Green UNH couples vie for free wedding
Like many young couples today, Jim Gouin and Liz Beaudoin could really use a free wedding; but unlike most couples Gouin and Beaudoin might just have a shot. Last month the couple was selected to be among five finalists in the Green Wedding Giveaway, an annual contest hosted by Clay Hill Farm.
"The message of the contest is about green connectedness and how couples can explore the parallel between their commitment to the earth and their commitment to each other," says Jennifer Lewis-McShera, the contest's director and manager of Clay Hill Farm, a 200-seat restaurant and function center in York, ME. "Through the contest each couple explores their own shade of green."
In addition to a reception for up to 100 guests, the grand prize includes flowers, invitations, and photography by local vendors, who Lewis-McShera says work to uphold their own environmental accountability.
Gouin, a recent UNH graduate, and Beaudoin, a current senior, say that over the years they have worked to integrate green habits into their everyday lifestyle. They cite shutting off lights and computers, biking, and using reusable water bottles, as simple choices that have helped to reduce their impact on the environment, and they encourage others to do the same.
"Everybody can commit themselves to more green actions," says Gouin. "There's some political statement associated with green and really this contest isn't about that at all. It doesn't matter where you lay... anybody can take steps to be more green."
The couple attributes much of this environmental consciousness to their time at UNH and to the university's environmental initiatives such as the annual Spring Break Challenge. Beaudoin says she first got into the habit of turning off her appliances while living in Hubbard Hall during her freshman year.
"It really only makes sense to bring these same green habits into our own wedding,
she said. "You see time and again: people get in their minds ‘a wedding, it's just one day', but there's a lot of waste that can come from weddings."
In the end, it may very well be these same ties to UNH that help the couple succeed. The voting for the contest takes place online and anyone with an email address is eligible to vote. Gouin and Beaudoin have been campaigning relentlessly on campus, sending dozens of emails to students asking for votes and canvassing support from nearly everyone they meet. In addition to scouring the student directory, Gouin took to advertising on whiteboards around campus and says he spent hours running from building to building in the rain in order to get the word out.
Gouin and Beaudoin are not alone in canvassing the UNH community. Graduate student Kevin Hanley and his fiancée Lisa Sabella are also among the final five couples, and they too have had a widespread presence on campus.
While living in Colorado a few years ago Hanley bought a small school bus and converted it to run on vegetable oil, eventually driving the bus all the way from Colorado to New Jersey.
Today, that same bus has become the focal point of Hanley and Sabella's Green Wedding campaign. Hanley says he's made a habit of getting up at 4:30 a.m. everyday so he can park the bus, adorned in flyers for the contest, just below the stairs leading to A-Lot, where it will be seen by all.
In spite of this traveling billboard, Hanley agrees that it's often the little changes that make the largest impact. The couple, for example, printed all of the flyers seen around campus on 100 percent recycled paper. Hanley says that while most of us grew up learning to recycle, some changes took time. He explains that he and Sabella have recently begun saving scraps of carrots, onions, and other vegetables while cooking and once a week or so they boil them to make vegetable stock.
"It's little things," says Hanley. "It's not any one big, quirky thing. It's just all the little things that add up."
Like Lewis-McShera, Hanley says that the contest is very much about connectedness and the sharing of green habits.
"I like that it gives not only us, but the other people involved the chance to bring awareness to the things that are important to them," he said. "What that sort of means is something like organic vegetable gardening: that's something that's important to us… and we get to share that with others."
Lewis-McShera says that just as important as the wedding itself are the connections needed to get there, pointing out that the couple who makes the most connections will almost certainly come out the winner.
"This contest is really about helping people," she says. "It's about outreach."
Voting for the second annual Green Wedding Giveaway continues until Tuesday, Feb. 9 and the winners will announced the following day. Votes can be placed at www.greenweddinggiveaway.com.
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