Sustainable Fashion, Sustainable Diamonds
One of our passions at New World Diamonds is helping to promote a sustainable future through our creation and sales of lab-grown diamonds. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you have surely heard of the global climate crisis we are facing. We are not trying to scare you, but scientists from the UN released a report back in October 2018 that detailed how we will see food shortages, wildfires, mass die-offs of coral reefs, and more climate-related issues by 2040 if we don’t take critical actions, stat. Unfortunately, many people are unsure how to take action, as we are caught in a sticky web of political rhetoric and industry-driven marketing efforts that only expand the confusion around environmental impacts that are causing the climate crisis.
The good news is, however, many leading governments and organizations are blazing trails to do their part and to inspire others to take immediate action. Maybe you’ve heard of some of these initiatives, like Starbucks banning plastic straws, renewable energy surging to 18% in the US, the USPS launching electric delivery trucks, and Amazon raising the minimum wage to $15/hour (yes, sustainability involves economics and worker rights, too!). All of these are small steps in the right direction to create a future that we all can live equitably in — but one industry that we don’t see making headlines yet is the fashion industry. From fast fashion and throwaway culture through to diamond mines, there is a huge opportunity to improve in creating sustainable fashion. In this blog, we’re unpacking what you need to know about sustainable fashion and how that pertains to diamond rings and ethical diamonds.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability is a complex topic, and most consumers have a specific outlook on what it means based on the marketing messages we’ve been hit with over the last decade or so. In a very short way, sustainability can be thought of as creating a future that doesn’t deplete the Earth’s resources. It means that our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on will have a safe place to live, work, and play. To get more technical, we will draw on the definition of sustainability as defined by sustainability experts at UCLA: “the physical development and institutional operating practices that meet the needs of present users without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, particularly with regard to use and waste of natural resources. Sustainable practices support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality. Sustainability presumes that resources are finite, and should be used conservatively and wisely with a view to long-term priorities and consequences of the ways in which resources are used.”
So, as you can synthesize from all of this, opportunities for better sustainability practices are present across all industries, and making more sustainable choices is something we can all strive for. As we mentioned above, sustainable fashion (clothing and jewelry alike) has not become a mainstream topic, but it’s one of our goals to educate consumers on the un-sustainability of the mining industry and to share how lab-grown diamonds are the best option for sustainable, ethical diamonds.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
Before we get into more specifics about why the mining industry is so unsustainable, we think it’s helpful to define what sustainable fashion means and what all it entails. It’s not as easy as recycling your clothes, for example — you have to consider the entire life cycle of a product in order to understand its sustainable implications from conception to end-of-life of the product (even though lab-grown diamonds are forever!); The most comprehensive definition of sustainable fashion comes from Green Strategy, a consultancy firm that helps businesses in the fashion and textile industry to improve their sustainable and circular business practices:
More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimize any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximizing repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components. From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encourage more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion. (Green Strategy, June 2014)
The lab-grown diamonds that we create and sale at New World Diamonds help mitigate the environmental and socio-economic problems in the mining industry, which we’ll describe in more detail below.
What are the sustainability issues in the mining industry?
The aggressive mining of diamonds over the past decade have done an incredible amount of damage to the environment and to the workers alike. From leaving massive holes in the ground that decrease biodiversity through to the issue of child labor in mines, it’s time to shine a light on the ways which mining detracts from a sustainable future.
- Energy use, air quality, and pollution: Before a diamond is ever taken from the Earth, the area around it must be explored in order to ensure that it’s worth it to set up a mining operation. In both the exploration and the mining phases, two forms of energy are used: electricity and hydrocarbons (diesel, marine gas, oil, and petrol). As a result, carbon emissions are released into the air, which are known to be massive factors in the climate crisis. Additionally, when these gases pollute the Earth, it creates smog, which is dangerous both for the health of us citizens and the planet at large. With many of the diamonds being extracted from the famous kimberlite pipelines in Africa, mining operations are more widely executed in arctic areas (like Siberia and Canada) that require a higher amount of energy for operations.
- Waste: Given that mining is a massive operation (miners sift through approximately 200-250 TONS of ore just to find one carat of diamond!), it’s expected that there is a lot of waste left behind from the process. Such waste can include oil, paper, scrap metal, batteries, tires, plastic, and glass — all of which can be potentially dangerous if they end up in a body of water.
- Water: A lot of water is used in mining operations. For example, 100,000 m3 of salty water is pumped out of the Victor Pit in Canada each day into the Attawapiskat River. To give you an idea of volume, 100,000m3 is equivalent to 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools per day. This is shocking considering that “783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide, and 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are without access to reliable drinking water sources.” Given that so much mining occurs in Africa, it seems almost unethical to continue mining operations that waste valuable water.
- Biodiversity: As defined by the American Museum of Natural History, biodiversity refers to “the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life.” Diamond mining threatens biodiversity because it disrupts entire ecosystems across the world — from humans to plants to animals and even farm crops. This isn’t just because of the amount of digging — it also has to do with the chemicals used. For example, according to Socratic, “Chemicals may be released into aquatic environments, and those chemicals may significantly alter the pH of the water, they may poison certain species, and those chemicals may bioaccumulate. Water can potentially transfer any chemicals used in mining a great distance from the mine itself. Some of these chemicals may remain in the ecosystem long after the mine has closed.”
- Human implications: While nearly everything we mentioned above pertains to the environment, it’s imperative to mention the human implications as well. We have written blogs about how lab-grown diamonds help with the issue of child labor, but many adult workers in the mining industry are suffering in un-sustainable conditions as well. For example, many workers are paid less than $2 daily, which means that they can’t sustain their personal lifestyles and suffer from hunger and low quality of life.
Why are lab-grown diamonds a more sustainable solution?
While many people know about blood diamonds and are on the hunt for ethical diamonds, many of us never considered all of the environmental and worker issues associated with mined diamonds, and once we learn better — we want to do better. That’s why we are so happy that lab-grown diamonds are now becoming a widespread solution to the issues. Because these diamonds are created in the lab, which is a controlled environment, consumers don’t have to worry about all of the negative environmental impacts listed above. Nor do consumers have to feel concerned about the use of child labor or underpaid workers who work in dangerous conditions, given that lab-grown diamonds are created by scientists.
At New World Diamonds, we also boast a sustainable edge and are confident that we offer the best lab-grown diamonds, given that all of our diamonds are created in the United States. This is significant because it means that our diamond rings aren’t shipped across the world to make it to your finger — which cuts down even more on carbon emissions!
How do lab-grown diamonds support the SDGs?
An incredible resource for all things sustainability is the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN created these goals to form “the world's best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030.” We decided to cross-reference the 17 SDGs when researching the sustainability issues at hand in the mining industry, and we were so proud to find how lab-grown diamonds are helping to support the following SDGs by providing an incredible alternative to mined diamonds:
- SDG 1 No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- SDG 2 Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- SDG 4, Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- SDG 13, Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- SDG 14, Life under Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- SDG 15, Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Everyone is a stakeholder in creating a sustainable future, and we all have a lot of power in the consumption choices that we make. At New World Diamonds, we firmly believe in a sustainable mission and are so glad that people are making the switch to lab-grown diamonds. If you’re looking to find the best lab-grown diamonds at the best price on the market, look no further than our stunning collections of ethical diamonds. Diamond rings, pendants, earrings, loose diamond stones — we have something for everyone in your life who is committed to a more sustainable future. Need some ideas on where to start? Check out this Gift Guide for Them, our Colored Diamond Gift Guide, or this Gift Guide for Yourself.