Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Project Reuse: Ex. 4 The E-Ring, Part I

For most couples I imagine one of the biggest expenses are the engagement and wedding rings. What couples may not think about is that their rings may also be a huge environmental expense. I am returning to the Project Reuse posts this week to highlight another way we are trying to make our wedding environmentally friendly. I heard and interesting podcast about the high environmental and social cost of gold mining which reminded me of another reason why I love my e-ring. My ring is an antique and fits our REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE wedding mentality.The podcast was from Fresh Air on NPR featuring the author and photographer of the most recent National Geographic cover story about the real price of GOLD. When discussing wedding jewelry it seems that diamonds get all of the attention - both as the shinny stars of the rings as as the culprits of many of the social and environmental problems of the jewelry industry.

I taught a class last year in which the students had to document the total environmental and social impact of an everyday item. One of the students turned in an essay about her e-ring and was quite proud that they choose a conflict-free diamond. A wise choice for sure but when I asked her wear the gold for the ring came from and if she considered the impact of this in her purchase. I could see her heart sank as she admitted she had not and in her research for the paper discovered all sorts of reasons why gold mining can also be just as destructive. Wedding resources have all sorts of info about conflict free and eco friendly diamonds, but there is less awareness about the high environmental, social, and health costs of gold.

That is why I thought the National Geographic piece was so interesting and had to share. I won't go into the details other than to post this from Brook Larmer's article:

" Rough hands attend to the delicate work of pressing excess mercury from gold extracted at an illegal mining operation in Kalimantan, Indonesia. A vast amount of mercury—at least 30 percent of the world total—is used by small-scale miners to process gold. When handled without safety equipment, the toxic metal can be absorbed into the bloodstream or lungs, causing serious damage. Tests performed by the Global Mercury Project, an initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Global Environment Facility, revealed that mercury levels in the bodies of miners in parts of Indonesia are several hundred times higher than is generally considered safe."

So, what are we supposed to do? Diamond mining supports war and civil unrest, gold strips open earth and causes horrible health problems. Workers in these industries are often make pennies a day while the fat cats get rich.

We thought long and hard about weather or not to even go the traditional diamond e-ring route given our desire to avoid supporting such practices. Perhaps a glass ring? or not even a ring at all - possibly a necklace... Argh, still jewelry with precious metal and stone = still same problems.

I think it must be something so ingrained in our American culture that I couldn't do anything too non-traditional. (Although I commend any couples out there who do! Kuddos!). I won't geek out and explain the Anthropological theories that explain this type of prestige economic institutions and just end it here.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to be environmentally and socially conscious with their wedding rings? Tomorrow I will share more about what we did...

1 comment:

Krista said...

Oh ... I can't wait :)