See entire November 12, 2010 newsletter
I have come to the conclusion that there aren’t very many areas in our lives where it doesn’t make sense to stop, think, and then make the most sustainable choice possible when making a purchase. Case in point for this newsletter: jewelry. Not only are we giving away a $1000 gift certificate to Abbott Taylor Jewelers for our “I’m dreaming of a Green Christmas” website contest, it’s a time of year when people buy jewelry – second only to Valentine’s Day. So jewelry it is!
Truth be told, jewelry making can be a really dirty, awful, human rights nightmare kind of thing. I have edited and condensed the information from the Daily Green article in the hopes you will at least read about some very important things to consider before your next purchase of your dream ring or necklace or diamond earrings. Do people’s lives depend on it? Ultimately yes. It matters that much. My second wish is that you will share this information with the lucky person who might be the one buying you said jewelry or with anyone you can think of because that’s how change really happens and how we make a difference.
1. Impact to environment? Precious metals and stones are extracted at a sometimes high cost to the environment.
2. Impact to human beings? The mining of precious metals and gems has one of the biggest environmental and human impacts. For instance, gold mines represent the largest U.S. sources of mercury pollution, a potent toxic metal that attacks the brain. In Alaska, watchdogs fear that a proposed mine upstream of Bristol Bay would threaten the millions of salmon that spawn there. Diamond mining is notoriously tied with slave labor and the funding of systemic violence in Africa. Beyond that, mining anything involves not only tearing up a landscape, but also processing that typically uses toxic chemicals and metals. Avoiding unnecessary purchases avoids those impacts. (Note from Mrs. Green: Abbott Taylor uses 100% recycled gold – always and forever)
3. Buying new? Do you have to? When it comes to jewelry, antique and vintage pieces can be found in the estate section of many jewelry stores. The workmanship of past decades of centuries is often unsurpassed, when it comes to filigrees and detail, so don’t assume that newer is always better. Buying antique jewelry means avoiding the use of newly mined natural resources.
4. How WAS it really made? If you’re buying new, consider how the piece was made: what materials were used, who made it and how were those workers treated? It’s often not you, the buyer, who suffers if a product isn’t made in an ethical, sustainable manner; it’s the workers and the communities at the source. Like other products, you can look for Fair Trade-certified jewelry to ensure that workers were treated well. (Comment from Mrs. Green: On any given day one might find children, dogs, grandchildren and definitely the owner of Abbott Taylor Jewelers on site at their showroom. Abby is a family man and people have worked with him forever. Says it all.
5. How was it packaged and shipped? I have to admit, I don’t always think about “how things got here.” It’s time for all of us to start – past the time actually. Per The Daily Green: The making of a product is only part of what contributes to its environmental footprint. The materials used to package it, and the fuel used to transport it, are two other biggies. Studies have generally endorsed the proposition that online purchasing has a smaller environmental footprint than buying from a brick-and-mortar store, in large part because of the reduced energy costs associated with lighting and heating. (more if you follow the link)
6. How easy it to maintain? Translation? If a piece of jewelry gets broken, simply get it fixed. And remember, if you are really ready to get rid of it, be sure to either recycle it through a reputable dealer or have it made into something new and wonderful. I would do a check-in with loved ones first because heirlooms are full of precious memories.
7. What will you say about it? This might be my favorite one of all. Tell the story! Tell your friends who comment on your creation that you made a conscious decision to go to a jeweler or to a jewelry store that cares about our earth, its resources including those of the human kind. Ethical buying decisions are something to be proud of and shared. Think it’s hyperbole to say OUR lives depend on it? I invite you to think again.
And here is the link for you long fact finders who want the scoop, the whole scoop and nothing but the scoop!