An engagement ring and wedding band carries priceless memories and meaning, but producing it comes with a high cost (not including what you pay for it). The negative impact precious metal and stone mining has on the environment and human rights is huge, “the mining watchdog group Earthworks estimates that a standard 18-karat wedding band leaves behind 20 tons of ore and waste rock.” Improving how and what one consumes in relationship to the environment is important in terms of eco-feminism too as environmental issues tend to hurt women more. Here are some ring alternatives that help make your wedding more eco-conscious for the couple that’s looking for some good karma to add to their marital hope and future.
1. Tattoo Rings – Nothing says forever like a tattoo. The one big benefit is that a little ink is vastly more environmental than mining precious metals and stones, the other is that you’ll never lose it.
2. Recycled Metal – Recycled metal is a great alternative to newly mined metal if you can find a jeweler that works with it. If not, putting pressure on jewelers to resource from mining companies that adhere to better mining practices is really important. After all, the industry won’t change its ways unless you demand it. No Dirty Gold “is an international campaign working to ensure that gold mining operations respect human rights and the environment. The No Dirty Gold campaign seeks to educate consumers, retailers, manufacturers about the impacts of irresponsible gold mining, and to enlist their support to persuade the mining industry to clean up its act.”
3. Wood – Wood is a great alternative because it’s a renewable resource that can be attained a lot less invasively (well, hopefully). You can even do yourself one better by picking a type of wood that is local to where you live and not taken from a threatened environment like the rainforest. If you do your research, you might even be able to find a jeweler who uses reclaimed wood (check out Etsy), which adds even more to the sustainability and eco-friendliness of your ring. This is also a great option for people with metal allergies.
4. Recycled Plastic – While engagement/wedding worthy rings made from plastic don’t really exist yet, this might be a realistic option in the faraway future when new diamonds and gold/silver become scarce or inaccessible or when plastic overtakes the world and is inescapable. In the more immediate future, digital printing might make this a fun fad to fulfill or finding a plastic fabricator to make a custom one. The benefit to using recycled plastic is that it will be indestructible, which is a nice metaphor for an item that represents a marriage commitment (plus it’s one less piece in the ocean or landfill).
5. Estate Jewelry – Buying estate jewelry provides the glam and glitz of a classic engagement ring without putting additional strain on the environment and nonrenewable resources. Don’t like the idea that someone else wore it first? Well, engravings can be removed, edited and replaced. As far as it coming with bad luck? Burn some sage, find a priest for an exorcism, get it cleaned, do whatever you need to do to feel like the ring comes with a clean slate.
6. Family Heirlooms - Family heirloom jewelry bears the same benefits as estate jewelry, except (hopefully) it comes with a history you want to keep (if not, see suggestions in #3). What’s even better about this option is that it doesn’t bleed any personal resources like your hard-earned money. Didn’t inherit Great Grandma or Grandpa’s rings? That’s a bummer, but think about passing on your own bling (i.e. don’t get buried with it) so your future predecessors don’t have to exploit nonrenewable resources too.
6. Nothing/Nada/Zip – Who says you need an engagement ring to represent your commitment to someone? Oh, for-profit businesses did; but you are a confident, free-thinking consumer who doesn’t need to be told what to do or feel pressured to use a tangible good to represent powerful intangible feelings, so opt for nothing. Your bank account and environment will thank you.