Paper Products: Where to Begin and Eco-friendly Alternatives
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
When it comes to planning a sustainable wedding, there is one thing you can’t lose sight of: every single act, change, and choice towards lessening your impact on the environment makes a difference. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, or even feel less-than, if you don’t have the time or means to bring a zero waste wedding to life. The truth is, with every single sustainable swap you make, you are leaving the planet better than you would have without taking these steps. You are breaking the wedding industry’s mold by challenging the wasteful mindset of throwing such a grandiose event.
Depending on your guest list size, you may be sending out hundreds of save the dates, invitations, RSVP cards and thank you cards. Let’s face it--you may even be sending a couple of change the dates given the uncertainty of today’s times. Not only is that adding to your wedding’s carbon footprint, but it’s also a lot of waste. No matter how magical your engagement photo, those paper products and the envelopes they come in are headed to the recycling or trash; it’s just a matter of time. Luckily, there are so many eco-friendly alternatives these days that you don’t need to feel guilty about sharing your beautiful engagement picture with those you care about. And you shouldn’t! Being selective with your materials and offsetting your carbon footprint (we highly recommend Colorado Carbon Fund) are both great ways to send your paper products while still being environmentally conscious. So where do you begin?
Where to Begin
There are three main options if you want to go the paper route for your wedding announcements.
Shop for an abundance of pre-designed invitations, save the dates, RSVP cards, etc. and have them printed for you through the company. Most will come with an envelope, too! Our go-to is Paper Culture, which is why we have partnered with them to offer our couples a discount! They have a large inventory and many custom options for your wedding day. Every order plants a tree and at the time of writing this, they have planted over 1 million! Their paper is 100% post-consumer recycled and any cotton products they have are either organic or pre-consumer recycled parts of other cotton manufacturing. They also offset their entire carbon footprint from manufacturing to distribution. Another great option is Minted--they have a great selection of recycled paper products that you can choose from.
Purchase a beautiful digital design and print your own. Your one stop shop for this option is Etsy. Since the designs are already pre-made, you simply have to find the one that speaks to you and customize it with your wedding details. Plus, Etsy offsets 100% of its carbon footprint from shipping with emission reduction projects such as protecting forests, and sponsoring wind and solar farms. We have a thorough list of recycled paper and paper alternatives below, or you can send your customized design to a local printing shop that incorporates sustainable practices.
3. Most Unique
Hire a designer to create a beautiful custom design. This option gives you and the artist a lot of creative freedom, and the end result is guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind. Depending on the designer, you can have them print it for you, or you can opt for a digital design and print it yourself. Since this is such a personalized experience, we recommend finding a designer whose work speaks to you.
We hope that this simple “Where to Begin” guide gives you a launching pad for finding the perfect solution for your wedding stationery needs. If you have decided which route works best for you, click on the topic below that interests you for more in-depth eco-friendly options!
Our Personal Favorite Tree Free Get Creative
Recycled Paperless Final Inspiration
Our Personal Favorite: Seed Paper!
We are all about giving back to this sacred planet we call home. We know that her resources are limited, and we try to honor the gifts she gives us by giving back whenever we can. That’s why we love the option of using seed paper for our couples’ paper needs. They are compostable and leave no waste. After 2-3 weeks, the seed will sprout, and you will have a new vegetable, flower or herb!
Our go-to is the Boulder-based company, Bloomin’, that started as a small family production facility in the backyard chicken coup. As you know, the closer the business is to home, the lower the carbon footprint of having it shipped to you. Their handmade paper is 100% post-consumer/post-industrial recycled, and infused with flower, vegetable, herb, grass, tree and many other varieties of seeds. They have been in business since 1995 and recently became a B Corp company! Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that have adopted a new type of company structure, to ultimately solve social and environmental problems. Their motto is “What you say grows” which is why they offer wedding invitations, cards, stationary, favors, and more. Some can even be printed on at home.
The Seattle-based company, Of the Earth, was founded in 1995 by Kevin and Lori Graham who discovered their passion for eco-friendly papermaking after preparing 135 handmade invitations for their own wedding. They offer invitations, wedding directionals, gift bags, thank yous, wrapping paper and the list goes on! They encourage their customers to use less paper (like single envelope invitations and postcard reply cards), they produce paper with recycled/recovered water, and use every practical measure possible to ensure an environmentally responsible workplace. Some of their eco-options include Lotka seed paper made from the bark of the Daphne bush which regenerates naturally providing a renewable resource, natural cotton fiber seed paper (no trees harmed!), and printer-safe papers.
Another great company is Botanical Paperworks. They are a mother-daughter duo that took on the endeavor to start their own paper making company. After they wrote the book “300 Papermaking Recipes,” they discovered their recipe for seed paper. It quickly became their top seller, and they rebranded to be a seed paper only manufacturer and distributor. Currently, they are the ONLY seed paper approved by the CFIA and the USDA for planting in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and many other countries world-wide. They collect post-consumer waste from businesses and schools in their local area to use as the basis for their plantable eco-friendly seed paper. Through this collection, they save the local landfill 10 tons of paper per year. They also volunteer in schools and nonprofits to teach the next generation about reducing, reusing and recycling.
If you’re crafty, want to challenge yourself, and have extra time, there are recipes online for how to make your own seed paper invitations! You can make a bigger impact on your community and reduce landfill waste by collecting your own post-consumer paper and turning it into something your family can cherish for years. Tip: Do a test run before making a big batch for your invites to nail down your recipe and process. NASA provides a 13-step process.
Recycling and upcycling are naturally eco-friendly. You are giving a second life to an item and keeping it out of the landfill that much longer. The Portland-based Oblation Papers is a husband and wife duo that offers handmade, recycled cotton paper and uses soy-based inks. Products are made using recycled remnants from the garment industry. If you are excited about writing and personalizing your invitations or thank you cards, this is the business for you. Their recycled cotton products include stationary, full-sized sheets of paper, and even classic shapes to add a unique element to your send outs. If you choose to purchase their custom wedding invitations that they have specialized in for three decades, you can feel good knowing that you are supporting a small business that cares about the environment and donates to a local charity, Children’s Healing Art Project.
Tree Free Paper
Hemp, or industrial hemp, is from the same family as marijuana but contains almost zero THC. It has been used for thousands of years for clothing, rope and even fuel. The U.S. finally lifted the ban on hemp in December 2018 which is great news for our planet! The plant grows with little water, doesn’t take up much space or require pesticides, and puts nutrients back into the soil which is important for that land to be viable next growing season. It takes 100 days, give or take, for hemp to reach a mature enough stage for its fibers to be stripped as opposed to 50-100 years for a tree to reach that level of maturity. During research, I was shocked to learn that hemp produces more pulp per acre (the most common source of fiber for papermaking) and absorbs more carbon dioxide than trees. Since the legalization was so recent, the hemp industry has some catching up to do. We can help save the trees by increasing the demand on more sustainable products and putting our money towards companies that implement sustainable practices.
If you want your invitations and save the dates to have a design ready to go, your first stop will most likely be Etsy. WokeGreen is owned by two moms with backgrounds in marketing and graphic design on a mission to create spiritually-conscious, heart-centered design. They have a couple of beautiful downloadable invitations that you can pair with their favorite printing company, Prints of Love, that implements sustainability practices like planting one tree for every order. Be sure to take advantage of their demo service, so you can try before you buy.
Tree Free Hemp is a Colorado-based company that makes and sells paper products from at least 25% hemp and 75% post consumer recycled materials that are always acid and Chlorine free. They offer a printing resource for creative and handcrafted wedding invitations (and more). This company is serious about its commitment to the planet and local community. If you are artistic and/or have a specific design you want to print, and have the budget for high quality, locally made hemp paper, check their website out.
The India-based company, Bluecat Paper, has an incredible assortment of 100% handmade, recycled, upcycled and tree free paper made from coffee husks, elephant poo, and cotton rags (just to name a few). They offer a small selection of minimalist invitations you can find here in addition to tree free bowls, coasters, placemats, journals, and so much more. Some of their sustainability practices include recycling water back into the production process and using agricultural waste as raw material for the papermaking process all while producing chemical and acid free products.
Another option for the DIY soul is to buy bulk. This is a win-win for the couple with a substantial guest list, or who often prints at home. Green Field Paper Company reclaims the water they use throughout the process, saving thousands of gallons of water each week. They purchase wind credits to offset carbon produced during the manufacturing process, which results in 100% renewable electricity. Bulk Hemp Warehouse has the mission to Feed, Clothe and Shelter the people of Earth with hemp. They are certified organic and cruelty-free and engage in free and fair trade with suppliers, customers, and employees.
On a budget? Paper invites and save the dates not a high priority? We always encourage going paperless as often as you can. Couples these days are opting for their own website where guests can view wedding details, purchase gifts from the registry, and even RSVP, which saves both time and paper. Take it one step further by going fully digital with wedding invitations, save the dates and thank you cards. Paperless Post offers a beautiful end-to-end experience for your guests through design, RSVP tracking, and immediate guest follow up. Their blog has a lot of great ideas and creative solutions for engagement parties, honeymoons and even dealing with COVID during the planning process. This awesome company believes autonomy, transparency, sustainability, and empathy create a happy and healthy work environment. By choosing to go digital, you will have on demand access to important guest information while saving trees and reducing your carbon footprint.
A good rule of thumb for sustainability is making sure as many decorations, supplies and gifts have a purpose after the wedding. This applies to any information you send to your guests, too!
Wooden magnets are a unique way to invite your guests to your special day. Your guests will use your save the date a significantly longer time with a functional and beautiful wooden design. At PaperStudioByC, you are guaranteed a hand-crafted wooden save the date magnet of which 20% of sales goes to Unicef--a UN agency with the mission to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. Cristina, the owner and mom of two based in Portugal, only uses paper, wood and cork that is certified by FSC--a forest management certification that confirms that the forest is being managed in a way that preserves biological diversity and benefits the lives of local people and workers while ensuring it sustains economic viability. For cheaper options, Etsy offers a large variety of wooden magnets for your creative soul. CraftyStudio1 offers a great inventory of creative and fun designs. If you are crafty and want a fun activity to put your own unique mark on your invites, you can learn from a past bride on how to create your own Wood Slice Save the Date Magnets!
This next creative save the date solution calls for the book worm or lover of all things antique. While there aren’t many pre-made options out there, rescue paper is seriously unique and relatively inexpensive; however, it can definitely be time consuming if you have never worked with it before. Rescue paper is when you use pages from antique, vintage or used books as the backdrop for any project. To start, you will want to head to your local used book store. Look for pages with stains if you want an old-fashioned invitation, or in genres that will have cute passages about love, happiness or marriage. Next, tear out as many pages as invites (plus extras for mistakes) super carefully. You can cut them into elegant or fun shapes, or leave them whole. Then overlay the pages with a smaller blank canvas (paper, artwork, paint, etc.) to ensure readability and write (or print) out the save the date. If you want to skip the blank overlay, use a contrasting medium for your text, or attach the book page to the back of your invite via glue or stitching as shown here. For more inspiration, read this blog on 21 Uses for Old Books which includes instructions on how to use pages for cards and wedding paper cones!
This list is not exhaustive, but we hope it gives you many launching points to creating the perfect start to representing your unique love story. If you have other ideas for “greening” your wedding paper products, we would love to hear about them! We know that the world is full of creative spirits, and as technology and mindsets evolve, we will see even more innovative ways to produce sustainable weddings. Take Cronology for example: a company in Mexico made of a group of young entrepreneurs that have developed a system that converts PET bottles into mineral paper which they claim will save up to 20 trees and 56,000 liters of water per ton of paper produced. Their products aren’t available for the purpose of this article yet, but who knows what the future holds? We are encouraged to see so many innovative earth-conscious options out there. We know that every dollar is a vote, and every time you choose to purchase a planet-friendly product, you are voting for the health of our hurting planet and the success of businesses that are fighting for her.
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