Environmentalism factors into every part of life for Nik Kaestner and Kristy Wang, from using public transportation, to minimizing waste, to Kaestner’s employment as a green business consultant.

“Everything we do we have to think about the environmental aspect. We do that on an everyday basis,” Wang said.

So naturally, the Palo Alto natives wanted their wedding day to reflect their avid concern for the environment. They were turned off by the consumerism of traditional weddings, and instead wanted to emphasize the coming together of friends and family while creating as little waste as possible.

“We wanted it to be about the reception and the party and getting together and enjoying each other’s company,” Kaestner said.

So the couple planned to have a not-so-typical “green” wedding at Hakone Gardens, a Japanese garden in Saratoga, on May 27 of last year.

Cutting down on travel expenses and emissions was one of their top priorities. The couple decided to host the wedding at a location close to their guests, rather than close to their home on the East Coast.

And for all the travel emissions it took guests to get there, the couple donated the equivalent energy costs to Atmosclear, a company that invests in energy to offset greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We saved as much energy as people used getting to our wedding,” Kaestner said.

For dinner, they invested in all local and mostly organic foods, including organic drinks, duck, and fish on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “good list.”

 Nik Kaestner and Kristy Wang's thoughtful wedding plan helped the environment.  Photo by Norbert von der Groeben.

Nik Kaestner and Kristy Wang's thoughtful wedding plan helped the environment. Photo by Norbert von der Groeben.

The wedding was an exercise in minimizing consumption. Invitations were printed on recycled paper, save-the-date cards were sent electronically, photos were digital, runners were handmade by Wang’s mother, and any leftover food was composted.

“We had people take home all our decorations, so really there was nothing to throw away,” Kaestner said.

In addition, the bride and bridesmaids’ dresses were purchased with the intention that they would be worn again.

“Out of the seven people we bought bridesmaids dresses for, four of them have already re-worn their dresses,” Wang said.

Kaestner credits the Bay Area’s large market of “green” products for making the process run so smoothly. In some ways, finding the resources for an environmentally friendly wedding was an easier task than it would have been for a more traditional one, Wang said.

“It helped us narrow things down and go from there,” she said. “I think we spent less time on our wedding than the average person.”

Additionally, the couple decided not to have a wedding registry in hopes of further reducing waste.

“There were some people who couldn’t help but get us something, but they were well aware of our desire to minimize consumption,” Kaestner said.

The overall guest reaction to the ceremony was positive, Wang said. “Most people knew that it was something that was important to us,” she said. “Other people learned something from the choices we made.”

Kaestner agreed. “A lot of people were glad that we had introduced them to some new ideas,” he said. He added that his sister-inlaw plans to be married later this year and intends to apply some of his ideas to her own wedding.

Kaestner is currently working with Palo Alto schools with the goal of creating healthier classrooms and reducing energy and utility costs. Both Kaestner and Wang attended school in Palo Alto, at Gunn and Palo Alto High School respectively, and they still cherish memories of their wedding last spring.

“In many ways it was just a little unconventional, but it still fit in the box of what people envision in a wedding,” Wang said. 

Published in The Mountain View Voice: