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Spotlight on a Member: Bright Endeavors

In 2015 we are learning a lot about our members! You can listen to Neil Dixon Smith’s awesome podcast interviews with CGWA members or check out our featured member profiles where we visit their places of business and conduct a short interview. Here’s one with John Guido from Bright Endeavors.

John GuidoHow did you get involved in Bright Endeavors?

I was connected to Bright Endeavors through the non-profit volunteer community in Chicago.  I worked in the private sector and was thrilled to have the opportunity to use my skills to develop a growing social enterprise.

Why is Bright Endeavors a sustainable business?

Dreambean candlesOur business is sustainable in a few ways.  First, we use non GMO soy wax and domestically sourced ingredients to make our candles.  Second, we provide candle rentals for weddings and restaurants, drastically reducing the amount of candle glass that is wasted following the event.  Third, we invest in our community by impacting two generations simultaneously.  We teach transferable job-skills to our young moms, who will, in turn, be empowered to pass those skills along to their children in a more financially stable home environment.

What is your favorite thing about going to work every day?

Working with a great team that navigates a variety of business development challenges in order to build a sustainable social enterprise for our participants.

Making candlesWhy did Bright Endeavors join the CGWA?

We saw an incredible opportunity to work with like-minded small business owners who are serious about creating positive social, economic, and operational change within the wedding industry.

Bright Endeavors teamWhat inspires you?

The young moms in our program who refuse to give up hope as they struggle to overcome enormous hurdles each and every day.

What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

At Bright Endeavors, we are dedicated students of the pun.   I’d offer an example, but I wouldn’t want to school anyone.  We do try to keep it classy around here.

All photos are taken by Jamie Davis of Greenhouse Loft.

Reuse and reuse again

by Kate Lerman of Chicago Vintage Weddings

Running a vintage rental company is rewarding work. I started my own company, Chicago Vintage Weddings, after realizing that there were a lack of unique rental options for couples planning weddings in Chicago. My collection of furniture and mismatched china had already been growing steadily, so this would be the perfect excuse to rescue more pieces! Since then my inventory has grown to thousands of items and rents out for multiple events every weekend.

I’m in good company. Aside from Chicago Vintage Weddings, other vintage rental businesses in the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance include Nimble Well, Aged Vintage Rentals, and Vintage Place Settings. Each has a beautiful collection of goods for rent.

Plates from Chicago Vintage Rentals - Tuan Bui Photography

Plates from Chicago Vintage Rentals – Tuan Bui Photography

Vintage rentals are a clear green choice. Beautiful objects with rich history are kept out of landfills, reused countless times, and are a wonderful alternative to purchasing or renting something with a “Made in China” label. The vintage rental companies in the CGWA take things even further, finding good use for pieces that can no longer be rented out.

Broken plates are an unavoidable part of running this kind of business. Thankfully, mosaic artist Leesa Tolbert turns broken plates from my collection as well as that of Vintage Place Settings into works of art. Listen to this recent story by DNAInfo on Leesa’s collaboration with Coreen and Stacy of Vintage Place Settings. This kind of upcycling is what Green Wedding Alliance members are all about!

Whether it’s rentals, planning, music, or food you can rest assured the CGWA members are finding creative ways to conserve that can help the planet, help your wallet, and still be beautiful and upscale.

Tips for a stress free engagement

by Carolyn Mullany of The Bread & Butterfly

As a new member of The Chicago Green Wedding Alliance (and a fairly new business owner), my insider’s perspective into the wedding world has been extremely helpful as I plan my own upcoming wedding. As my business continues to grow, one thing I feel passionate about is reminding people to keep engagements enjoyable, stress free, and special. Here are a few things I learned work best:

Don’t Worry About “supposed to-s”: I’m all about taking back the wedding. Some people (cough cough names will not be named!) will feel they deserve a say in your wedding when no opinion is asked. A wedding is about the start of a marriage and a marriage is between two people. Worried about leaving someone out of the bridal party? Don’t, they’ll get over it! Heck, don’t even have a bridal party if you don’t want one! Anxious over having to register for kitchenware even though it’s not 1950 anymore and you’ve lived on your own for 10 years? I say register for that bicycle you’ve been eyeing! For me, I didn’t want a cheesy engagement session, so superheroes it was!

Doing What We Want: Engagement Session - Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography

Doing What We Want: Engagement Session – Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography

Get off Pinterest! Pinterest is for collecting or sharing ideas, not inspiration. If you want your wedding to reflect your style, think about what inspires you. Reflect on yourself and your partner and put aspects of those things that best represent you into your wedding. Is it the outdoors, a certain artist, a song, a tucked away spot in the city? For me, I’m inspired by modern art and the colors of Kandinksy. Comparing your wedding to what you see on Pinterest will only stress you out.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913

Save the fun stuff for last! Once the date is set, venue booked, caterer and photographer selected, and dreaded guest list made – things for me were more fun. This allowed space to really enjoy the things I found exciting like dress shopping, cake tasting, and honeymoon planning! It may be tempting to go out and try on dresses immediately, but saving it for later will be worth the wait!

If it doesn’t get done it doesn’t matter. Think about it, if there is something you don’t have done the week of your wedding, it truly doesn’t matter. If you really didn’t bother to take care of it earlier – it wasn’t that important to you.

Thrift store finds

Thrift store finds

Seek Out Alternate Resources: Thrift stores, garage sales, scrap warehouses are your friend! Yes weddings are expensive, but whatever your budget is you can work around it. Seriously. As a designer, I have a huge inventory of vases and I’ve never paid more than $2 for each vase. It may be second hand but anything and everything can be altered to reflect your style..get creative!! Check out CGWA’s The Great Wedding Recyclery on April 27th for amazing goods!!

The Great Wedding Recyclery

Remember the bigger picture. At the end of the day you should be planning for a marriage, not just a wedding. I love weddings but I believe in marriages and I believe every relationship (whether married or not) deserves care, time, and cultivation. Remember this the next time you wake up in the middle of the night worried about floral arrangements!

Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography

Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography

Musical Friday: Jazz

by DJ Brent Rolland from fig media

Jazz is an integral part of my upbringing and my life. To me, the “good ol’ days” were my pre-teen years riding with my grandfather in his ’85 Oldsmobile Toronado and listening to 90.9 and 95.5 FM (the local jazz stations in Chicago at that time) with a smile on my face as I listened to my grandfather’s stories complemented by the classics and standards coming from the radio. I felt so very cool that I knew such names as Davis, Freeman, Mingus, Parker, Peterson, and countless others. Although grandpa—and the charming ’85 Toronado—are in Heaven, jazz lives on with me, donning a sharp suit like any elder statesman out there.

These days, I incorporate jazz in several ways, from seeing my jazz vocalist friend Emilie play in Uptown every Tuesday night, to firing up Pandora and letting the John Coltrane station stream in my office (with no complaints from my co-workers, thankfully), to curating cool cocktail and dinner playlists for my clients. 

Many couples want to have a Chicago-themed dinner menu or a view of the skyline, but Chicago is steeped in jazz and if you want to have a true “Chicago wedding” incorporating it into your playlist is a great idea. If you don’t know that much about jazz, study up by going to clubs like the Green Mill or Andy’s, or ask your DJ for suggestions. 

I am a volunteer of the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC), an organization that is dedicated to promoting the finest in jazz and bringing together the genre-loving community in the Windy City. JIC organizes Chicago Jazz Tours, in which trolleys take jazz lovers on a guided tour of Chicago’s best jazz clubs—complete with performances in each of the venues. And, of course, every Labor Day weekend Chicago host’s Jazz Fest which is a great chance to immerse yourself. Opportunity knocks with an improvised beat—beautifully.

My jazz story continues; start yours today by visiting the Festival and the JIC goings-on here: and

Marching with Pride

by Carlene of Naturally Yours Events

Photo by Serendipity Portraits

The members of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance strongly believe in the right of any couple to marry, regardless of their sexual preferences. So, it was a no brainer for us to walk in the Pride Parade again this year and show our support. Not only did we get to show our support for marriage equality and human rights, but we also got to do some serious recycling!

Photo by Serendipity Portraits

Photo by Serendipity Portraits When we marched in the parade last year, we didn’t really know what to expect. But something really exciting happened along the route– we started to recycle. We had a decorated truck (usually used to pick up composting for Collective Resource) and we had some garbage bags. That’s all we needed and we set out to work! Our members ended up filling the entire truck and running out of bags before even reaching Belmont.





For this year’s Pride Parade we opted to rent a pull trailer and we brought a ton of bags with a purpose. We had more members collecting recyclables and were able to fill the entire pull trailer so full of bags that we had to tie them to the railing so they wouldn’t fall off! Even more impressive, our group ended up collecting more than 1,300 gallons of recyclable material. Proving once again that you can recycle wherever you are – you just need to make the effort.

Spectators on the sidelines were handing us boxes and bags filled with items that avoided the landfill. They would call out to us even after we passed them to hand us more beer cans they found around their feet. Now, we love to recycle, but the real sense of pride for us was seeing gay and lesbian couples hold each other just a little tighter as we shouted for, and supported, marriage equality.

windycityOur friends at the Windy City Rollers came out to support the LGBT community and the CGWA as well. Together we made a statement for equality and showed a lot of pride in the city of Chicago, its people, and the environment. We gave free hugs, rocked our rainbow tights and wedding veils, danced in the street, and got our hands dirty. We can’t wait to do it again next year!


Summer Tunes

by Shelley Anderson of Cage and Aquarium

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Summer is in full swing, and there is no better time to start thinking about putting together a playlist for your next poolside soiree or backyard barbecue! A theme for a summer playlist should be more figurative than literal. We love Mungo Cherry’s track (In The Summertime) from back in the day, but going too literal can throw your credibility. If you choose only tracks like Heatwave, Summertime, Ain’t no sunshine, The Boys of Summer, Summer Breeze, etc, you will spend too much time trying to get a “summer-y” word in your song and your playlist will be disjointed and have no purpose.

It is best to pick a summer theme and go with it. Maybe a good BBQ style playlist where people can kick it or get out of their lawn chairs and bust a move if they want. Here is an abbreviated playlist of some current upbeat Indie crossed with a healthy dose of legit throwbacks. We pull from this list often during summer sets!

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Island in the Sun – Weezer
Juicy – Biggie
Cool Cat – Queen
Attracting Flies – AlunaGeorge
Goodbye to You – Patty Smyth
All You’re Waiting For – Classixx
Give Life Back to Music – Daft Punk
Garden Grove – Sublime
Paris – Friendly Fire
Sunday Girl – Blondie
Mr. Blue Skies – E.L.O
Around The Way Girl – L.L. Cool J
Changes – Tupac
Ce Jeu – Yelle
Mr. Telephone Man – New Edition
Funky Cold Medina – Tone Loc
Uh – Fujita and Miyagi
Pulling Muscles from a Shell – Squeeze
People Everyday – Arrested Development
Nasty – Janet Jackson
Keep Your Shoes – Scissor Sisters
The Head That I Hold – Electric Guest
This D.J. – Warren G
Tequila – Tape Five
They Reminisce Over You – C.L.Smooth and Pete Rock
You Got The Love – Florence and the Machine
U.N.I.T.Y – Queen Latifa
Untrust Us – Crystal Castles
Cruel Summer – Bananarama
Gin and Juice – Snoop Dogg
Guantanamera – Wyclef Jean
Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison
Unbelievers – Vampire Weekend
Escapee – Architecture in Helsinki

If you are looking to add some nostalgia to your party, search for music on already used vinyl. If you give these records a good home, you keep them out of the eventual landfill. Here are a few of our favorite shops in Chicago:
Laurie’s Planet of Sound

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Holding a low-impact event

by Joshua Yates of Pure Kitchen Catering

There are many choices to be made when planning an event – especially when it comes to food. Unless you’re not serving a bite or sip, your menu is going to make some impact, but there are more Earth-friendly choices like buying organic, local, and sustainable grown or raised foods. Although it’s nearly impossible to have a completely zero waste event, you can take many steps to significantly reduce your waste. At Pure Kitchen, we source local food and recycle and compost at all of our events. If you’re using vendors for your event, be sure to pick companies that put the environment first. If you’re doing the event on your own, here are some tips on how to throw a low-impact event.

Plan to go green
Cut down on your ecological footprint by choosing a vegetarian menu. If you’re making the food at home, be sure to use reusable serving and storage containers instead of disposable ones. Shop at your farmer’s market for ingredients. For a casual event like a picnic or family reunion, you can even ask guests to bring their own reusable place settings – cloth napkins and silverware – so that you can be sure those items don’t end up in the trash. Not only does it save the environment, but it makes for eclectic table decor!

Photo by Julia Franzosa Photography

Photo by Julia Franzosa Photography

Let your guests self-sort
Provide containers for recycling and compostable items so your guests can dispose of their waste appropriately. Attach a list of what can be put in each containers so there’s no confusion as to what goes where. You can find a place to drop off your recycling after the event here. Better yet, hold your event somewhere that has recycling drop off on site – like the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Get the kids involved
Turn recycling into a game by sending the kids on a scavenger hunt for recyclable items. Award points for each item and let them compete to see who can save the most items from going to a landfill. Reward them for going green with sweet treats. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about recycling and give them a fun activity at the same time!

Compost or donate
Instead of throwing away that extra food, compost it! Ditch plasticware and use compostable disposables. If you’re not composting at home already, Sustainable Backyards has resources on how you can start. You can even get reimbursed by the City of Chicago for the cost of the materials to make your own home composting system. Any untouched leftovers that have been held at a safe temperature or non-perishable items can also be donated to a local food bank or shelter – ask around because some don’t take perishable items.

With a little planning before and diligence at your event, you can have fun and reduce your event’s Earth-impact at the same time.

Special DIY Touches

by Lauren Smith @ Catalyst Ranch

How does that traditional poem that details everything a Bride needs to ensure a perfect wedding begin?

Something old, something new; Something borrowed…

In an age of DIY brides and non-traditional weddings, it’s nice to revisit some of the traditional roots of the sacred bonds of matrimony. Our space at Catalyst Ranch is a little non-traditional to say the least – surrounded by bright colors, vintage furniture, and games/toys – as such we’ve seen many different weddings, of all denominations, gay and straight, themed, and traditional. What unifies all of them is how innovative and creative the couples get as they walk down the aisle at The Ranch. With varying budgets for these couples, they often find inventive versions of time-honored traditions.

Here are some of our favorite creative tips to personalize your wedding with the DIY flair:

Fall leaves as a bouquet! This bride’s maid of honor picked leaves from around the venue the morning of her wedding to create her beautiful fall bouquet. If you are a fall bride, this could be a great option for you. Mix the leaves with a few berries and some lace and you are all set! Photos by Deidre Lynn Photography



DIY Garter  – Designing and wearing your own garter — even if just your future husband sees it — will give you a secret thrill throughout the night.



DIY Seashell Boutonniere –This captures a fresh, by-the-sea vibe without venturing too far into tropical territory.



Of course, not everyone is as crafty as some of these brides and grooms. For those who don’t have the arts-and-crafts prowess, but still need to plan their wedding on a DIY budget, there are many resources to help you out. One of the best ones we know of coming up is The First Annual Great Wedding Recyclery. The Great Wedding Recyclery is a collection of wedding items from recently-wed couples and wedding vendors. Slightly used and vintage wedding items – from Mason jars, to vases, to dresses, to jewelry, and more – for brides, grooms, and vendors to peruse and buy. Save money, reuse stuff, save the world (or at least create a little less waste). So save the date for savings on April 28 at Loft on Lake from 11A-4P.

YES! Now What: Book Your Florist!

Your wedding flowers will be one of the most photographed details from your wedding so it is important to find the perfect blooms for your style. This can be a daunting task, especially if you are not very knowledgeable on the wonderful world of flora and fauna. To start, dive into some pictures online of flowers and colors you like. Also take note of the many styles of bouquets and centerpieces there are and what you love or hate about them. Bring some of these images in to your florist and they can start working with you to create your floral package. And be prepared to discuss your budget and specific flower needs in terms of the ceremony, reception, bridal party etc.. cause their gonna ask all the details.

Here is an interview with the CGWA’s founding “father”, Lynn with Pollen:


Locally and organically grown hydrangea paired with sustainably grown delphinium from California.                               Photo by: Amanda Hein

1.  Tell us a little bit about your history and how you got started.

I’m one of the few people out there who is using their college degree!  I studied ornamental horticulture in undergrad, then restoration ecology in grad school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagn.  My first floral job was at a retail flower shop in Champaign.  While in grad school, I TA’ed the floral design classes for both horticulture majors and non-majors.  Then I took a detour from floral design and worked in habitat conservation for an environmental organization for a few years.  After I relocated to Chicago in 2004, I returned to floral design and managed a downtown flower shop for a while, then briefly worked as a freelance floral designer for some of the bigger event design companies in Chicago.  I started Pollen in the summer of 2009, bringing together my education and experience in both floristry and ecology.

That sounds more like a resume than a lyrical description of my long-lived love of flowers, but I guess I’m feeling kind of right brained today.

2. What do you love about working with couples for their big day? 

Because of the small scale of the business, I’m typically involved from start to finish, from the initial consultation to the delivery and installation the day of the wedding.  This means my clients and I are pretty comfortable with each other, if not friends, by the time the wedding day rolls around.  That’s why I love to deliver the flowers myself whenever possible.  To see the couple on what is probably the biggest event they’ve ever been a part of, is pretty great.

Oh, and I love bringing the pretty flowers.  Did I mention the pretty flowers?

3. What is your most popular product/service, what makes your business unique?

At Pollen, we specialize in working with flowers sourced from local farms.  Our preferred style of loose and gardeny floral design works well with that palette.  We don’t dye or bedazzle our flowers, and like to keep them as natural looking as possible.  Our low, lush, and slightly sprawling centerpieces have become very popular at weddings.

4. What details should the couple have figured out before meeting with you?

The couple first should have the date and venue secured.  As a very small business, typically we take only one to two full-service weddings per weekend, so this is the first question I ask, to make sure we have availability.

For the consultation to be most effective, I ask the couple to bring in anything that is inspiring the overall look of the wedding, as well as photos of flowers or floral designs that they like.  If the wedding has a color scheme, having that color scheme finalized is key if the couple wants to talk about specific flower types.

And lastly, having an estimated guest count (as well as table layout, if it’s anything other than standard 60” round tables) helps to get the estimate as close as possible.  This means that if you are having the wedding at a location where you are bringing in a caterer, you should have already spoken with a caterer to get a sense of the table layout and numbers.  It isn’t essential with some of the venues that Pollen frequently works at, but it is helpful.

5. What kind of questions should couples ask during their interview with you?

Hopefully, by the time a couple meets with a florist, they should have reviewed the florist’s work online or elsewhere, so they are familiar with the style of work in which they specialize.  Choosing a florist well-versed in the style the client is looking for can eliminate a great deal of guesswork and stress down the road.  Ideally, the couple is coming to Pollen because they have seen our portfolio and like the examples they have seen.

I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating client questions, and build into my consultations the most frequently asked questions, so I usually preemptively address their questions.  But in general, the couple should feel comfortable with the florist as with all of their vendors, because these are the people who will be with them on their wedding day.