After all the doom and gloom following the spending review and the subsequent austerity measures, we received some joyful news: the announcement of the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. And hasn’t it got the nation talking?
I was sitting on a train the day of the announcement listening to people talking about the proposal, the ceremony, the wedding dress and the extra bank holiday we shall get, when one person mentioned that the engagement ring was “second hand”. It started me thinking about whether the royal couple will make a commitment to a sustainable wedding.
This could be a great opportunity to showcase the best of sustainable produce - such as Prince Charles’ range of Duchy Original foods - and make responsible product choices fashionable. And the opportunities on the big day go beyond organic food and drink; think about the locally grown flowers, responsibly sourced fabric for the dress, low energy lighting along the route and even a good old horse and carriage for the bridal party.
And the great thing, is that on this scale we have an opportunity to demonstrate that sustainability is not about second best or making sacrifices in quality.
London will see thousands of visitors flocking to the capital for the festivities. This will generate an increased demand for food to consume ‘on the go’ and, of course, wedding souvenirs. What if the royal family were to ask the suppliers to ensure that they had minimal impact on resource use during their production and consumption?
Those who attended the last wedding will remember the huge volume of waste materials that were generated in the streets by the crowds of well-wishers who lined the streets for hours before and after the royals passed by.
Dealing with the rubbish, which is mostly food and drink packaging (and see-a-scopes for those too far back from the crowd barrier to see the happy couple), amid the heightened security, is no easy task. But Veolia, as the waste contractor for City of Westminster where the main festivities will be undertaken, has had previous experience of dealing with major events such as the Queen’s Golden Jubilee; the funerals of Diana Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother; the millennium celebrations, and the London Marathon.
Veolia said it is committed to promoting recycling of the waste generated by the celebrating crowds during the royal wedding and is addressing the security issues by engaging employees in an ambassadorial role.
This leads to another opportunity to add to the sustainability agenda: the chance to use the big day to create benefits for society through the generation of job opportunities and training, especially for those in our sector.
So, I return to my initial question. Could the royal couple make this special occasion not only the first zero waste royal wedding, but also the first truly sustainable event of this scale in London?
And could the global broadcasting of the event provide the opportunity we need to springboard sustainability into the public’s consciousness at a time when the dire state of the economy has temporarily knocked it out of people’s minds?
Dee Maloney is director of LRS Consultancy