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There are few things less sustainable than weddings. The décor, the flowers, and even much of the food eventually ends up in the trash. Wedding dresses are a notable exception, if only because brides tend to preserve and save them, yet even wedding dresses have their environmental impact because of the materials used in their production. Buying eco-friendly wedding dresses – also known as green wedding dresses – is one way brides can lessen the waste associated with their weddings.

So what is an eco-friendly wedding dress? Green wedding dresses are those crafted from sustainable, organic, or recycled fabrics and dyes; those created without the use of petroleum products, those purchased secondhand, and those that will be reused after the wedding itself. Thankfully, eco-friendly wedding dresses aren’t just for the granola set anymore. Once the purview of hippies, green wedding dresses have gone haute couture. This means that environmentally conscious brides don’t have to sacrifice style to save the earth.

Secondhand wedding dresses and formal gowns that can be re-worn are easy to find. What’s more difficult is sorting through all of the info when it comes to green wedding dresses. Familiarize yourself with the basics, and you’ll be a much smarter shopper.

Silk

This biodegradable and renewable (not to mention beautiful) material is considered the be-all and end-all for upscale eco-friendly wedding dresses. However, keep in mind that many silks are chemically treated and that silk may not be appropriate for vegan brides because it is an animal byproduct. There are animal-friendly silks like peace (or tussah) silk, Ahimsa silk, and wild silk, though these lack the luster and fineness of traditional Bombyx mori silk.

Hemp

Fast-growing, this fiber is often found in green wedding dresses paired with silk because the resultant mixed cloth has a wonderful sheen. The downside to hemp wedding dresses is that they tend to look less polished than their whole silk counterparts.

Cotton

If you go this route, think organic. Cotton crops are some of the most heavily sprayed when it comes to pesticides, so if you’re wearing conventionally-grown cotton, you’re not doing the earth any favors. Etsy is a great place to look for organic cotton wedding dresses, and you may even be able to find a seller who can custom design your gown.
Other sustainable fabrics used to craft green wedding dresses include flax, linen, soy, lyocell, and even milk. Bamboo is touted as a green fabric for wedding gowns and other clothing, but the process that turns the plant (which is itself eco-friendly) into fabric requires the use of certain toxic chemicals.

If you want to have a sustainable wedding, looking into eco-friendly wedding dresses is the perfect place to start. There a plenty to choose from – gone are the days when brides had to compromise elegance for environmental consciousness! You can look as chic as you please at your wedding ceremony and reception, all the while knowing that you are living your values on one of the most important days of your life.