Sustainability, although based on simple principles and old practices, is a difficult feat to achieve in present-day society. Over-consumption and materialism create a facade that leads people to believe they are above the laws of nature — but the good news is, many countries, companies and individuals are taking steps toward achieving sustainability. One of the most beautiful examples of the move to sustainable practices is found in the visual arts. Artisans, craftsman, jewelers and artists are taking pride in becoming global citizens who create beautiful, sustainable art that is environmentally and socially conscious.
Jewelry-Making: Harmful to the Environment
In the jewelry-making business, there are primary and secondary factors that harm the environment. Primary factors include what materials are being used, where these materials are coming from and how they’re extracted. Mining and extracting metals contaminates ground and surface water, emits toxic emissions such as arsenic and lead and is a leading cause in pollution. In turn,this leads to environmental disasters such as soil erosion, sinkholes and loss of biodiversity.
Secondary factors include the manufacturing and packaging process. It takes energy to produce glass and plastic that’s often used in jewelry. The path to sustainability includes weakening our reliance to fossil fuels and eliminating the production of plastics all together. The packaging alone, with the Styrofoam buffering in boxes and plastic containers to hold the jewelry, is environmentally damaging.
Making Sustainable Jewelry
To become sustainable, designers and producers are simplifying their day-to-day operations. They’re using less water, less electricity and reducing their carbon footprint. They’re reducing the use of hazardous chemicals, switching over to biodegradable compounds and solutions and most importantly, disposing of everything properly.
Once the jewelry is made, producers are looking for ways to reduce the amount of packaging used to ship and store the goods. Recycled packaging products are becoming a favorite among many eco-conscious companies. Designers are using recycled metals, upcycling vintage materials and pushing the boundaries of what is considered “jewelry.” They’re getting creative and crafty using recycled paper to make beads and bottle caps as earrings. O-rings — those little round rubber seals used in manufacturing — are being repurposed and strung into necklaces and bracelets. The possibilities are practically endless.
The Value of Sustainable Jewelry
With the plethora of beautifully designed eco-conscious jewelry, you’re bound to find value in a piece whose creativity and originality speaks to you. If that’s not enough to cement your decision, recognize that purchasing sustainable options decreases the price that comes with jewelry. And we’re not talking about the price at the register. The price paid by our natural resources, by those working in horrible conditions for low pay and by the generations to come who will deal with the reprimands of our environmentally unsound decisions. Sustainable jewelry means you (or the recipient of your gift) will wear it with pride, knowing you’re doing your part in reducing your carbon footprint and ensuring fair trade and decent work conditions globally.
Where to Find Sustainable Jewelry
Whether you’re looking for jewelry or other sustainable art such as clothes, home decor and beauty products, Urban Air Market is the place for you. Imagine a farmers market filled with environmental and socially conscious artists, designers and vendors who focus on sustainable design. You know exactly how every product was made, where the materials came from and you’re supporting the local economy. If you call Northern California home or if you’re just travelling through, explore the Oakland Urban Air Market on Sunday, July 12 and check the schedule for the next market near you.
About the guest contributor: Natalie Posdaljian: Natalie’s inquisitive mind leads her to explore the world in many different ways. She feels most alive and inspired when she’s on the move but struggles between the urge to pack up and go and her commitment to shrink her carbon footprint.