Jewelry may add beauty to the world, but it also takes some away. Did you see that this Valentine’s Day 54 jewelers have promised not to use gold from the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay?
Pebble Mine has been extremely controversial – in part because it could impact the world’s largest salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. A lot of Oregon and Washington fishermen travel to Alaska every year to fish there. This week, the EPA announced it will do a scientific assessment of the mine’s impacts.
Jewelry demand is the number one driver of gold production (of course, gold speculation in the wake of the global financial crisis has driven the price up to $1,300 an ounce, which is fueling a lot of growth in gold mining). Gold mining often involves toxic chemicals that pollute groundwater and leave behind a lot of hazardous waste.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed none of my good friends who have gotten married are sporting new diamond engagement rings (thanks in part to Blood Diamond). One has a sapphire, another has an emerald and my friend Brighid has a hand-me-down diamond pictured above. They all made conscious decisions NOT to buy jewelry that had unnecessarily harsh impacts on land and people.
National Geographic has a nice guide to the environmental impacts of buying jewelry. It seems like the easiest way to avoid contributing to new mining impacts or funding violent rebel groups in faraway lands (without giving up all your frosting) is to opt for recycled jewels.
So, with that, have a happy Valentine’s Day, and, as Samantha Frapart put it on Green Blizzard, “accessorize wisely.”