Photo Credit: No Dirty Gold (c) 2006.
Mining for gold isn’t always as pretty as that glimmering necklace or your favorite gold ring. “Customers don’t realize that one wedding ring weighs 10 grams and causes three tons of toxic waste,” says Greg Valerio, owner of ethical jewelry company Cred, which partners with the Colombia-based Green Gold Corporation.
We’ve all heard about blood diamonds, thanks to the popular movie that bears the same name, but the metals in your jewelry can also cause problems for overworked miners and our overworked environment. The Green Gold Corporation is one of many companies that seek to find eco-friendly alternatives to standard metal wares. Green Gold avoids all toxic chemicals in their mining practices, integrates reforestation into their main concerns, and tries to avoid waste. In addition to promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, Green Gold “contributes to the well-being of the communities of the Biogeographic regions of Choco [in Colombia] through research and training processes and the promotion of alliances and productive systems.”
It’s not just corporations on the search for greener gold. Katherine Hammet is a fashion activist and jewelry designer, and she promotes several eco-conscious creations. “People think clothing is a nightmare, but gold is a nightmare,” Hamnett told TreeHugger last year. “People just don’t realize how gold is mined. Effectively, a mining company will blow up a mountain, crush it — gone, so it doesn’t exist any more — and then pour cyanide over the rubble to draw out the gold.” She shares that through the Green Gold campaign, “they’ve gone back to using Aztec and Mayan techniques; the miners bank up the soil and save it, which creates these inverted ziggurats. In the void, gold is extracted by hand before pits are gradually refilled.”
In 2004, a campaign called No Dirty Gold was launched to establish “fair trade” and environmentally-friendly practices for gold miners. Several retailers are involved with the campaign and support the campaign’s Golden Rules, which include important social, environmental, and human rights criteria. These retailers include JCPenney, Tiffany & Co., Zale Corp., Wal-Mart and several others. But “green gold” is still considered a niche market. If the activism continues, however, ethics and the environment should become more essential to gold jewelry. For more information on green gold and the possible impacts of gold mining, check out the “No Dirty Gold” fact sheet.