There are plenty of factors to consider when picking out your wedding dress (the color, the silhouette, the neckline, the price). Still, many modern brides are now adding the garment’s environmental impact to that list.

“As many brides consider their future, the issues of environmental stability and climate change are at the forefront,” says Jillian Leigh, founder of Wear Your Love, an organic bridal company. “Our brides want their weddings to reflect their ethics, their personalities, their ideals, and feel like an expression of love and community. Nothing says love and community like choosing sustainability.”

Unfortunately, fashion production – including bridal attire – comes at a major cost to the environment.

“Most wedding gowns are produced in low-wage and relatively environmentally unregulated countries, where coal power and immense industrial air and water pollution are normal,” explains Leigh. “Many wedding gowns are made from fabrics which are produced in resource and chemical-heavy processes that contribute to environmental degradation and will not decompose for generations.”

In fact, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second-highest user of water worldwide and also generates 20% of global water waste. It’s also responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

So, to ensure your dress is both stylish and sustainable, here are a few different ways to minimize your gown’s impact on the planet.

1. Opt for eco-friendly fabrics

What your dress is made of can make a big difference when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint. Organic cotton, for instance, is much more sustainable than both conventional cotton and synthetic fabrics.

“[Wear Your Love’s] gowns are made from approximately 50% organic cotton, which is dyed with natural, organic dyes,” says Leigh. “Compared to conventional cotton, organic cotton reduces the energy load needed for production by around 62% and contributes to climate change overall around 46% less than conventional cotton. Organic cotton, in contrast to synthetics, will also biodegrade, rather than sticking around for thousands of years, like petroleum-based fabrics.”

2. Buy from ethical brands

It’s also important to look at who is making your wedding dress and how they’re doing it. An increasing number of designers are integrating sustainable practices into their production, like only doing made-to-order work, handcrafting the pieces in-house, and utilizing discontinued or leftover fabrics.

“Consider the process in creating the fabrics used in your gown, the chemicals and energy used in production, how environmentally regulated the jurisdiction is where the gown is produced and how much waste is created in production. Who is making your wedding gown, and do they earn enough to live a healthy lifestyle and make sustainable choices as well?” advises Leigh.

3. Reuse and re-wear it

While finding another occasion to wear a poufy white ballgown can be challenging, it is a bit easier to re-wear other, less traditional bridal wear. Separates, for example, can be paired with other pieces for an entirely new look. Bridal jumpsuits and suits also tend to have a bit more longevity. Or, you can even take your dress to a tailor and have it altered, so it’s easier to wear on a more regular basis.

4. Shop secondhand

If you’re not looking to wear your dress again, consider buying a gown that someone else has already worn by shopping secondhand. Not only will this save gowns from ending up in a landfill, but it also will save you big bucks since preowned gowns are often much more affordable than brand new ones.

You can either try your hand at scouring local thrift shops and consignment stores for a vintage gem or check out one of the many online marketplaces, like Still White, Nearly Newlywed or Mother of Pearl.

5. Go the rental route

It’s long been commonplace for grooms to rent their suits, so why can’t brides rent their gowns? Like shopping secondhand, renting prevents waste by increasing the number of wears a gown gets before it goes to a landfill. Some rental companies, such as Rent the Runway, even donate well-loved dresses to charities like Operation Prom to ensure the garments reach their maximum potential.

©CTW Features