Recycle? Couple Knows They Can Do It
SPAN March/April 2010
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A young American couple collects aluminum cans to pay for their wedding—and help the Earth, too.
After I walked down the aisle nearly six years ago I patted myself on the back for everything I did to cut costs: I bought my wedding dress wholesale for less than 500 bucks, I got married in April because it was cheaper than a summer affair, and I got my flowers for free because my mom entered me in a raffle that I surprisingly won.
But when I read about Andrea Parrish and Peter Geyer of Spokane, Washington I realized that when it came to budgeting for my own nuptials, I was downright lazy. You see, the couple has come up with a truly ingenious—and eco-friendly—plan to raise money for their July 2010 wedding: collecting cans. They even set up a Web site, weddingcans.com, so you can help them reach their goal.
“My parents always thought I was nuts,” Parrish told The Spokesman Review with a laugh.
Nuts, perhaps, but environmentally conscious, too. They point out on their Web site that “aluminum recycling is one of the most sustainable and useful forms of recycling” and they wanted to make this project a part of their wedding because “environmental responsibility plays a big part in our lives.”
“I got the idea at around one in the morning...” Parrish says with an almost infectious enthusiasm. “Peter actually smelts aluminum as a hobby and I was just staring at all our cans and the idea just slapped me upside the head.”
She quickly shared her inspired plan with Geyer, who creates art with the aluminum he smelts, and although he was slightly wary of his bride-to-be’s rather unconventional idea, he quickly signed on. “I was a little surprised. I wasn’t quite expecting her to come up with that particular idea. I was concerned about all the cans we would need.”
Geyer’s concern was not unfounded. They crunched the numbers and realized they would need a staggering 400,000 cans to raise the $3,500 to $4,000 they would need for their nuptials. ...The couple is planning a decidedly budget-conscious affair with “medieval flavors,” as per their shared interest.
Aluminum Can Recycling
Andrea Parrish and Peter Geyer are selling their aluminum can collection to recyclers by weight, since in Washington state aluminum cans don’t carry a deposit. In other states, the customer pays a deposit, perhaps 5 cents a can, when buying a beverage, then gets the money back when they return the empty can to the store. The store then returns them to the manufacturer or gives or sells them to a recycler.
This is one reason why Washingtonians would bring Parrish and Geyer the cans. Otherwise people would just put them in their “recyclables” trash bin at their house, which is separated from garbage and other non-recyclable trash.
Although 400,000 cans sounded rather daunting, the couple decided to give their wacky plan a shot. They set up the Web site, a Facebook page and a Twitter account and recruited friends and family to donate as many cans as possible. Their plan soon got a big boost when Parrish, a marketing/communications manager and self-professed alterna-bride, shared her scheme with her new pals on the offbeatbride.com message board, which led to a feature on the site. Their idea quickly caught the mainstream media’s attention, and the cans started rolling in. As of [late February] they collected about 335,006 cans (217,917 actual cans and 117,089 in the cash equivalent to the recycled cans, via the PayPal account set up on their site). Although they still have well over 65,000 cans to go, they have already achieved 83 percent of their goal.
“The response has been astounding,” says a clearly humbled Geyer. “It’s kind of exciting actually. You get to see the response of everyone around you, all your community members come out of the woodwork.”
The couple doesn’t seem to mind how the cans have kind of taken over their lives temporarily. Parrish says their house is so full of can-filled sacks that “we create little paths to walk through. It’s really taken over our living room.”
Regardless, they’re not afraid to roll up their sleeves for the projects because, as Parrish explains, working with used aluminum cans is often messy work. Whether they pick up cans from locals using her brother’s pickup truck, or receive cans that arrive at their house or Geyer’s work, Instant Sign Factory in Spokane, the process is the same: they sort through the cans to make sure they are all aluminum—people often mix steel and aluminum and they must be separated because the recycling process is much different—then clean up the liquid often left inside before bagging the cans, weighing them and adding them to their ever-growing pile.
It’s a labor-intensive procedure, but well worth it for the couple because they are working toward a dual goal: helping the Earth and helping themselves fund the wedding of their dreams. The very personal and fun affair at a Hope, Idaho castle will feature do-it-yourself decorations, home-brewed beer and fun medieval touches like a sword fight or two and the bouquet to be thrown via a catapult-type contraption. The whole event is pretty much in line with the spirit of this non-traditional couple, who got engaged at Parrish’s sister’s wedding last year. Geyer caught the garter belt, which prompted Parrish to drop to one knee and present Geyer with the opal earring she had stashed away for just such an opportunity.
Despite the silliness, it’s clear Parrish and Geyer are serious about their can project, and about recycling in general. And even though they are encouraging out-of-towners to recycle cans and kick some proceeds their way via their Web site, it’s also cool with them if their plan simply inspires you to recycle even if you don’t give them a cent.
“I would love it if people would recycle and send us a small bit of the money for the wedding,” explains Geyer. “But the grand scheme is to just get more people to recycle. Our planet is the only one we’ve got. We need to take care of it so it will take care of us.”
Kathy Ehrich Dowd is a freelance journalist based in New Jersey.