Filed under: Fashion + Beauty | Tags: conflict diamonds, eco weddings, el salvador, gold mining, wedding bands
Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in White….
We all know the song, we all know the tune, and everyone of us women has a memory of sashaying in a princess gown and plastic heels with hot pink lipstick smeared from our nose to the bottom of our chin as we acted out our pretend marriages. (Don’t worry, I still do it, too.)
Wedding rings, the traditional gold band with the glitzy diamond rock on top, have also been part of the fantasy. In reality, most of us are aware of the environmental and social implications of diamond mining – but have you ever stopped and thought about the band, too?
Gold mining, as with most types of nonrenewable resource extractions, has disastrous environmental side-effects. A mammoth cube the length of an average six-foot human, the width of that same person across, and the depth of that person’s giant 10-feet brother yields enough gold for a single measly pair of wedding bands. To even get that much gold out, the rock is doused with a cyanide spray to loosen the gold flakes- since when did rat poison become romantic?
I spent the past week in El Salvador, and one of the most urgent environmental calls to action has been against new gold mines. “Don’t drink the water”, is the mantra to any traveler heading south of the U.S. border, but most of the people living in Central America have no alternative. The addition of more mines will only add to the high rates of birth defects and sicknesses caused by the contaminated water – can you imagine if your only source of drinking water was laced with toxic levels of cyanide? Local communities and solidarity groups, like the Sister Cities program I traveled with, are fighting against the mines – but we all know it will prove an uphill battle.
Since we live in the United States, we don’t have to all fly to El Salvador to make our opposition to gold mining known – we have strong voices through our consumption choices. (Plus, if you’re like me, you’re not quite ready to give up that fantasy wedding). A lot of “eco-ring” companies (such as this one and this one) claim to offer conflict-free diamonds, recycled gold bands, or other alternative materials – I assume the same two month’s salary price rubric would come into play here. There’s also always the option of an heirloom ring, either from great-grandma and great-grandpa or an antique store.
As citizens in a globalized society, it’s important to remember the effects our choices have on other parts of the world – although nothing says “I Love You” like an open strip mine blown into the side of a mountain.