Make Your Special Day Sustainable with the Center

Written by MaryBeth Kressin
    Thursday, 25 February 2016
Photo: Kathleen Stogin Photography Photo: Kathleen Stogin Photography

As the thaw of spring teases our impatient senses, and the red-winged black bird harmonizes with the drip drip drip of the melting snow, the anticipation of wedding season lingers around the corner at the Urban Ecology Center's Riverside Park branch. Couples planning their magical day look for just the right venue, and the Urban Ecology Center becomes an eco-friendly option host to one of the most important days of their life. Green weddings are not just a trendy theme but a smart approach to making that special day mean even more – and we can help!

Our 20,000 square foot award winning "green" building in Riverside Park can accommodate up to 200 guests for a seated meal. In 2015, we hosted 28 wedding ceremonies, receptions and rehearsal dinners. Over 3,600 wedding guests walked through the doors of our environmentally sensitive facility, enjoying everything from hors d'oeuvres on the wrap-around deck (made from re-purposed wood scraps from the Atlantic City boardwalk), to dancing on the reclaimed elementary school gym floor. Our wooden La Lune Collection tables and chairs (made locally from fast growing/sustainable willow and poplar trees) complement the cozy cabin feel of our high beamed ceiling and sustainably harvest wood paneling. And when you need additional seating, our stackable chairs are made of melted down plastic from the old County Stadium benches and our portable tables have composite tops made from shredded money!

Even our restrooms are doing their duty to help make weddings eco-friendly! 200 guests using the restrooms throughout the night results in a lot of water usage and potential strain on Milwaukee’s sewer system. We help the overextended sewers by collecting rainwater from our roof in a trio of 350 gallon cisterns and reusing that rainwater to flush our toilets!

And literally topping it all off is our rooftop bank of 256 solar electric panels powering the energy efficient LED fixtures that provide the mood lighting for your event.

Photo by Roberta Rae Photography
The wrap-around deck at our Riverside Park building. Photo by Roberta Rae Photography

But our building features and furniture are only part of making a wedding green; the decisions made on food, florists and decorations can largely impact the earth as well!

Picking a caterer who is local and nearby can help on carbon emissions of their travel. Choosing a caterer who uses sustainable and local produce/ingredients is also a good option. We also have our own dishes, utensils, and glassware available as an alternative to disposable place settings. We strongly encourage using our dishware – this helps save cost and eliminates waste in the landfill!

Consider florists that grow and harvest their flowers naturally and locally. Keep in mind that it may seem eco-friendly to pick flowers on the side of the road or in a park, but it is illegal to pick any plants that are not on your own property – why not prepare by planting a garden in your yard full of native flowers for your wedding!

Decorating can also be done on the sustainable side to help make a wedding "green" and beautiful! Consider centerpieces that can be used more than once and are not disposable. This last summer we had a wedding that planted succulent plants as center pieces and as a gift their guests could take home. And recycled items such as wine or beer bottles (appropriate for a Brew-city wedding!) can be reused and fashion into unique vases. Another decorating option is renting items from vintage rental companies such as vases, signs, or cloth napkins. When renting, the item will be used again and again and you don’t have to worry about what to do with the items at the end of the night.

succelent center pieces Faith Photography
Potted succulents as sustainable center pieces. Photo by Faith Photography

beer bottle vases photo by Faith Photography
Perfect vases for a Brew City wedding! Photo by Faith Photography

We understand that planning a wedding can be overwhelming at times and the Urban Ecology Center is here to help make your special day stress free. We pride ourselves on no hidden costs for our rentals. Everything is included in our rental fees: use of our "green" building, tables and chairs, dishes, glassware and AV equipment such as a PA System. We also provide rental attendants on-site for your event to help with anything facility related such as setting up PA system, moving tables/chairs, and taking out garbage, recycling and compost (we compost all food scraps!).

We also want to help make all rentals environmentally friendly and unique, so please check out our Pinterest page! There you can see photos of past weddings and get some great eco-friendly decorating ideas.

The best thing about hosting a special "green" wedding here at the Urban Ecology Center is knowing that each wedding helps keep our doors open to the community and helps us to provide quality outdoor science and environmental education for urban youth and families!

You can find out more information about rentals, pricing and policies on our website, and I am always happy to answer any questions you might have. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Table settings photo by Matthew Gnas
Photo: Matthew Gnas

MaryBeth Kressin

MaryBeth Kressin

MaryBeth Kressin is the Facility Rental Coordinator for all three branches and part of the Visitor Services Team. When she is not working hard booking your party, setting up for your wedding, giving tours or helping at the front desk you can find her biking, cooking, reading in her garden or helping her husband renovate their house. She loves being outside, feels passionately about recycling and animals and is honored to be part of the Urban Ecology Center.


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