Buying Greener Gold
A new gold ring may dazzle, but its environmental history isn't very shiny. Many eco-minded people simply opt for other types of jewelry, but some retailers are demanding greener practices in the gold-mining industry. Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and K-mart, recently pledged to source its gold from more sustainable mines, joining 60 retailers in the "No Dirty Gold" campaign. Other high-profile retailers who've joined the campaign during its five-year run include Wal-mart and Tiffany & Co.
According to Earthworks, the organization that shepherds the campaign, the production of a single gold ring creates 20 tons of waste (other sources claim 3 tons of waste per ring). Cyanide used in the mining process and byproducts like mercury can pollute water, posing a danger to wildlife and people. Globally, mining operations often contribute to human rights abuses: To learn more about gold mining's environmental and social impact in Latin America, check out "Bullets and Blasphemy" in Sierra magazine.
Responsible gold sourcing is a step forward for the jewelry industry, but the greenest baubles are still recycled or vintage pieces that require no new mining. Find our suggestions for recycled jewelry here, here, and here.