Bride gets the butterflies

I’m getting married in June and planned on releasing butterflies after the ceremony. A friend of mine told me she’d heard it wasn’t an environmentally friendly practice. Can you shed some light on the subject?

Here’s the scoop. Most scientists agree releasing farmed butterflies has an impact on the environment, but not enough research has been done to determine the exact effects. Raising large numbers of butterflies in small quarters increases the potential to alter their genetic makeup, which can affect a butterfly’s ability to survive in nature and creates a breeding ground for disease—bad news for native butterflies. Releasing butterflies also makes it difficult for scientists to study natural migration patterns because it’s impossible to tell whether the winged-beauty they’ve found migrated to this new location or was released by a well-meaning bride. So, unfortunately, your friend is correct.

I’m motivated to make changes toward a more sustainable way of life, but I don’t know how to encourage my children to do the same. Suggestions?

The best way to encourage your children to make changes that are meaningful to them is to start with something they love and build upon it. If your children love to nurture animals, take them on a bird-watching trip or a kayaking excursion on Lake Natoma (approx. $9 an hour and no training required through CSUS Aquatic Center). Once they’re excited about all the animals they see, it’ll be easy to talk to them about the things you can do as a family to protect the creatures they love. If you have a little artist on your hands, gather every reusable item you can find—toilet-paper rolls, milk jugs, swatches from tattered clothes, newspaper, buttons—and create something beautiful together. Share other ways people reuse items and challenge your children to rethink the way they view “used” materials. The key is to engage your children and then give them a meaningful reference why sustainability matters.