Spokane couple aims to recycle 400,000 cans to pay for their wedding

Photo by Tyson of www.yellowhousephoto.com
Photo by Tyson Habein for Yellow House Photo

Andrea and Pete are combining two different kinds of awesome into one fabulous wedding: they're trying to pay for their low-budget summer 2010 wedding by recycling 400,000 aluminum cans. In a move that it's both uber-eco-friendly as well as budget minded, they're scouring their city of Spokane, WA to find cans to recycle. I cornered Andrea with a few questions about the project, and she told me all about their motivations, goals, and trebuchet bouquet toss…

Andrea, what made you decide to do this?
In the beginning, this was one of those crazy ideas that popped into my head at 1am and I kind of brushed off. When I started sorting our recycling the next day, though, I started to play with the numbers. We set aside aluminum anyway, since one of Pete's hobbies is smelting aluminum in the summer months, and just with the cans from his shop and various friend's offices / homes / shops, we can get a pretty significant number built up. While our stash was nowhere near the 400,000 we'd need to pay for the wedding, I figured with 7 months and some serious effort, it might just be possible. Long story short, a combination of chutzpah and hope.

Why cans?
Two big reasons — environmental impact and cash. Aluminum is the recyclable that has the largest positive environmental impact — each recycled can saves about 7 kWh in addition to all kinds of nasty mining chemicals, and without a lot of the by-products that paper or plastic recycling can create. Also, aluminum has that magic combination of being very plentiful and of decent value. On average, Americans throw away 1,500 aluminum cans each second, so we knew that the opportunity was there. Depending on the state you're in, each can is worth anywhere from 1-5 cents each, which means we could actually build up enough cash quickly to actually pull this off.

Photo by Tyler of www.yellowhousephoto.com
Photo by Tyson Habein for Yellow House Photo
What's more important to you about the project: the environmental responsibility, or the budget-friendliness?
That's a tough question. When we started the project, it was the budget-friendliness. I just got a job after 10 months of unemployment, we had just purchased a house a few months before I got laid off, and in general live pretty frugally. The prospect of dropping even 3-4 thousand dollars on a wedding just hurt.

At the same time, we are huge on recycling and environmental friendliness — we have an organic garden in our front yard, we compost all our food waste and paper, and use reclaimed / recycled materials for as many projects as we can. When I got further into the research of the impact that the just 400,000 cans would have, I would definitely say that the environmental impacts are equal to, if not more important than the budget friendliness.

Tell me a bit more about your vision of your wedding?
When we started planning the wedding, we knew the biggest thing is that we wanted to have a celebration of friends and family where a wedding happened to happen somewhere in there. We found an awesome vacation home / castle that we can rent for 3 days less expensively than a reception hall for 4 hours.

Once we decided on that and a date as close to Lughnasadh (harvest/community celebration) as we could make it, things have kind of been falling into place. We're medieval re-creationists, and a good friend is bringing his homemade trebuchet to launch the bouquet with.

For those of you who don't know, this is a trebuchet. Photo by John Linwood.
For those of you who don't know, this is a trebuchet. Photo by John Linwood.
OH MY GOD TREBUCHET BOUQUET LAUNCH! YESSSS! Er. Sorry. Go on.
The food is going to be mostly potluck, though we will provide some of it. My mom is going to do the wedding cake (she's been catering and decorating wedding cakes for 30 years).

We're going to be handfasted by the friend that brought us together in the first place, we've got a friend that home-brews beer that will be bringing a few kegs, and we're breaking open our cellar of home-brew wine as well. In general, it'll be a big, home-made, community-centered celebration!

How can people help you?
In and around Spokane, WA we will pick up cans — just give us a call/email/tweet/Facebook message.

Outside of Spokane, collect up their cans and take them to the nearest recycling center (earth911.com has a great search tool and often you can get an extra few cents a pound for bringing in 50 or 100 lbs at a time) and toss some of the cash from that to our PayPal account with a note letting us know how many cans, either in numbers or pounds, that you recycled. Then keep recycling, even if you don't donate the cash!

Thanks to Andrea for sharing her story with us — and now hey everyone: go recycle some cans!

  1. What a fantastic idea! Good luck to you both! From what you've said, saving the environment this way sounds like a perfect way to start off your married life. We don't have recycling facilities that pay you in the UK (or if we do I've not found them) and recycling is usually collected by the local council, but I think it's fantastic that you can do this in the USA.

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  2. That is such a great idea, I think I might steal it :) Although, up here in Michigan cans are worth 10 cents each.

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  3. Yeah, kudos! As a Spokanite too, I'm curious where this fabulous castle is?!

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  4. Totally stealing this (if you don't mind). I saw the can thing around obt and really didn't know what was going on. I didn't dig too much and lo and behold, didn't find much. Thanks so much for posting this.

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  5. Go Andrea & Pete! We'll keep our eyes glued to wedsite to see how it's coming along.

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  6. Fantastic! My girl scout troop used to recycle cans and bottles as fund-raisers, and my church does that too. Such a great idea for a wedding!

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  7. You have completely inspired me! I am totally going to use this idea!! Thanks!!

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  8. Sweet! Ill have to recruit some ppl around my neighborhood and kick some cans your way.

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  9. Don't just snag the idea, folks! Help 'em out!

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  10. Aunt weezie is so Jazzed by your story! awesome!

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  11. This made my heart smile. Best wishes!!!

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  12. such a wonderful idea…our budget isnt the biggest…we can use all the help we can get!

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  13. Awesome idea! I cannot wait to tell others about your plan.

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  14. Best of luck! A lot of hard work pays off in an excellent celebration.

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  15. This sounds amazing! Good luck to you both :)
    ( And speaking as a medieval re-enactor in the UK – the trebuchet bouquet launch? Fantastic!! :D )

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  16. Great Idea to save cans, recycling and earn money at the same time, I used to do that when I was living in california and it helped with food and bills and such when I was working part time at the time. I cant wait to see how your wedding turn out . I'm sure it will be a great day for you both, remember to breathe on your wedding day!!! Good Luck to you both!

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  17. Did you know your on Yahoo's front page today! :D I bet everyone starts giving you their cans to recycle! Good luck!!!

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  18. What an awesome idea! Hope this works out for you, and you enjoy your wedding. PS Simple is good when it comes to weddings. We had everybody bring food, and it was great. Best of luck in the future.

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  19. Great idea! and admirable too. I wonder if you have ever seen the TV show Northern Exposure. There was was an episode where the folks in town, Nome ( I think), Alaska came up with an idea to fling a cow with a Trebuchet. Many preparations were made, but they never followed through because they finally found that it had been done before. You both look young and this may have been before your time. I am sure you could find the show on the net somewhere. Anyway, Good Luck with all of your endeavors.

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  20. Paying for your wedding in cash is the best way to start a new life together. We did it 8 years ago. Good luck in your adventure!

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  21. So great! Just saw it again on my local news station in NC!

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  22. OMG U guys are on the msn homepage!!!! Congrats on the donation!!!!

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  23. kick ass guys…Hope you can pull it off. What an amamizing way to help the earth as well as your pocketbook. Congrats

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  24. I just applied to go abroad for a semester and had to figure out a way to raise some money, and I remembered your article! My goal is at least 100,000 cans by August to pay for the bulk, though I'm still not sure how much I'm going to get per can XD You're so inspiring, good luck!

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  25. I have to say, I read the title and it sent a cringe down my back as I remembered being with my good ol stubborn polish grandfather and him making me bring a trash bag on walks around the city he lived and pick up cans (at 13 that is a very embarrassing thing to do)

    then I read the article and opened up my computer calculator… OMG!!! All the possibilities of what to do ran through my head!!! Amazing idea!

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  26. This is such a cool idea! I wish I thought of something similar as I'm a big environmentalist and also had a budget!

    Good luck! I wish I could help you out, but my state doesn't take cans for money (yet!). I wish you all the best and am so glad you're spreading this idea around!!

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  27. Hmmm…I am thinking that I should start saving for my funeral. I have no insurance and it would help my family. These services are not cheap. Thanks for the idea.

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  28. an ex-boyfriend and i planned a trip to europe when i graduated from college. at the time we both worked at a gym and the number of cans and bottles that were thrown away was ridiculous (think of all the energy drinks)! we decided to collect them to have extra spending money for the trip. we told our co-workers and members about it, and within a couple months of NO extra work we'd saved about $1000. People would actually bring their recycling from home to the gym for us :)

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