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

By on Dec. 30th

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.

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.

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!