Friday, April 11, 2014

Green Prom

My Big, Fat Green Prom

* By Erin E. Schmidt -  a writer, editor, and owner of Creative Web Content Providers. She wrote the "Here Comes the Bride" article in the May 2010 issue of True Love. She's the author of The Magical Girls' Guide to Womanhood. Find Erin @

You care about the planet. You try to do things to make sure the earth’s future is as fresh and green as the outdoors you love so much. You also want the prom to be an unforgettable, magical experience. Why not combine your two passions?

The Green Dress

Choosing the right dress to wear to prom is a big step, but a brand-new gown made from traditional materials, the kind you’re likely to find in the mall, comes with a hefty environmental price. Most of them are made overseas. Not only might that beautiful off-the-rack gown have been made under sweatshop conditions, but it also required extravagant amounts of fuel to bring to market.

One alternative is to find a vintage gown. If you don’t have a fave local vintage boutique, look on eBay or Etsy. If you get a vintage gown, remember older gowns (especially designer ones) “run big.” Yesterday’s size 8 is today’s size 4, so go by measurements, not dress sizes. Prom dresses often need some tailoring anyway, so don’t be afraid if a vintage gown doesn’t fit you quite right.

Another alternative is to find a gown made from all-natural, organic, and/or sustainable materials. Options include hemp, wood pulp fibers, bamboo, and even pineapple, all of which can be woven into fine, silk-like material. Find retailers, such as Conscious Clothing, online. Or try organic cotton (non-organic cotton requires ridiculous amounts of pesticides to grow); Wholly Jo ( is one organic cotton dressmaker.

As an added socially conscious choice, when the prom is over, donate your gown to a charity. Before you do, have it cleaned in by an environmentally friendly dry cleaner…traditional dry cleaning uses toxic chemical solvents. Or choose fabrics that can be washed at home.

Eco-Wear For Him

If your date already owns a good suit, or can borrow one, that will save some of the impact of buying new. If he’s renting a suit, the only down side is the dry cleaning. If his suit didn’t get terribly dirty at the prom, he can ask the dry cleaner to spot clean and press it to reduce the use of chemicals.

Guys can also find quality vintage wear. If he likes the retro look, suggest he surf the Internet for The Rusty Zipper or American Vintage Classics. For organic/sustainable fibers, retailers like Rawganique make men’s suits and jackets in hemp. Depending on the weather, he might also consider wool, another natural fiber.

Make Your Make-up Natural

When you buy your make-up from prom, start by looking at the packaging. Is it recyclable? If not, pass. Look for a USDA certified 100% organic stamp if you want all-natural ingredients. Not every product that says “natural” or “organic” is, though, so always look at the ingredients.

Look for lightweight, natural mineral colors for your face; Jane Iredale is one brand. They contain no fragrances or artificial colors, so besides being good for the earth, they’re also less likely to give you an allergic reaction. As an added bonus, some mineral make-ups contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, natural sun blocks. When you buy make-up brushes, look for handles made with sustainable products. Think bamboo, not hardwoods.

Hair care is another environmental issue. Some hair care products contain ingredients that are bad for the earth or bad for you. Keep your hair naturally healthy and shiny by eating enough protein and B vitamins. Choose shampoos and conditioners without sulfates, palm oil (harvested in an environmentally unfriendly way), artificial fragrances or alcohol. Try John Masters, Aubrey Organics, Erbaviva, or Weleda products. Or consider a simple up ‘do or any hair style that doesn’t require lots of products.

Whether you’re doing your manicure and pedicure yourself or going to a salon, look for soy-based and water-based nail polishes and removers. Added plus: nontoxic nail polishes don’t chip as easily and last longer than polishes containing formaldehyde, toluene, and other potentially harmful ingredients.

Organic Flowers

The problem with traditionally grown flowers? Pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. If you’re buying flowers that don’t happen to bloom where you live at this time of year, they had to be flown in from another part of the world, using up more fossil fuels. You can easily find local, organic in season flowers if you have a local food co-op or farmers’ market. Otherwise, your florist can order certified organic flowers for you. With a little planning, you can even grow your own flowers for a corsage and a boutonniere.

Green Transportation

Will you and your friends look cool hopping out of the back of a stretch Hummer? Probably. Will you be able to live with the carbon footprint of such an environmental catastrophe? Hopefully not. There are green modes of transportation to get you to the prom, though.

Gas-powered vehicles are the #1 contributors to air pollution, so if you have to travel by car, plan to carpool with your friends. Or, rent a low-emissions vehicle, like a hybrid or electric car. You might also consider using a form of public transportation to arrive at the prom. It could be fun to ride the bus, trolley, or subway in your prom gear. Think of all the attention you’ll receive. You might even get some opportunities for truly one-of-a-kind, artsy photos. If you and your date are both athletic, you could ride bikes to the prom…or even horses.

If you do decide to arrive by car, you can always practice carbon-offsetting: plant trees to make up for the carbon dioxide emitted by your choice of ride. Don’t have time to do the dirty work yourself? Look into carbon-offset websites like or


To capture your prom memories, think digital. Avoid disposable cameras that’ll end up in a landfill. (If you must use a disposable camera, look for one that’s been recycled.) Film processing requires potentially hazardous chemicals, while if you take your photos and videos without film, you can get them faster, and often higher-quality. Plus, digital photos are easy to share on the web.


Harrison, Kate L. The Green Bride Guide: How to Create an Earth-Friendly Wedding on Any Budget. Naperville, Illinois: SourceBooks, 2008.

Kozin, Michelle. Organic Weddings: Balancing Ecology, Style and Tradition. Gabroila Island, Canada: New Society Publishers, 2003.

Project Green Prom. (n. d.) “Flawless Face.” Accessed March 4, 2010 from the Teens Turning Green website at

Project Green Prom. (n. d.) “Hair: Super Natural.” Accessed March 4, 2010 from the Teens Turning Green website at

Project Green Prom. (n. d.) “The Truth About Polish.” Accessed March 4, 2010 from the Teens Turning Green website at

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