I’m the kind of person that avoids those pesky, ever-present disposable plastic shopping bags like the plague. I eat organic, recycle everything, use cloth napkins (some found right here on Etsy!) and in general try to stick to the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle. I am also a metalsmith, which is not always the most eco-friendly profession.
While I’ve always used vintage and recycled elements in my jewelry, it occurred to me recently that the metal I use is mined and mining is bad – both for the environment and people. Here are some quick facts on the environmental impact of mining:
- Mining one ounce of gold can require the removal of more than 100 tons of rock.
- 96% of U.S. arsenic emissions come from mining.
- Up to 10% of the world’s energy consumption comes from the mining of precious metals.
- Most mining these days takes place in giant open pit mines where chemicals such as cyanide are used to extract the metals. These pits are often created by blasting naturally protected areas.
Once I realized the impact that mining has on our planet, I immediately investigated sources for recycled precious metals. Luckily, I found a great metals refiner that only sells recycled and reclaimed metals and practices the three R’s in their refining process. The only refiner/seller of raw materials that sells 100% certified recycled metals, to my knowledge, is Hoover and Strong. Hoover and Strong also use earth-friendly practices while refining and they reduce, reuse and recycle – not just the metals, but as a general business practive. They are my recommended source for eco silver and gold. The most surprising thing is that these recycled metals are priced about the same as their mined counterpart.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in my quest to create environmentally sound metal jewelry. There are many talented metalsmiths on Etsy that make beautifully crafted work from recycled and reclaimed metals. Most of them were living green in one part of their life, and wanted to bring their ethics into their jewelry making. Here’s why these crafters have chosen to use recycled metals in their own words:
jessedanger: “I really enjoy metalwork and making jewelry, yet I’m very conscious of the impact that procuring it has on the environment, either through mining or the refining process. Before I began creating jewelry professionally, I searched many different suppliers to find the one I felt was the most responsible and I was the most comfortable supporting. Because new metal is still being mined every day, I donate a portion of my profits each year to organizations that ensure that metal is mined responsibly and fairly.”
AntiGenre: “I’m a bit of a recycling freak and worry about every scrap of paper and plastic that might be recyclable. I tried to instigate recycling programs at a couple of jobs over the years and occasionally resorted to lugging the recyclables to my own home when I couldn’t get them taken care of at the office. I wasn’t actually aware that recycled metals are available until recently. When I discovered that they are, I began reading up on standard mining processes and started feeling bad for generating an income off of materials that damage the environment. I decided to try reclaimed, eco-friendly metals in my jewelry, and I am now committed to using as much of them as possible.”
figsandginger: “We use earth-friendly practices for Figs & Ginger because we consider our environmental impact in any decision that we make. We want to be able to look back at our lives and business and be proud that we worked to make the world a little bit healthier, happier, and greener.”
Ashhilton: “Well, my decision to use ethical metals just kinda hit me one day. I’ve always been pretty environmentally aware, and then I suddenly had the realization that the materials I was using were potentially really, really bad for the world-at-large. I was scared that I might have to make some sacrifices to reconcile my ethical needs and my artistic (and business) needs. Fortunately, after a lot of research and creative thinking (and asking my suppliers to work with me) I was able to come up with some really good solutions that not only helped soothe my social conscience, but expanded my technical skills as well.”
Post in the comments below if you’re a shopper looking for eco-friendly metal jewelry. If you’re a jeweler using reclaimed metals, link us to your items!