Move over Gwyneth Paltrow. The phrase she made famous last year, “conscious uncoupling,” described how respectfully she and her rock star husband Chris Martin would be divorcing and coparenting. We suggest a sustainability-oriented counterpoint: conscientious coupling, whereby brides and grooms (in all configurations) set out to share an earthy, energy efficient, climate change-combating life together. What might their vows look like? Here are some suggestions from real-life Maine couples and individuals.

HERS: I vow to put up with energy saving devices even when they are unflattering to us all.

HIS: I vow to keep the house at 65 degrees as long as you keep me warm at night.

Writer Yemaya Maurer St. Clair and Lucas St. Clair, of the Elliotsville Plantation foundation advocating for a Maine North Woods national park, were married on Orcas Island in Washington state in 2007. Both are on the board of directors of the Quimby Foundation, which works to advance wilderness values and the arts throughout Maine. Although Maurer St. Clair did make a vow to accept her new husband’s obsession with the band Phish, including traveling (frequently) to see them perform, neither of these vows were included in their actual wedding ceremony.

“One of the conversations that comes up between the two of us a lot is about light bulbs,” Maurer St. Clair said. “I’m a big fan of soft yellow light. The LEDs kind of kill me. Lucas loves me and I know they’re the right way to go, so I am following his lead on this one and promising to embrace them. Here’s to hoping LEDs get softer and yellower with time!”

THEIRS: I vow never to sleep again, or at least not until all the carrots are harvested.


Stew Smith and Sarah Redfield run Lakeside Farm together. The mid-sized farm in Newport is known for sending vegetables well beyond local markets (look for Lakeside’s bagged carrots at Hannaford for instance). Smith won Source’s “Elder” award last year for a career that has included being Maine’s commissioner of agriculture, working in the Carter administration, teaching sustainable agricultural policy at the University of Maine and now running a farm while advocating for “agricultural in the middle,” or farms that are big enough to expand into good-sized marketplaces, but not classic commodity farms. Redfield is a Harvard Law graduate and consultant, who serves on the American Bar Association’s Coalition on Racial and Ethnic Justice. She never expected to end up farming in Newport, but the heart wants what the heart wants. We asked her if marrying a farmer meant working from sundown to sunset. She laughed. “I wish!” Meaning? A farmer’s work never seems to end, not even when the sun sets.

HERS: I vow to love that you love chasing our family from room to room, turning down the heat and turning off lights.

HIS: I vow to love that you love talking about heat pumps and energy efficiency and insulating all the attics in town.

Hannah Pingree and Jason Mann were married on the beach at Banks Cove in North Haven in 2007, just down the hill from where the former state legislator (and speaker of the House) grew up. He’s a filmmaker (his first feature was “Betting the Farm,” about Maine’s organic dairies) and until recently was the media director for the Island Institute. Termed out of the Legislature, Pingree manages Nebo Lodge, which is known nationally for its commitment to locally grown and raised foods. She’s also an activist who works against the use of toxic chemicals, like those in many flame retardants, in household items.

Neither of these vows were in their actual ceremony but in retrospect, eight-plus years later, they say they might as well have been.

HIS AND HERS: I promise to do what I can to solve the challenge of climate change, living a good life as close to zero carbon as possible and helping others do the same.

Judy Berk of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and her husband, David Foley, a green building designer with Holland & Foley Architecture live a mightily sustainable life. Married in 1987 on a bluff overlooking Penobscot Bay, they share a house that David designed and built, which includes two solar arrays that produce more energy than the couple uses in a year (the “extra” feeds the grid). They also have an “enormous” vegetable garden.

That’s a suggested vow for couples headed to the altar, but Berk and Foley have already been following it for nearly 30 years.

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