Ben and Jess exchange vows at green wedding

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GLAMOROUS in a long red dress from Harvey Nichols, Jess Gildener looked every inch the radiant bride as she glided down the aisle. More than 100 guests looked on as she walked to meet her husband-to-be Ben Dell, who was equally dashing in his new designer suit.

But, as the elegantly-dressed couple met at the altar to take their vows, they had already made another very special pledge to each other - to lead their married lives as an environmentally-friendly couple.

And Ben and Jess started as they meant to go on. For, apart from their wedding outfits, they had recycled, bought second-hand, hired and got friends to muck in, to achieve the eco-wedding of their dreams at a third of the price of the average nuptials.

At their home in Leith, which is furnished from charity or Fair Trade shops, and where the walls gleam with fume-free eco-friendly paint, Ben speaks fondly of their wedding in September last year. "It was a fantastic wedding, everyone helped us and felt really part of it. We thought, this is the start of our married lives together, so it's a good time to just go for it. It's a new beginning."

The couple follow the advice of charity Changeworks, which is today launching a campaign to encourage Edinburgh people to get greener and commit to tackling climate change. A recent report revealed that Edinburgh has the largest ecological footprint of any city in Scotland, but Changeworks chief executive Simon Lee says Edinburgh folk can commit to its programme and make a difference. "Changeworks is right here in Edinburgh, and taking the first steps towards taking action on climate change is as simple as giving us a ring," he says.

Former chef Ben, 30, now a gardener at the Royal Botanic Garden, prepared most of the food for the wedding buffet himself. Jess, 30, recalls: "He was in our tiny rented kitchen in Rossie Place for two days before the wedding, doing a lot of the cooking. We hired a hall and decorated it with things we got from Bits and Bobs Scrapstore in Broomhouse, where they have reused stuff, such as sticky-back plastic and fairy lights, and things that businesses have thrown out. We brought all the materials back there afterwards."

The pair hired their tablecloths, Jess' sister did the flowers, her aunt took the photographs and an electrician friend took care of the lighting. Guests helped decorate the hall, next to Lamb's House in Leith, with pretty branches and cuttings, which they later turned into compost.

To thank their friends, they gifted them the candle ware from the tables. An Edinburgh group that trades skills did the serving and dish-washing for them - something they are still "paying back" by trading their own skills, such as Ben's gardening.

Jess had been conscious of protecting the environment since university. But nine years ago, she spent a year in China and became convinced of the need to think globally, act locally.

She works as a member of the waste prevention team at Changeworks and is an avid believer in recycling.

"It's really rewarding," says Ben. "You feel better about yourself if you feel responsible."

The house, which they moved into in July, has cavity walls, but they are planning to get second-hand draught excluders to keep more heat in. More evidence of their green ways is in the kitchen, where Ecover washing powder and detergent sit on the worktop by the sink. "It pollutes the water courses less," says Jess.

The couple are on a green energy tariff through Scottish Hydro Electric and are signed up to an ethical phone provider, the Phone Co-op.

By the front door a cupboard hides most of their recycling efforts, with a poster on the back of the door reminding them what goes in which bin. There's one for aluminium and steel cans, one for glass bottles and jars, and another container for paper, newspaper and magazines.

Their back garden, which houses a shed for their bikes, is mainly Ben's domain. They have a wormery - a bucket where they store food waste with hundreds of worms, which turn it into a liquid compost.

Jess and Ben avoid flying where possible, conscious of planes' carbon emissions, and they sold their car before they got married. They do most of their shopping from local shops and, if they really need a car - though it's rare - they will hire one from the City Car Club, where they are members.

Don't they ever get fed up when it's teeming rain and they have to cycle to the shops? "Sometimes I wish I had a car - but just to pick up things more easily from Freecycle," jokes Jess.


GREEN charity Changeworks, used to be known as LEEP - Lothian and Edinburgh Environmental Partnership.

People who contact Changeworks for sustainable energy, waste or transport advice during the charity's new campaign can commit to tackling climate change.

The campaign is asking people to commit to some or all of the following advice:

• Fit energy saving lightbulbs

• Insulate loft/cavity walls

• Sign up for green energy

• Start home composting

• Buy from and donate to charity shops

• Change to real nappies