How To Compost Your Wedding Dress

How To Compost Your Wedding Dress

Forget “trash the dress” photo sessions. The world is moving on to “compost the dress” instead.

How will you recycle your wedding dress? For some brides, recycling means donating the dress to charity so a less fortunate bride can look dazzling on her wedding day. For other brides, recycling means storing the dress in a closet until a daughter can take it for a trip down the aisle. 

But what if you had a third option? Wearing a biodegradable wedding dress means fully enjoying the spotlight at your wedding, then removing the dress at the end of the day–and tossing it into the garden! Take your fashion all the way from formal wear into flowers. (Just think: you can actually pick an anniversary bouquet from flowers that grew out of your wedding gown.)

Biodegradable Fashion is Already Here

Green wedding fashion is gaining tremendous popularity. The “Growable Gown” created by New York University graduate student Erin Smith has been sweeping the social media circuits. She created a wedding gown by actually growing panels of snow-white, living plant material (which only took about a week), then baking them to halt their growth and molding them into the shape of a form-fitting dress. 

Some mainstream companies, like PUMA and Brooks Running, have already come out with biodegradable clothing lines. However, in products like running shoes, the need for sustainability wars with the need for durability. That means in many cases, you can’t just leave your clothing outside when you’re done with it and hope it turns into a patch of daisies.

For example, Brooks Running promises their shoes won’t start to break down until they meet very specific landfill conditions. That means the discarded clothing still has to take up space in a landfill while it slowly decomposes. And what of the carbon-rich soil once it finally breaks down? That’s locked in a landfill, too, surrounded by non-decomposing (and often toxic) trash instead of flourishing flowers. Reality is a lot less pretty than the eco-friendly ads would have you believe.

So what can you do? If you want a truly decomposable wedding dress you can turn into flowers, you need to put more effort into finding materials that are both biodegradable and beautiful. Luckily, unlike running shoes, wedding dresses are meant for one-day use. This makes them practically perfect for biodegradable fashion.

You Don’t Have to Do Anything Special

Is finding a biodegradable dress starting to sound a little intimidating? Don’t let the big brands fool you. While specialists will always find a way to market trends in a complicated way, the basics are already at your fingertips.

To compost your own dress without letting it touch a landfill, look for gowns made entirely of natural materials like cotton, linen, bamboo, silk, wool, and hemp. Once you’re done wearing the dress, shred it into small strips (you can integrate this into a “trash the dress” photo session for more fun).

Remove any metal or plastic parts (like zippers), and toss the dress scraps into the nearest compost heap. (If you don’t have the space to keep compost for your own garden, ask local plant nurseries if they do.) Depending on the thickness of the material, the dress will turn into rich soil within a few years–and sometimes as soon as a few months!

Curious about composting your dress, but don’t have a compost plan yet? Don’t worry. This is something that takes almost no effort. All you need is an outdoor space to keep the dress while it decomposes. Toss food scraps, lawn clippings, and any other biological matter in, and it will all turn into rich soil eventually, too.

Compost piles can be as simple as making a literal pile on the ground, but if you want to keep it undisturbed by wildlife, you can keep it in a container. Just be sure air and water can get in and out. If the sides of the container heat up in the sun, so much the better! Some people like to add worms (you can order bulk worms online if you really get into composting as a hobby) because the hardworking little creatures speed up the process. 

Once the compost has fully composted, it won’t be at all stinky or gross–it will look just like that rich, black, “crumbled chocolate cake” soil for sale at garden stores. And that soil is perfect for growing beautiful, healthy flowers. So wear your eco-friendly wedding gown with pride on your big day, and start thinking of what types of flowers you want in your first anniversary bouquet!