in some way.

What aspect is most challenging?

In Idaho and some of the other inland states, flowers are very challenging. In summer we have farmers' markets, but otherwise there's not the supply of organic flowers you would find in California. We grow a lot of good food here, so that's not too difficult. And there are a growing number of invitation companies that use recycled and handmade paper. But the more I read about the flower industry, I don't even want to go out and buy flowers unless they're organic. You can use dried grasses, potted plants, or candles instead of cut flowers; try leaves in the autumn, or greens and berries in the winter.

What do you look for in a venue?

I'm looking for something a little more unusual. When you go with local places that aren't big-box hotels, you're really working with the people who own the businesses. We've got some nice outdoor places, like a local lavender farm or small organic farms, and the Boise Art Museum also hosts weddings and receptions.

What new trends have you seen develop lately?

There are starting to be more options for organic wines and beers than there used to be. It can still be hard to find them outside of California, but I think that's going to grow.

What does being green add to a wedding celebration?

Everybody wants their wedding to be special and unique and one way to do that is by taking your values and the things that are important to you in other areas, those causes that are most dear, and incorporating them into your life celebration. If, for instance, the couple has been really into saving forests, they can give away tree saplings. Or if they're into protecting the oceans, they can have aquatic colors. Those little touches make your wedding one of a kind.

When I planned my daughter's wedding, we weren't trying to be green yet. But she had her wedding in the Sawtooths just because it was an area where she liked hiking and camping, and she had sagebrush bouquets instead of cut flowers because she wanted something that was real Idaho.

I have to show brides and grooms that just because a wedding is green, doesn't mean it's not going to be beautiful. When I talk to people about silk and hemp dresses, for example, I know they have this image in their minds of a sack. Most people, especially women, have a vision of how their wedding is going to be, and the trick is to show them that they can still have that beautiful fairytale wedding. They don't have to give anything up.

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Want more? Check out all the resources, tips, and ideas in our recent list of "10 Steps to a Green Wedding." Meet a real-life couple that got married in a climate-neutral ceremony. And read an interview with another ecofriendly wedding planner.

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