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Create Impact with a Unique Ethical Engagement Ring

The craziest part of graduation isn?t finding my life?s direction or figuring out how to make my freelance writing business works. It?s scrolling down my Facebook feed and seeing all of my friends in hidden-camera proposal pictures. All those pictures are precious, but some of them have dark backstories. It?s (usually) got nothing to do with the couple… and everything to do with the ring.

The beautiful diamonds that make the ring ? and the proposal pictures ? don’t always come from the best places. In the worst cases, paramilitary factions own mines that use slave labor to mine precious stones to fund illicit goals. Although world leaders have stepped forward to fight the blood diamond trade, diamond mines also have a massive ecological and environmental impact.

Which means… you don?t just want an engagement ring. You want a unique ethical engagement ring. There are ways to avoid companies that aren’t transparent about their diamond sources or the mine’s environmental impact. Here are three options:

  1. Buy from companies that offer ethically sourced diamonds
  2. Consider a lab-created diamond
  3. Forgo the diamond (not the ring)

Good Jewelers Despise Blood Diamonds

Many jewelers hate blood diamonds enough to be transparent about their sources of your unique ethical engagement ring. Vrai & Oro was founded in 2014 and is committed to ethically sourcing diamonds. Vrai & Oro is also committed to lower prices.

Their website outlines the steps they take to lower the typical markup that customers traditionally pay. Vrai & Oro jewelry is made in downtown LA, so they save import costs and know the exact source of their diamonds. Buying from them gives you transparency, ethical sourcing, and potentially lower prices than a traditional jeweler.

Today, the blood diamond trade is far less of a problem than it was even in the 2000s. In 2003, the UN ratified a piece of legislation called the Kimberly Process. The Kimberly Process requires jewelers to certify that their diamonds are conflict-free and have that certification ready and available. It also includes a monitoring process to ensure that any certified company maintains those ethical sourcing standards. Blood diamonds aren?t gone, but world leaders have taken steps towards ending the blood diamond trade and we must remain vigilant to ensure it remains that way.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Good Money with Good Companies

Diamonds can be Lab-Grown

Ethical diamond sourcing isn?t just about importing from mines across the world. Diamonds can be grown in labs.

Seriously.

A diamond in a mine is formed when?carbon is pressurized and heated in extreme conditions. A modern lab can simulate those same conditions in more accessible settings. So, instead of taking hundreds, thousands, or millions of years to form, synthetic diamonds only take a few weeks or months, depending on the lab. That?s one less giant hole in the ground and far less mining equipment puffing greenhouse gas into the air.

Do Amore is a startup in Houston whose synthetic diamond sales make up about “30% of their gemstone sales.” The founder, Krish Himmatramka, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that the synthetics are “just as good [as natural diamonds…] and more cost-effective.”? In addition, this company also uses some money from each sale to provide water for communities in developing countries.

Check your local jeweler and see whether they offer synthetic diamonds. A ?synthetic? diamond may not sound like the unique ethical engagement ring of your dreams, but many synthetics are similar in quality to real diamonds and don?t have the negative environmental impact that a real one does.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Real Money with Sustainable Investing

And the Radical Subhead ? Do you need a Diamond?

Alright, hear me out. This won’t be the option for everyone. But you must face the harsh reality that diamond rings can be uncomfortable. I know three moms who don?t wear their diamond rings anymore because they interfere with the small joys of parenthood – like hugging their children.

If you?re a practical couple, then you can get an engraved band instead of a scratchy diamond ring. It?s completely up to you. If you want the diamond for your unique ethical engagement ring, there are some great options out there. But if you don?t need the diamond, your decision just became is a lot simpler… and potentially more creative.

Related: Why We Can’t Save

A Dash of Realism

You?re not a bad person for buying a diamond ring. This is not that type of article. Think of these other options as ways that make your purchase matter to people beyond you and your beloved. The more we bring these types of stories to light, the fewer blood diamonds we’ll have in circulation. Plus, buying lab-grown diamonds will decrease the environmental impact that the diamond industry has on the environment. Or forgo the diamond altogether for a more comfortable and creative option that holds even more meaning.

A diamond engagement ring is an expensive purchase, but while you?re putting so much effort into finding the unique ethical engagement ring of your dreams, you can make a real difference with your choice.


Photo by?Jeremy Bishop

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Trash To Treasure: This Company Takes Recycling To The Next Level

Consumers And Consumption

It?s lunchtime and you?ve almost finished your meal, but you?re sitting so far away from the only recycling bin in the room. ?The trash can is so much closer. It’s so easy to think ?What?s the harm? One paper plate won?t hurt anyone, right?? ?Although it may be convenient, the choice to opt for the landfill, when applied to the entire world, really does add up.? It’s death by a thousand paper cuts.

Ever since rampant consumption became the norm, products transitioned from natural resources like wood and metal to more easily mass-produced materials, such as plastics and foams. ?These artificial materials are disrupting our ecosystems. ?TerraCycle wants to fix that.

TerraCycle has one main goal: prevent waste from ending up in landfills, incinerators, or even our oceans. ?

To do this, the company constructs national programs where people can recycle all sorts of things that normally couldn?t be recycled. ?Everything from cigarette butts to latex gloves get collected and processed to keep them out of a trash can.

??The real exciting part about recycling,? says Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, ?is that not only does it eliminate the need to landfill, incinerate, or throw as litter, but it eliminates the need for new materials to be extracted. ?Every single environmental issue…is linked to consumption and consumerism.?

Instead of Blame, Make Businesses Part Of The Solution

TerraCycle is currently just shy of $20 million in sales, with consistent and significant increases to that number every year. ?Rather than blaming corporations for being a part of the problem, TerraCycle decides to work with them and help them reduce their waste. ??The real answer to cigarettes…is that people shouldn?t smoke. ?There won?t be cigarette butts on the ground. ?There won?t be all the negative health effects. ?Still today, one in five people smoke,? says Tom.

?My goal, instead of commenting on whether cigarettes or any other product is good or bad, is to say let?s convince these organizations or retailers or factories to invest their money not in necessarily marketing and TV commercials, but in creating robust recycling solutions for those things that couldn?t be recycled before.?

TerraCycle created their cigarette recycling program four years ago, but they already have it implemented in 11 countries around the world, and more on the way. ?Success like that can only be done by partnering with the world?s biggest companies. ?TerraCycle has a wide variety of partners; not only the ones you would expect, such as Whole Foods or Clif Bar, but also large international corporations such as Nestle, Kraft, Phillip Morris, and many others. ?

At the end of the day, it?s not the companies that make the most difference. ?

?The most powerful voice in this entire equation,? explains Tom, ?is the consumer…We vote with actual hard money multiple times a day for what type of world we want to live in. ?Whatever we choose [to buy], we are voting with money that that is more of what we want, and we want less of the other things…If consumers want a better world, they have to buy their way into it by picking the right products that perhaps are recyclable or holistic or are spreading those things we want more of and not buying the things we don?t want more of.?

The Power Of Upcycling

There are five things you can do with waste today, according to Tom. ?The worst is obviously putting it in a landfill. ?The next best would be gaining the item?s ?caloric value?, which is popular in places like Germany and Japan. ?It means burning the item and gaining it?s potential energy. ?It?s better than landfilling, but you?re still only getting that energy once. ?On the opposite end of the scale is reusing and upcycling. ?Reusing is anything from hand-me-downs to refurbished electronics. ?

Upcycling is very interesting in that it reuses the material for a function that is different from it?s original purpose. ?One such example of upcycling would be a table that is made from an old door, or taking apart a pen and using the plastic for a credit card and the metal for a trash can. ?If the object can?t be upcycled, recycling is the next best option.

This is where TerraCycle comes into the picture. ?By coming to companies that normally couldn?t care less and providing them with programs that not only help the environment, but also give a campaign to customers and stakeholders, everybody wins.

It all comes down to what we as a society decide is recyclable. ?For example, look around your room. ?Literally everything in your room will one day become waste, including your room itself. ?TerraCycle focuses on changing that notion, and bringing another life into those materials.

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How To Keep Your Retail Therapy In Check

It feels good?until it doesn?t.

Buying that great pair of jeans after a hard day can make us feel good. We work so hard, why not enjoy life? But like anything else, moderation is the key.?Too often these ?comfort buys? can improve our mood but the feeling is short lived. Many people feel remorse after the purchase is made.

Left unchecked, retail therapy can have a devastating impact on our financial health. As we spiral deeper into debt, our anxiety increases. We then look to reduce that anxiety by shopping. It?s a vicious cycle.

Taken to the extreme, retail therapy can sometimes evolve into compulsive spending. When this happens, people are driven to buy things in order to fill a need. But the purchase does not quench the need. The person may not even know what need they are trying to fill. They cannot help themselves and will continue to shop, even after facing negative consequences. If this feels familiar, these resources could help.

You are not alone.

So how big is this problem? Let’s use credit card debt as a proxy. Here are a few staggering statistics about the state of our credit card debt.

  • The average American household credit card debt is $5,700.
  • For those households carrying a credit card balance, their average is $16,048 (U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Reserve)
  • According to a recent press release by the New York Fed, America now has $784 billion in credit card debt.
  • Here?s what?s worrisome: credit cards delinquencies are increasing at a rate not seen since the 2009 recession.

Retail therapy, or the act of shopping in order to make ourselves feel happier, is a big contributor to credit card debt.

So what can we do to stop the madness?

5 questions to ask yourself before you buy anything.

Changing a habit is not done in one day. It?s a process. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before making your next purchase.

  1. Do I really need this or do I want this?
    Is this a necessity or a splurge? It?s OK either way, no judgement zone. Simply asking the question will help you reframe things in your mind.
  2. What Impact will this purchase have on the planet?
    That new toy is wrapped in a bunch of plastic. Ask yourself if your kids really need another piece of plastic from China. Is there an alternative that would bring your family just as much joy?When feeling anxious, sometimes it helps to focus on something outside of our own immediate needs. ?Taking a moment to consider the broader impact that our purchases have on people and planet could have the added benefit of reducing unease.
  3. What impact will this purchase have on my community?
    Is the purchase helping my community in some way? Are you buying from a local merchant who is sourcing their materials sustainably? Is your purchase creating jobs that people enjoy?
  4. Can I text a friend?
    Set up a code word with your friends. Any time you text ?Itch?, they?ll know you have a shopping itch that you need to scratch. Ask your friends ahead of time to talk you away from the mall or online store. Great friends are good at helping you refocus.
  5. Can I take a walk?
    We?ve heard it before: if you exercise, eat healthy and sleep for 8 hours a night, all shall be well. But sometimes those things are hard to do in the moment.If you?re shopping to ease anxiety, see if you can do something else to make yourself feel better. Keep it small and simple. Instead of walking into the store, walk around the block. See how you feel about making that purchase once you?ve taken a little walk.

They say it takes 27 days to form a new habit. Start small, lean on people, help others, and above all, be kind to yourself.


Photo by unsplash

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