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  • Writer's pictureMaria Karagiannis

A Zero-Waste Engagement


Seven years ago, a beautiful display of pink roses (my favorite) arrived at my job with a note attached: "Will you be my girl?" - Alex and I have been inseparable ever since! We went to high school together, and even grew up mere blocks from each other, yet our story began in the second half of our freshman year of college, when our groups of friends began to merge. The proximity of our houses is what lent itself to our budding friendship, as we found ourselves carpooling more and more often. Our friendship laid a solid foundation, and soon enough, we had fallen for one another. I could literally sit here and type out every sappy detail of our love story, but I'll cut to the chase: we fell in love and here we are!

After graduating college together and, after six and a half years, finally moving in together, our fairy tale continues with the next step just over the horizon!


One fine day in June, Alex asked me if we had any plans that upcoming Saturday. As we didn't, he told me we were joining two of our friends for an overnight trip to go hiking in Asheville, NC. We went hiking there last summer and fell in love with the waterfalls! So of course, I was looking forward to it! And suspicious. Something in my gut told me to just go with the flow and not say no to any of his ideas for this trip, and also to make sure my nails looked presentable!

The day finally came and the four of us hiked along the waterfall-tour trail of Pisgah National Forest. It was beautiful, taking in the waterfalls, listening to the wildlife, the scent of the plants... Finally, at the base of the third and biggest waterfall, Alex wanted to take a picture with me. Instead of turning to the camera, he faced me, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him! I said yes, of course! I couldn't have imagined a more perfect way for him to ask!

After, we checked into a hotel in Asheville where he had a gorgeous display of roses delivered, plastic-free! He had also ordered wine and a cheese plate, but he was disappointed to find that the cheese plate wasn't what he thought he'd ordered - it was mostly cold cut meats and in disposable containers. But he tried, and it meant the world to me that he would go to such lengths! We got dressed up, as he had suggested I pack a cocktail dress, and we went out to dinner at a lovely restaurant downtown. It was an incredible day!


When it comes to engagement rings, there really is no right or wrong as long as it's what you and your partner want! You could opt for a gemstone, a plain band, a jeweled band - whatever suits your fancy! Personally, I've always longed for the classic white diamond solitaire set in white gold. However, the environmental and social impacts of the diamond industry are notorious, and thus caused me to explore the most sustainable and responsible options for diamond engagement rings. I concluded that I wanted a secondhand or lab-grown diamond, or moissanite.

Of course, the decision was ultimately up to Alex, and he did not disappoint! While the setting and accent diamonds of my engagement ring are new, the solitaire diamond is secondhand. And it is stunning!


Here are 5 great options for a sustainable engagement ring:

PREVIOUSLY OWNED: No matter what type of ring you are looking for, the secondhand market is a great place to start! The environmental and social impacts of a previously owned ring have already been made, as it already exists and is no longer serving it's originally intended purpose. Secondhand in many cases can also be cheaper! You may have a relative who is willing to pass down a ring or stone, or you could check local pawn and secondhand jewelers. Just be sure to get as much paperwork and documentation as possible for insurance purposes!

LAB-GROWN: Not to be confused with cubic zirconia. The only difference between a mined diamond and a lab-grown diamond is that one uses an abundance of resources to be extracted from the earth, while the other is created under the same conditions, only in a laboratory instead. They're basically a clone of a mined diamond. For more about lab-grown diamonds, check out Brilliant Earth or Diamond Foundry!

Photo Credit: Lauren B. Jewelry

MOISSANITE: Also known as silicon carbide, this synthetic gemstone is often

confused as a diamond to the untrained eye. Key differences between diamonds and moissanite are brilliance, fire, and hardness - but only marginally! Moissanite is significantly lower in price than diamonds, too. A friend of mine has a moissanite engagement ring and she absolutely loves it! For more on the difference between moissanite and diamonds, click here.

ALTERNATIVE GEMSTONE: Maybe you aren't into diamonds, and that's okay! Maybe your favorite gemstone is ruby or sapphire instead. Whatever it is, there's no reason you couldn't or shouldn't have that stone as your engagement ring! The best part is, it's likely to cost less, enabling you and your partner to put the savings toward something else (wedding, honeymoon, house..). Though you may want to play it safe and tell your partner not to mention to the jeweler that it's engagement ring just in case they're tempted to increase the price ;)

SIMPLE BAND: Who says you even have to have a stone at all? You could always kill two birds with one stone and use one ring as both engagement and wedding band! One of the married couples we're friends with chose this option and were able to put the savings towards starting their life together!



We are still in the early stages of our engagement, so I cannot yet share with you what we are doing for the precursor events and activities associated with weddings, but for now, here are a few tips on how to keep these affairs green! If you're the bride or groom, many of these may be out of your control, but assuming the person putting them together is a close loved one, there's no reason you couldn't discuss it with them during the planning process or share this post with them!


Opt for electronic invitations, such as Paperless Post, or print invitations on recycled paper.Opt for reusable tableware, or compostable if possible.Ditch plastic straws or stirrers - opt for paper or wood instead!Compost any food scraps, if possible.Select decorations that can be used again.


For the couple: opt for a registry that encourages non-material or sustainably sourced gifts, such as So Kind Registry, Honeyfund, or Thankful Registry.Opt for electronic invitations, such as Paperless Post, or print invitations on recycled paper.Opt for reusable tableware, or compostable if possible.Ditch plastic straws or stirrers - opt for paper or wood instead!Compost any food scraps, if possible.Select decorations that can be used againKeep disposability in mind when planning shower games.


Opt for electronic invitations, such as Paperless Post, or print invitations on recycled paper.Avoid personalized items that likely won't be used againIf hosting at a house, see tips for the previous two events.Keep the bride's wishes in mind - not everyone is into strippers & penis novelties!Minimize the environmental impact of travel by keeping your celebration relatively local to where most of the guests are centrally located, rather than some faraway destination.


Aside from selecting a restaurant that serves on real tableware and preferably composts, I can't think of any other tips for this one yet!


Keep an eye out for upcoming posts as I share with you about wedding events and the planning process! What are your thrifty zero-waste wedding tips and questions?

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