Veena and Sudarshana, who run the Two’s Company, ensured zero waste was generated before and after the former’s wedding.

Chennai duo shows how fairytale weddings can be green and completely trash-free
news Environment Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 11:27

Big fat Indian weddings are an enormous spectacle, where crores are spent on extravagant settings and elaborate events, often as a badge of honour. Themes run the gamut from in-house weddings to destination weddings. But breaking away from these exorbitant customs that burn a hole in one’s pocket, a new crop of couples have started factoring in the impact such big weddings can have on our carbon footprint and are instead opting for a complete organic wedding, thus making it a personalised affair.

The latest is an attempt by two Chennai women in their early 20s, who ensured one of their weddings produced so little trash that it could be collected in a tiny carton box. Veena Balakrishnan and Sudarshana Pai, who run the Two’s Company, decided to lead the way by organising the former’s wedding in a way that would produce zero waste.

From plastic-free decorations to handwritten thank-you notes on seed papers, the wedding was the duo’s effort at spreading a green message beyond the venue and sustaining happiness even after the day ended.

“We decided to involve our guests throughout the process, including planning the wedding. To reduce the use of paper, we sent out an e-invite. We annotated the invite with a message on how an invitation card would have a more adverse impact on our environment,” Veena tells TNM.

The two also sent the guests a survey form, asking them for suggestions to make the wedding more sustainable.

“For example, in the survey, we asked them if they preferred beddings over wooden chairs as we did not want to use plastic chairs although they are reusable. A majority of them voted for beddings, and our entire wedding venue had beddings for the guests to sit. This way, we made sure the guests had a fair idea about the event before they arrived at the venue,” Veena explains.

Veena and Sudarshana are National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) graduates and the duo set up Two’s Company in April this year after they realised their common passion for sustainable forms of fashion.

“Being fashion technology students, we realised how we hoarded our wardrobes with new clothes and wore each one just five to six times in a year. When Veena decided to get married, we thought to ourselves – we want to change how weddings function in India, without actually altering its core essence,” Sudarshana says.

Sudarshana (in blue skirt)

Veena says it was not hard to convince her husband Vignesh and his family on compromising with some of the traditional ways of conducting a Tamil wedding.

“In fact, I realised that people are always willing to do their part in maintaining sustainability, except that, they do not know how to begin or whom to approach. Although we decided to do away with certain unnecessary wedding traditions, we made sure its sanctity was not lost,” explains Veena.

The wedding, which was held at the Rinas Avenue in Chennai, consisted of one short ceremony, unlike the traditional three-day Hindu wedding events.

Veena says the rituals also made use of minimum disposable items. “To begin with, we made decorations completely plastic-free and used only seasonal flowers sourced from farmers markets. We ensured the flowers were tied together using thengai naaru (coconut fibre) and not plastic ropes or threads,” she says.

Through a prior notice on the e-invite, the couple made sure they did not receive any boxed gifts, and that the gifts were sent as cash to select charitable institutions.

While women spend a fortune on their wedding attire from branded labels, Veena proudly says that her wedding saree was handed down to her by her family - a magenta drape that was worn by her grandmother almost 50 years ago.

“Vignesh also made sure he picked a shirt for the wedding from his existing wardrobe and did not buy anything new. We also cut down cost by not buying any additional gold jewellery and wore the ones handed down to me by my mother,” Veena adds.

The wedding meals were served on a banana leaf, with payasam served on areca cups. The couple insisted that no plastic cups were used to serve water and steel tumblers were used instead. “We had extra manpower to ensure that tumblers were washed properly after each use so that it could be reused,” Veena says.

Instead of throwing away the leftover food, Veena got in touch with the Robinhood Army, who packed and supplied it to nearby orphanages. “Our caterer was really excited when he learnt about our plan. He agreed to join hands and volunteered to cook extra food along with the excess food to be distributed.”

The leftover flowers, which were used for decoration, were given to nearby colonies as garden fertilisers and the waste from dining was dumped into a compost pit that converts into manure.

The small amount of trash that was collected at the end of the ceremony was put in a carton box and sold off to a scrap dealer.

Veena and Sudarshana say the highlight of the event was the coffee scrub packets given away to the guests as return gifts.

“We short-listed a few cafes nearby that served really good coffee and collected the spent coffee ground left behind in the cup after drinking. We sun-dried them and prepared coffee scrub, which was packed using old papers and brown bags. We pinned the bags using a toothpick instead of glue or pins,” she elucidates.

For the thank-you notes to the guests, the duo used seed paper that sprouts into a plant. Several guests, in fact, a month later, sent them pictures of the sprouted saplings.

While the whole idea of going organic is often associated with the urban elites, Veena says that organising an organic, trash-free wedding is not a cumbersome affair and instead helps one cut down all unnecessary expenditure.

“By going waste-free, we did not compromise on the sanctity, fun or happiness shared during the wedding. By adopting simple mindful choices, we created a day that would be remembered for being compassionate towards our society,” she adds.

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