updated 4 Jun 2012, 03:02
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Tue, Nov 30, 2010
The Korea Herald/ANN
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Nice day for a green wedding
by Hwang Jurie

Did you know that an average person generates 12 tons of carbon dioxide in a year? How about the CO2 generated in an average wedding?

A single wedding is said to produce 14.5 tons of carbon dioxide from food waste, traffic jams and honeymoon.

Carbon dioxide emission from weddings and its effect to global warming became a serious matter for Lee Kyung-jae, a former fashion designer who has turned into a sort of eco-friendly evangelist.

"It is a big issue that an abnormal change of weather is destroying the ecosystem. It is time to think of weddings from the climate standpoint. Though marriage is regarded as very sacred, its ceremony has lost some meaning as it increasingly disregards the ecosystem," she said.

The 31-year-old executive of Sewing for the Soil hinted at a way to reduce carbon production and bring back the original meaning of weddings.

"I want weddings to go back to their essence: to sustain and develop society by creating a union and a family."

Lee worked as a fashion designer for two years after majoring in design, but as she understood the agrarian side while living in rural areas of Gangwon Province, she slowly opened her eyes to environmental issues.

"Never did I know about how much our 'fast' fashion was destroying the earth, with numerous people buying, throwing away clothes and shopping again these days. Such things really worsen the environmental problems of today," Lee said. Presently, she designs nature-friendly, biodegradable dresses. Soon after coming back from her three-year break out of the city, she started to use eco-friendly materials, later expanding her career from environmentally friendly clothes to wedding dresses and then to a total wedding service.

As her eco-friendly wedding business gained attention, she was recently selected as one of the top three Asia Pacific finalists for the 2010 Cartier Women's Initiative Awards for her achievements in and contribution to environmental sustainability.

Sewing for the Soil's eco-friendly weddings propose a fresh, green alternative to the traditional white version: Her biodegradable wedding dresses can be redesigned for daywear once the ceremony is over; cut flowers are replaced by living plants in soil; catering is organic; invitations are printed in bean-oil ink on recycled paper or "hanji," paper made from mulberry trees.

Wedding dresses are usually made with synthetic textiles. Lee says these dresses are not only contributing to the depletion of finite natural resources but also polluting the earth.

The environmentally concerned designer involved her colleagues in designing wedding dresses with corn starch, hanji, and organic nettles. "Each process of the eco wedding dress is harmless to human beings and the environment as well. I do not add bleaches or fluorescent materials," Lee said. Her wedding dresses are biodegradable, because their materials are obtained from nature and decomposed back into nature. Lee also came up with an idea of using old wedding dresses that were not being used. She reforms once-worn wedding dresses into everyday clothes.

Wedding invitations are also a necessary part of a modern wedding.

"I believe that even the wedding invitation cards should be eco-friendly, though it seems a small matter," she said, "Wedding bouquets are meant to celebrate the beginning of a family and should embody the theme of life. Have you ever thought about the fact that bouquet flowers a bride holds are root-cut and dead? The once gorgeous bouquets will inescapably end up as garbage."

According to her, honeymoons also cause pollution.

"Think about the waste and pollution produced through honeymoons, it's selfish. I suggest a fair-trade honeymoon, where the newly married think of local people and respect nature. The honeymoon I suggest is a trip doing volunteer work in local communities as well as spending a comfortable and relaxing time together," Lee says.

"How about spending half of your trip in relaxing hotels and half making social connections and eco-friendly choices?"

Recently, Sewing for the Soil has been recognized as a social enterprise, and on that account, she will increase free eco-weddings for low income couples.

She also seeks to make small changes throughout the country with eco-friendly clothes. "My next project is to change hospital patient gowns. These clothes worn by patients should be healthy, but the reality is that they are just another mass-produced good made from fluorescent materials."

"I'd like to appeal again to people to choose eco-friendly weddings and events if possible, thus contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions and global warming," she said.

To calculate how much CO2 emission you produce through events, you can visit

The 340,000 weddings held in Korea every year waste an average of 1,000 flowers, 1,000 liters of food and lead to up to 1,500 guests pumping out exhaust fumes from their cars.

However, she is not pessimistic. Government policies and the Kyoto protocol obligations to control CO2 emission from 2012 will make the fledgling Korean eco-market a promising sector for Sewing for the Soil.

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