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Jewish Journal

It’s a nice day for a green wedding

by Sharon Schatz Rosenthal

April 10, 2008 | 6:00 pm

Jordan Elias and Jessica Kraft on their wedding day.<br />
Jessica's purple and gold dress is made of hemp<br />
and chiffon and was colored with vegetable dye.

Jordan Elias and Jessica Kraft on their wedding day.
Jessica's purple and gold dress is made of hemp
and chiffon and was colored with vegetable dye.

Jessica Kraft didn't wear a traditional flowing white, off-white or ivory gown during her wedding day last October. Instead, the 29-year-old college professor made her way down the aisle at the UCLA Faculty Center in purple and gold.

While the San Francisco resident -- whose husband grew up in Los Angeles -- considers herself unconventional, her unusual frock had little to do with balking at tradition.

"I wanted my dress to be sustainable fashion," said Kraft, referring to her desire that the garment's production have little impact on the environment. Kraft's eco-friendly dress was made from organic hemp, chiffon and a little vegetable dye.

But the nontraditional dress was just one part of Kraft's "green" simcha. In lieu of sending out paper invitations, Kraft and her husband, Jordan Elias, sent out their invites via e-mail, used organic flowers, registered for green products like bamboo kitchenware and bath towels made of organic cotton and hired a biodiesel van (which runs on peanut oil instead of gasoline) to transport their guests to the ceremony. In addition, they donated 3 percent of their gift registry proceeds to the National Resource Defense Council, a national environmental action organization.

With our country's growing concern about the environment, many couples are choosing to have eco-friendly weddings. Jewish brides and grooms-to-be in the Southland are no exception. Green event planner Deborah Kattler Kupetz of DKK Events in Brentwood says that 60 percent of her clients are Jewish. And Angelica Weihs of Angelique Events in Los Angeles has noticed an upward trend in her own business.

"I would certainly say that [green] awareness in the Jewish community is rising," said Weihs, whose book, "The Luxury of Loving Green: Weddings in the 21st Century" (Ignite Publishing, 2008), will hit bookstores in May. These days, many young adults take steps toward saving the environment in their daily lives. Often, the mentality carries over into their wedding plans.

"Within our lifestyle, we're as green as possible ... and I drive a hybrid car," said Melanie Lora, 29, of her life with fiancÃ(c) Sky Meltzer. "The environment is just something that's important to both of us."

Lora and Meltzer, Santa Monica residents, are currently planning their 2009 wedding. While they are unsure which Jewish elements they will incorporate into their ceremony, they know that that the menu will be vegetarian, the invitations will be printed on recycled paper, the decorations will be minimal and at least part of the flower arrangements will be replantable.

Other green wedding ideas include the use of soy- and hemp-based products for linens, the dÃ(c)cor and even the chuppah; using local and seasonally produced food; using ecologically chauffeured transportation; and using natural light or simply having an outdoor affair.

Many couples try to "carbon-zero" their events by offsetting the extra energy and carbons used, which, in turn, helps fight global warming. A couple might compensate for driving a car, taking a plane or using artificial light by planting trees or donating to a carbon offset project.

But with the expense of using recycled paper for invitations, buying organic food and using alternative energy sources, are green weddings more expensive than regular weddings?

"Many people mistakenly feel that a green path is a more expensive path," said Kupetz, who prides herself on the variety of sources she uses to accomplish her green events. "Just like anything, if you know what you are doing you can be as competitive as anyone."

Kraft was an environmental and social activist back in college and she was concerned about going overboard when planning her own wedding.

"I realized what a big event it was and how many resources we could waste in putting on this big production," Kraft said. "Wherever you look, there's another bridal magazine and another caterer to take advantage of the $50,000 people are spending in one day. I thought it was sort of narcissistic consumption."

Instead, Kraft and Elias tried to keep waste at a minimum, raise awareness and include their shared value of tikkun olam, or repairing the world.

And green weddings have deep meaning within Judaism itself. Since eco-friendliness goes hand in hand with the concept of tikkun olam, protecting the planet is an extremely Jewish issue.

"When a couple adds to the inherent joy the additional blessing of tikkun olam, healing the world itself, it takes what otherwise is only an intensely personal mitzvah and turns it into a blessing in the public realm, as well," said Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben of Kehillat Israel Reconstructionist Congregation in Pacific Palisades. "In this way, creating an eco-friendly wedding allows everyone who participates to feel that they are having a kind of double celebration -- both for the bride and groom and for the planet."

Looking back on her big day, Kraft is thrilled that her passion for the environment was a part of her simcha.

"I was happy we were able to share this urgent message that we need to protect our natural resources in the same way that Jordan and I agreed to protect and care for each other," Kraft said.

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