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Jewelry for a Cause

Look good, support small business, and save the planet all at once! Some names to be on the lookout for during your next gifting season.

Planet Love Life partners with NGOs to clean up the oceans, give back to the community, and make beautiful accessories. 

Ever wish your treat yo' self purchases could treat others too? Well, you're in luck! Never has the saying "money talks" been more appropriate, or accurate, than in today's 21st century consumer culture. But, that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. If you're serious about putting your money where your mouth is, and your mouth is espousing harmful environmental practices and oppressive social hierarchies, then you need look no further than these six brands and their mission statements to find yourself in the middle of guilt-free shopping bliss. Next time you want to treat yourself or someone you love, have a birthday party or bridal shower you don't want to attend empty-handed, or don't want to be caught off guard by Christmas... again, give these planet-friendly options a try. Good for men, womyn, children, and everyone in between!

1. Planet Love Life

Jewelry that cleans the ocean, now that's a pretty sweet gig don't you think? Specializing in bracelets, rings, and necklaces made from reclaimed materials, Planet Love Life is more than a brand. It's a way of life. Their mission: provide education about marine debris, promote sustainable living, and help preserve our planet's natural environments through love and respect for all life. But what does this have to do with jewelry? Everything, as it turns out. 

In 2014, husband and wife team Rob and Brittany Webster decided, after a particular beach cleanup in Eleuthera, Bahamas, that they had had enough. It was time they took even greater action than their beach cleanups to tackle the marine debris problem. When brainstorming what could possible make the biggest dent in what often seems an insurmountable problem, the unanimous conclusion was that the most deadly form of marine debris was fishing nets, so that's exactly where they started. Now in its fifth year, PLL partners with environmentally friendly brands, artists, and community outreach programs who are actively involved in marine debris education and cleanup projects. One of their projects even involved Jack Johnson & the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation during his Greening Tour. 

PLL is an eco-friendly organization dedicated to creating innovative ways of recycling salvaged marine debris and educating the public about the harmful effects of pollution in our oceans. Each of their products is handcrafted from recycled marine rope collected during beach cleanups and thus each piece of jewelry is completely unique—and waterproof! Each design features an ocean animal name and it's own page with information about said ocean animal, threats and solutions, where the rope you're wearing was collected from (locations vary widely from the shores of Maine and Hawaiʻi, to the Bahamas and Spain), and who it was collected by. Since PLL is a real time operation and quantities of salvaged marine rope are highly variable, their website and their products are always changing as new beaches are cleaned up and new shipments of marine rope arrive.

Why This Cause

Planetary Implications:

  • Globally, roughly 700,000 tons of fishing gear is discarded into the ocean every year (World Society for the Protection of Animals, Ghosts beneath the waves, 2018). That's 1,918 tons of fishing gear each day! That's equivalent to three Christ the Redeemer statues in Rio de Janeiro, 11.5 single-story American homes, or 17.5 Blue whales... Every. Day. If you're any good at math, you'll have figured that totals 6,387.5 Blue whales annually. That's more Blue whales than were estimated to be left on the planet in 2002 (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Assessment and Update Status Report on the Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus, 2002). And unless you’re blind, you’ve seen photos of the effects this garbage has on the oceans and her creatures. Turtles with straws jammed so far up their noses you could extract their brains using an ancient mummification technique; whales and fish so stuffed with bits of plastic there's no room for real food; seabirds that have been guillotined on invisible monofilament fishing line strung out between two tree branches; sharks with fishing hooks speared straight through their eyeballs; dolphins so tangled up in forgotten fishing nets, it'd take a computer algorithm to untie all the knots. This ghost gear—any fishing line, rope, nets, or other gear meant to ensnare, hook, or otherwise catch unsuspecting marine life that has been abandoned, lost, or discarded—is largely responsible for the majority of marine megafauna deaths. Which makes sense, after all, fishing gear is designed to catch and kill marine life, so it carries that fishing gear is the most harmful form of marine debris for marine animals (World Society for the Protection of Animals, Ghosts beneath the waves, 2018).
  • Coastal gillnets and boat trawling nets are some of the deadliest fishing gear, even before becoming ghost netting. There have been many tests to determine how to minimize the deleterious affects of these nets while in use—like colored/illuminated nets to deter turtles (Wang et al, 2010), acoustic pingers to deter porpoises (Kraus et al, 1997), and magnetic fields to deter sharks (Wang et al, 2010) in gillnets and the turtle excluder device (TED) to deter turtles in trawlers—but the biggest threat comes after they've run their course and are no longer useful to the fishing industry. Often, nets will be used until they fall apart, become entangled with an underwater structure (usually a coral reef), or capture a haul too large to be brought aboard. In these cases, the nets are cut loose and discarded in the ocean to prevent capsizing. Then there's nothing to do, but locate the discarded ghost nets, often pinpointed by the birds circling the decaying flesh of other animals (as astutely pointed out by Herman Melville in Moby-Dick), and haul them in. But, what becomes of these ghost nets once they're recovered from the oceans? One of three things. They are either thrown away in landfill or recycled since they're constructed from high quality plastics, incinerated to produce energy, or turned into yarn, carpet tiles, and consumer products by a few select companies, Planet Love Life being chief among them.

Societal Implications:

  • At the time of publication, Planet Love Life is partnering with seven different organizations all with the goal to help heal the oceans: Sea Shepard, EarthEcho International, Stow It Don't Throw It Project, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, Bruckner Chase Ocean Positive, Restore America's Estuaries, and Sharks4Kids. Even as a small mom and pop operation, PLL is doing their part to bolster the local community with 20% of proceeds directly benefiting each partner organization, and more are being added all the time. The rest of the proceeds directly benefit ocean and beach cleanup efforts organized by PLL and others. With only four staff members and an in-home opperation (literally—they do this all out of their house), you can rest assured 100% of your purchase is going to the organizations and efforts that are most effective at battling ocean pollution.
  • Their brand and products represent a passion for the environment. So if you want to join the movement and help start conversations about being part of the solution to clean beaches and healthy oceans, Planet Love Life is the way to go.  

2. Terra Natural Designs

Sustainable; renewable; natural; stunning; a family-run company founded in 2008, TND is your eco-friendly alternative to traditional fashion accessories. By using naturally-occurring materials, their creations connect you with a sustainable lifestyle and with artisans and communities in the Amazon, where each piece is produced by hand. Their jewelry is made from seeds and nuts and supports the preservation and replanting of the Amazon Rainforest by raising the economic value of the palm trees on which these seeds grow. Their jewelry line consists of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pendants, and rings, but they also produce other accessory items such as totes, purses, and backpacks, scarves, dreamcatchers, belts, hats, and hair accessories. 

As a company, TND has a special commitment to protect the 400 distinct indigenous communities that depend on the Amazon Rainforest for their physical and cultural survival, and in turn, the rainforest they defend. TND helps and empowers indigenous women to create a future for themselves, their children, and their communities through meaningful work with a sustainable network of important clients. This economic activity allows them to give continuity to their lifestyle and culture without having to sell their land or get job opportunities outside their communities.

By supporting Terra Natural Designs you will be assisting the preservation of the Kechwa, Chuar, and Achuar cultures, all of which are indigenous communities in South America. Crafting jewelry and accessories with sustainable materials is an art form they have developed over hundreds of years. Each purchase supports TND's mission of social justice and conscious consumption integration by creating opportunities for indigenous cultures in South America to preserve and practice their traditional crafts.

Why This Cause

Planetary Implications:

  • Rainforests help regulate global climate, the Amazon specifically as it's larger in area than the contiguous United States (2,959,064.44 mi² or 7,663,941.7 km²). The Amazon is home to one-third of Earth's plant and animal species and houses one-fifth of the Earth's fresh water. More importantly, the Amazon Rainforest produces more than 20% of all oxygen on Earth. But each year, an area equivalent to that of New Jersey (8,723 mi² or 22,592 km²) is razed to make room for large-scale agriculture or cattle-ranching—both of which are highly destructive practices from a soil health perspective, regardless of the fact that deforestation contributes 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (released from trees during the cutting and burning stages) to the atmosphere every year.
  • Since 1978, over 750,000 km² (289,000 mi²) of the Amazon has been destroyed across Brazil (which houses two-thirds of the Amazon Rainforest), Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana. Vast areas of the Amazon were felled during the mid-2000s for cattle pasture and soy farms, flooded for dams, exhumed for minerals, and flattened for colonization projects. Concurrent proliferation of roads opened previously inaccessible areas of rainforest to settlement by poor farmers, illegal logging, and land speculators.
  • Since 2004, the annual forest loss in Brazil has declined by nearly 80% (Hansen et al, Global Forest Watch, 2013). Pressure from environmentalists, private and public sector investment and initiatives, and macroeconomic trends are among the list of saving graces. Sadly, this positive trend in Brazil is not mirrored in other Amazonian countries—many of which have experienced rising deforestation since the turn of the century. But through alternate income initiatives, like supporting sustainable uses of native Amazonian plants, the very trees that developers want to fell, now have very real economic implications. Instead of burning palm fronds they are now burning dollar bills and that has infinitely more power to make governments squirm.

Societal Implications:

  • In South America, living on $4 per day is considered living in poverty and 46-53% of the population in Guyana and Suriname live on less than that (Rebecca Felcon, The Borgen Project, 2014). This means, the average household in the Amazon Basin has a yearly income of only $1,460—that's equivalent to the monthly rent of an average, one-bedroom apartment in a no frills part of town in the United States. Additionally, 50% of the world's extreme poor are womyn. Now that may not seem like a sexist statistic, but keeping in mind that 44% of the global extreme poor are children, particularly girls, then it's no surprise when these children grow up that the gender gap in poverty widens further to a ratio of every 1.22 womyn to every man for people between the ages of 25 and 34. Unexplained gender differences disproportionately affect girls and womyn up to age 30. These differences, called the poverty penalty, account for 5 million (5,000,000) more womyn than men living in extreme poverty all over the world (Boudet et al, Poverty and Equity Global Practice & Gender Global Theme, 2018), but Terra Natural Designs is doing their part to eradicate the gap. By directly employing and involving local womyn in their design and business management processes, TND returns their profits to the womyn who make them possible, helping lift Amazonian womyn and their dependents out of the poverty that plagues them. By purchasing TND you are helping pave the way to a rosier future for the artisans and their communities.

3. Xtra Credz

Xtra Cred Earrings - recycled gift cards repurposed to unique jewelry
Xtra Cred offers unique earrings repurposed / recycled out of used gift cards. Enjoy whimsical, light-weight, unusual dangly earrings? Me too! Click now!

Ever get a gift card that was just too stinking cute you couldn't let it get pitched? I did. And then I got another—and another—and pretty soon I had a small arm of empty, but cute, gift cards collecting dust on my desk. Enter, Xtra Credz. XC is a one-wommon show repurposing gift cards into light-weight, whimsical jewelry since 2015. Though her inventory is limited to earrings at the moment (she has carried bracelets in the past and is experimenting with watches currently), she has three different themes and six different shapes you can choose from. Based in Denver, Colorado, she even accepts gift card donations. So if you, like me, have a pile of gift cards hanging out with some dust bunnies in a dark corner somewhere, consider giving them a second life (and keeping them out of the landfill) by donating them to Xtra Credz. (For an address to send donations, please message Xtra Credz Earrings via Facebook). Who knows, maybe you'll even recognize them dangling from somebody's ears someday.

Why This Cause

Planetary Implications:

  • Mass production of plastic, which began just 60 years ago, has accelerated so rapidly 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have already been produced—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. Of that 8.3 billion, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste—only 9% of which has been recycled to date. Of the remaining 91%, 12% has been incinerated, the majority (79%) accumulating in landfills or sloughing off as litter into the natural environment (Laura Parker, National Geographic: Planet or Plastic, 2018). This poses serious concerns for the environment and animals as plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade (NOT biodegrade—this is a very important difference as only one involves naturally-occurring bacteria and live organisms and reduces the substance to null, and it's not degrade), so most of it still exists in some form to this day. If present trends continue, and there's no reason to think they won't, by 2050, there will be 12 billion (that's nine zeros, people) metric tons of plastic in landfills (Laura Parker, National Geographic: Planet or Plastic, 2018). That's 35,000 times the weight of the Empire State Building, a 448.7 meter-tall (1,472 ft) behemoth made from 60,000 tons of steel, 200,000 cubic feet of limestone and granite, 730 tons of aluminum and stainless steel, and 10 million bricks.
  • In addition to the physical harm caused by the break down of plastic into smaller and smaller microplastics that get ingested by animals, choke waterways, and clog manmade arteries (like sewer systems), there is also the chemical harm caused by degrading plastics. Plastic is made of long polymer chains of carbon molecules, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Methane gas—the molecule in cow farts you're always hearing about—is 80 times more powerful than CO2 when it comes to causing climate change. CO2 gas is more commonly produced in the burning of gas, oil, wood, and plastics. These chemicals are leached into the environment when plastic is left to degrade and not disposed of properly, contributing to global climate change. To prevent this, plastics should be recycled or avoided entirely, and those that already exist should be reused and repurposed into, say, functional statement pieces.

Societal Implications:

  • It's always a good idea to support small business and it doesn't get much smaller than one person. Supporting small business shows you care about your local community and the local communities of others and prioritize supporting local economies; it shows respect to the business owners—after all, there is tremendous risk and many challenges inherent in starting something from the ground up and many small business owners (SBOs) don't have the funds to go big or go home. When you buy local, you are respecting the SBOs getting out there everyday and trying their best to make an honest living against all the name brand competition; you'll be helping bring character to the cookie cutter commercial world of War-Mart and Macy's; you'll get unique products, and let's be honest, those always make the best gifts and keepsakes, added utility a plus. Small businesses always want the best final result, not just your money, and are usually there because they genuinely love what they do, not just making a buck and keeping their shareholders fat and happy. Your purchases help bolster the local economy and provide jobs and income to people who might not be suited to the "normal" nine-to-five jobs. Small businesses offer expert craftsmanship and expert advice—not to mention better customer service. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

4. 4Ocean

4ocean is Actively Cleaning our Oceans and Coastlines
4ocean offers bracelets made from recycled materials. Every bracelet purchased funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. Join the movement.

4ocean started with a simple surf trip to Bali taken by friends Alex and Andrew, but has since morphed into a global movement actively removing trash from the ocean and coastlines while inspiring individuals to work together for a cleaner ocean—one pound at a time. Handmade in Bali by local artisans with only post-consumer recycled materials, every bracelet purchased funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. In less than two years, 4ocean has removed 4,191,374 lbs of trash across the globe. Currently operating out of the US, Bali, and Haiti, with global cleanup sites pinpointed on their website, 4ocean employs over 150 people worldwide using local labor and managers in their international locations. They are Green Circle Certified, meaning a third-party has audited their business and approves their environmental claims, and conduct coastal and ocean cleanups—both from the surface and beneath the waves—365 days a year.

Why This Cause

Planetary Implications:

  • Each bracelet is made from one pound of recovered ocean trash: the beads are made from recycled glass and the cord is made from recycled water bottles. This gives ocean plastic a value, which 4ocean is capitalizing on to create a new economy for the removal of trash. With this funding, 4ocean is trying to cut the problem off at its source. Up to 90% of ocean plastic pollution starts on land and enters the ocean through river mouths. To combat this, 4ocean has engineered a new technology, called Ocean Plastic Recovery, that is deployed at river mouths to trap trash before it gets swept out to sea and has a chance to sink to the ocean floor, where it is much less accessible and therefore much less likely to ever be removed. As has been explained previously, plastics in the oceans is a very serious threat to marine life and can impact coastal communities that rely on fishing as their main source of income.

Societal Implications:

  • Each bracelet design donates part of the proceeds to a different nonprofit organization focusing on some area of plant, animal, or environmental conservation. The partners change every year, with 12 this year: 
    • Great Barrier Reef Foundation
    • Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project
    • Bird Life International
    • Save the Manatee
    • Conservational International
    • Project Aware
    • Florida Atlantic University Marine Research Lab
    • Earth Day Network 
    • Whale and Dolphin Conservation 
    • Coral Restoration Foundation 
    • SeaLegacy
  • In addition to supporting well-reputed organizations, poised to leave lasting positive legacies on the planet, 4ocean employs locals as vessel operators, project managers, beach-combers, on board trash sorters, and recycling plant operators.
  • Full of mountains and rivers, Haiti has 10 million people sharing as much space as the state of New Jersey, and they have no municipal trash removal. When it rains, it pours, and when it pours, all the trash in their streets are swept downstream, out to sea, and land on local (and not so local) islands as far away as South Florida, and beyond. But bigger than that, is the amount of unemployment present, especially since the devastating 2010 earthquake that left 1.5 million people homeless and without jobs. The 4ocean Haiti operation has created hundreds of jobs for Haitians within their community and is run by Ed, a born and bred Haitian trying to save his country and his countrymen. Not only does 4ocean remove the trash and make an economically viable product to bolster the local economy, they strive to educate the local populace and government on the impacts of plastic pollution on the oceans and their livelihoods.   

5. Pura Vida

Pura Vida means Pure Life in Spanish and PV emulates exactly that. With its cultural roots firmly planted in Costa Rica, pura vida is a philosophy that encourages the appreciation of the simple things in life. Slowing down, celebrating good fortune, and refusing to take anything for granted is the cornerstone of this laid back Costa Rican lifestyle. 

Started by two friends (Griffin and Paul) armed with 100 string bracelets they picked up from local artists on a graduation trip to Costa Rica, Pura Vida quickly grew into the global network it is today. Specializing in handmade unisex bracelets and rings, PV has since diversified, selling clutches and journals as well. From the very beginning, giving back has always been their core belief. Since 2010, PV has partnered with over 175 different charities around the world through the creation of their Charity Collection. Supporting causes ranging from animal, cancer, mental health, and disease/conditions awareness, to education & children's causes, enviro-causes, memorial & military causes, LGBTQ+ causes, and womyn's causes, the Charity Collection is where you go to make a difference (10% of net profits for each charity bracelet is donated quarterly and PV provides a comprehensive and transparent breakdown of their giving on their website). And they're adding more charities all the time! Over the past eight years, PV has donated more than $1,737,190 to causes as diverse as their artists and audience.

Started with the expert craftsmanship of Costa Rican bracelet artisans Jorge and Joaquin, PV has since branched out to source their artisans from Costa Rica to El Salvador, India, and further afield. From their very first encounter with Jorge and Joaquin, founders Griffin and Paul wanted to help provide steady work to poverty-stricken communities. Now 650+ artisans around the world can depend on steady income in positive working environments, all thanks to your support!

Why This Cause

Planetary Implications:

  • At the time of publication, Pura Vida's Charity Collection includes bracelets that donate to the following planetary causes (though there have been more causes in the past): 
    • Oceanic Preservation Society
    • Sea Turtle Conservancy
    • 1% for the Planet
    • Pandas International
    • Karma Cat + Zen Dog Rescue Society 
    • Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.) 
  • Ten percent of the sales of each bracelet goes directly to the organization to fund their conservation work and support their collective mission to make the Earth a healthier home for all her inhabitants great and small.

Societal Implications:

  • Like many of the other companies on this list, Pura Vida employs artisans from communities where poverty runs rampant. Through their fair and equal wages and working conditions, PV is helping to lift these communities out of poverty and provide for their futures. Additionally, PV supports charities like: 
    • Kinship Center
    • Autism Society 
    • Mental health associations like MHA, ADAA, BDSA, and AFA 
    • National Down Syndrome Society
    • San Diego LGBT Pride
  • These causes champion those of us that have been marginalized and pushed to the edges of society. By purchasing a bracelet that supports any one of these causes you are helping fund their work and support their missions.

6. Tree Lyfe

Tree Lyfe
1 tree is planted for every item sold as a reminder that like a tree every single day we grow smarter, stronger, and wiser.

Tree Lyfe wants to empower us all to invest in our personal growth and reminds us to always trust the process of our journey. Like a great, sturdy oak, we all start off as seedlings, and it takes us time, effort, and endurance before we can flourish into a thriving tree. Selling both men and womyn's bracelets that remind us of just this, Tree Lyfe goes a step further in embodying the Tree Lyfe mindset by actually planting one tree for every item sold.  

To accomplish this, Tree Lyfe partners with Eden Reforestation Projects, a certified 501c3 non-profit I-NGO, to help reforest Haiti, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Nepal. What's special about Eden Projects is that they save the planet while simultaneously doing their part to reduce extreme poverty in the most severely effected communities by employing locals to plant, nurture, and protect their (native) trees. Since their inception in 2004, Eden Projects has employed 3,500 village workers across their six partner countries and in just thirteen years, have been able to plant over 200,000,000 (200 million) trees! That's well over 15 million new trees planted, each year!

Why This Cause

Planetary Implications:

  • You don't have to be a hippie treehugger to know more is better when it comes to trees. As aforementioned, forests are important for regulating the Earth's climate. But did you know a single tree is capable of absorbing as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year!? Not only that, a single tree will sequester (completely remove from the environment) 1 ton of CO2 (that's 2,204.6 pounds! Which is equivalent to two whole grand pianos, and if you've ever tried to move a grand piano... well, you know.) by the time it reaches 40-years-old. As of August 26th, 2018, the oldest living tree on Earth was 5,067-years-old. The second oldest tree (that can be reliably dated) is the 4,500-year-old Sarv-e Abarkuh in the Yazd Province of Iran (it's highly protected and well cared for by the government). Together, these two trees are 9,567-years-old and have completely removed 239.2 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in their lifetimes—and that's just two trees! Trees are some of the longest living life forms on the planet, with shorter-lived species like the palm still living for at least 50 years. That's still enough time to sequester 2,755.75 pounds of carbon dioxide before dying and slowly releasing that carbon back to the environment in a natural process that helps enrich the soil and feed other plants and animals. Cue, "Circle of Life."

Societal Implications:

  • Eden Projects works solely with locals that call the replanting area home. In this way, EP is able to create stewards of the Earth that they can be assured will foster the growth of the new trees, while providing fair wage employment to impoverished communities using their “employ to plant methodology.” In Madagascar, that supports locals in the Malagasy area and the communities surrounding Mariano National Park. In Nepal, that includes communities in three distinct regions: the mountainous region of Nawalparasi, the grasslands of Jhapa, and a partnership with those closest to the World Heritage Site Chitwan National Park. As an island nation, the Indonesian communities are impacted a bit differently. Currently, there are five restoration sites, and thus five distinct communities, employed on the Island of Biak. In 2019, EP’s work in Indonesia will expand to include communities on Yapan Island and the mainland of New Guinea. In Mozambique, costal restoration efforts involve the locals of Morangobe and Maputo. For the Haitian restoration efforts, the communities of Cap Haitian in the north are employed in mangrove restoration projects all along the coast. In each location, the local community is taught how to live in concert with nature, and how a healthy, natural habitat can provide for them, their families, and their way of life. The EP way is a wholistic, stewardship-based approach to not only gainfully employ impoverished communities, but instill in their inhabitants a way of life that will support themselves long after restoration projects are completed.

With these companies in mind, I hope you use your next opportunity to buy you, or someone you know, a gift as an opportunity to make the world a better place.

Happy shopping!

If you liked what you read and would like to be part of the solution, please consider leaving a tip. All money raised through tips this week will be donated to The Ocean Conservancy. The Ocean Conservancy champions science-based solutions that tackle the largest ocean conservation challenges, strengthening the health of the ocean for future generations.

Alana Boyles
Alana Boyles

A lifelong aspiring writer with a Master's Degree in Marine Biology & Ecology, her passions include music, traveling, and environmentalism, as is reflected in the pieces she writes. Follow her IG @alanalb93 and @the_vagabond_volunteer.

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