Avi Loren Fox is a lovely photographer in Philadelphia, PA, who captures such energy and life in her work. Recently we read about her via A Natural Day in a story discussing a new Sustainable Wedding Collective she and another Philly wedding vendor (check out JPM Catering) are bringing together.
Avi's work is so enchanting, and her vision for the industry is informed and inspiring. We just had to talk with her!
EPE You seem to have such a strongly defined mission on your website: "With respective backgrounds in Environmental Studies and Human Ecology, Avi and Nikolai are committed to the three pillars of sustainability: environment, society, and economy." How did your background in the sciences impact the Sustainable Wedding Collective?
Fox Both of our backgrounds prepared us to combine knowledge from multiple diciplines into applied solutions to environmental and social problems. After our formal schooling, it was natural to want to apply this to our work.
My education in the environment benefited from an organization I started when I was 21 years old, Narberth Greens (www.narberthgreens.org). I decided to major in environmental studies at Temple University in Philadelphia to help that project.
EPE So, wait, you went to college to get a degree to further a personal project?
Fox That's right. I was already in college, but my major had been undecided. The project grew to such an extent while I was at school that we started bringing in other people to help. I had an intern that went to biology class with me. The project really took off!
My interest in the environment goes back to my desire to run systems in an efficient manner. Humans build cities and networks, but not necessarily in the most efficient manner.
EPE So where is the wedding industry connection?
Fox I come from a family of artists, and photography was something I discovered in second grade before my formal education on the environment.
When I began researching jobs in the environmental field after college, I wasn't finding myself fulfilled in the practical application of what I would be doing. My parents really held me to the idea that I should find a job that was meaningful.
EPE That's so wonderful that they would foster that kind of environment in your family.
Fox Oh yes. I remember when I would come to them with search criteria for my job hunt such as “making a lot of money” or “holding an impressive title” they were like, "Hm, okay. Are you sure that's what you really want?" Then later, when I told them I wanted to buy a camera and turn to my creative side for a while, they were both so happy and supportive.
At the time my brother Nikolai had just finished making his first documentary (Music for the Sky) and was starting to work in the photography world and he encouraged me to get involved. Doing the wedding collective is really a way for me to combine my passions - creativity and sustainability. Our website, The Sustainable Wedding Collective, is scheduled to launch soon. We're hoping for springtime. (www.sustainableweddingcollective.com)
EPE Where is the overlap of sustainability and photography?
Fox Sustainability with respect to photography is a long-term goal. There are a lot business practices that could be put into place.
EPE What sorts of practices? If most photography is digital, where is there a need for sustainable practices?
Fox Digital is better than print in the sense that it saves paper, ink, and chemicals, but it also has its own impact. Aside from the impact of making the equipment itself, there is the energy required to run it. We presently run our business from home (eliminating a commute) as well as source renewable energy to power our computers and equipment. My plan is to also look into carbon offsets and album companies that offer more sustainable ink/paper. These systems take time to set up and implement, so they are future goals at this point.
Here's the thing, our world is kind of freaking out about sustainability. I think we're at a point of history where as a society we're still defining "sustainability" and what that means for something to be sustainable. I want the wedding industry to be a part of this conversation. And I think I can start by learning how to make my photography business more sustainable.
EPE How is the Philadelphia community responding to your efforts?
Fox People are definitely receptive. We belong to the Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia which is nice because it connects us with other like-minded entrepreneurs and businesses. When you say "sustainable" it's on people's radar, which wasn’t even the case just five years ago.
The website hasn't launched yet. Once we get the website, I think it's going to take off. We've already been getting contacted by vendors.
EPE Yes, even people in Kansas City are excited for you!
Fox Ha, it'd be great if some day the Sustainable Wedding Collective could be a resource as large as The Knot or Wedding Wire. I would love for couples to automatically decide to source environmentally responsible and socially just wedding vendors.
But, it’s funny because if the sustainability movement actually achieves its goal of making all systems sustainable, then the term won’t need to exist anymore because it will be the norm.
EPE We know there is so much waste generated through the elaborate productions some weddings become. Can you tell me a little more about the overlap between sustainability and the wedding industry?
Fox A wedding is a picture of a future life - two people coming together to create a new generation. Just looking at the almost mystical customs and traditions that are associated with weddings across the world, we know it's really important to a community that things get kicked off well for new families. And that's good!
What I want to know is, why aren't we superstitious about creating waste?
In the process of getting married, we're creating all this waste in which future generations must live. It's not a good way to start a family by doing that. And it doesn't have to be that way.
It's just a matter of decision making. I think it'd be great if couples could learn about the impact they have and make conscious decisions about the celebration they throw to start their marriage off on the right foot.
Everyone at the wedding just wants to get along and wish the couple well. That's what's important. The standard of something being really nice should be that it is sustainable. I think this is only going to improve the aesthetic of weddings. Beauty doesn't need to be sacrificed.
Fox I don't think that we're going to find all the answers... I'll be the first to say that my business has a long way to go before it approaches my sustainability goals. But the point is that we're trying. Sustainability is our goal. We need to set a standard. I hope to create a standard in the industry - an aesthetic based on ethics.
Thank you SO much for your time, Avi! We loved getting to know you and learning about the Sustainable Wedding Collective. We're looking forward to seeing your impact in the wedding community!
Photos provided by Avi and Nikolai Fox
Read the original article from A Natural Day here.
Co-founder of The Sustainable Wedding Collective: Avi Loren Fox Photography
Co-founder of The Sustainable Wedding Collective: JPM Catering and Events
The Sustainable Wedding Collective