Greening


 

Silver Charms Go Green with our Plant a Tree program!  For every order we ship, we will plant a tree.  We have partnered with Trees for the Future to offset all of the carbon associated with our office operations and the orders we ship out to customers.  We used carbon calculators available online to estimate our annual carbon use and then added a healthy amount of padding to be conservative.  While it is difficult to find accurate data, we believe this program will also cover the carbon emissions of the silver mined to produce our products.

We researched many different programs and decided that Trees for the Future was the best match for us.  They have a proven track record of partnering with respected companies like Timberland  and we like the fact that they plant many trees that provide food and materials for local populations who then have a vested interest in keeping the trees healthy.  They run programs in Africa, Asia and South America.  Here is how the organization describes its work:

“Since 1989, Trees for the Future (www.plant-trees.org) has been helping communities around the world plant trees.  Through seed distribution, agroforestry training, and our country programs, we have empowered rural groups to restore tree cover to their lands.  Planting trees protects the environment and
helps to preserve traditional livelihoods and cultures for generations.”

 


 

Mining, Sourcing & Recycling

From an environmental standpoint, you can make a strong case that there is no such thing as ethical mining. We purchase carbon offsets but I don't pretend that erases the environmental damage caused by mining.  Silver is usually a byproduct of other types of mining, so regulations and improvements in mining standards in general have a positive impact on silver production.  That being said, the jewelry industry, including us, has always been dilligent about reuse and we use as much recycled silver as possible 
 
There are many regulations about the purchase and import of precious metals, which differ from country to country. Since we are not licensed importers, we have to purchase silver in the local markets where we produce our products. At this point, there is no way to trace which mines the silver comes from which makes it impossible to trace the environmental and labor practices at a specific mine back to the silver we use for production.
 
To my knowledge, the companies claiming to use "green silver" are referring to the fact that they use only recycled silver. From my point of view that is mostly a marketing ploy, since all available silver is valuabled and thus recycled by the marketplace.  It is standard practice  to send scrap back to be refined. New silver is added by the refinery as needed. (Smaller shops may refine scraps in house). When you buy silver, it is always a mix but there is no way to measure the percentage. The important thing to understand is that even if we used 100% recycled silver, it would not change the net amount of silver used by the market overall because that silver was never going to be wasted. I can confidently state that much of the silver in our jewelry is recycled, but that is a function of economics, not greening. One promising development is that industry is getting better about recycling silver from electronics and other products, which increases the proportion of recycled silver in the global silver market.
 

 

A Long Journey

There is no getting around the fact that silver mining is destructive. For many years I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed by the intractability of environmental degradation. Then I read about Ray Anderson and how he found a way to green his company, which made carpeting. Surely, if he could succeed with a petroleum product, I could make progress with our company!

Greening is a long journey. It can often feel intimidating, especially in an industry like silver jewelry where so many factors are out of our control. In our office, we have made a commitment to move forward steadily. We are hoping that even the smallest steps will add up. When we remodeled our building, we added skylights and staggered our lighting on two grids. Now we can keep half the lights turned off during the day. We carefully separate all of our trash for recycling and composting and we shred paper waste to use as packing material. We have not found a way to eliminate the ubiquitous zip lock plastic jewelry bags that the city won’t recycle but we found a Bag Guy who recycles them for us. The number of people in our office bicycling to work has increased to the point where we need to purchase a bike rack. We also use Soy Based Ink on all of our catalog inserts.

I recently purchased a metal mug to use at the local café. It sounds almost silly, but I calculated that I will save 250 paper cups with plastic tops in one year. According to Hillary Feldman at About My Planet, Americans use 16 billion paper cups a year. “The real cost of 16 billion paper cups is nearly one million tons of wood, 4 billion gallons of water, and 253 million pounds of waste. Every tree used for paper cups is also removed from the ecosystem and can no longer absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, or filter groundwater.” So maybe its not so silly….. We’ll keep you posted as our greening journey continues! Any tips?

Erin waits for the hip "maker" dude who recycles our ziplocks

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