What are "ethical" healing crystals?
Have you seen “ethical crystals” or “ethically-sourced” in your favorite crystal shop and felt better about buying from them?
I certainly did.
When I first started collecting crystals, I went to the shops that had the most information on crystal meanings and properties. Each crystal was also labeled with the country it came from. And that was enough for me — in fact, I felt very pleased with myself for buying crystals, pursuing my spiritual development, and living my values.
Growing up on a small homestead in the Pacific Northwest, I always knew that vegetables came from our garden, eggs from the chickens in the yard and milk from our herd of goats. So it made sense for me to also wonder where my crystals came from.
So the country of origin was enough for me.
But then I started to wonder not just where my crystals were from but, "How did they get to me?"
Changing that one word made all the difference!
How did this crystal get from the Earth to my hands?
When I started asking “And how did these crystals get from the ground in that country to here?” I often didn’t get an answer. The shopkeeper would say they knew the miners or dealers personally, but couldn’t tell me any more than that. They didn’t know how the miners were treated, the working conditions, or whether the environmental impacts were mitigated. There just wasn’t enough transparency in the supply chain.
Turns out, calling a crystal “ethical” doesn’t actually mean a thing.
Ethical means “avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment.” Which is beautiful. That is what I and so many other entrepreneurs and leaders aspire to. And I know for sure that many crystal shops do have labor and environmental standards for their suppliers.
The issue is there is no industry standard for what an ethical crystal is or means.
When it comes to sustainable, fair trade, and regenerative standards there are three main categories to consider: Labor, Environment and Community.
Over 40 Million people work in artisanal and small-scale mining around the world and the ILO estimates that 1 million of those are children. While this data includes gem mining like sapphire and diamonds, precious metals like gold, and metals used in tech like tantalum, it also includes all healing crystals. The 40 million-strong workforce can include informal “artisanal mining” that consists of individuals with a shovel in their backyard, and also small-time operators with formal workforce, government regulation and international distribution networks.
Labor considerations include the health, safety and human rights for workers, the workforce earning a living wage, is it an inclusive workforce with decent work for all including all genders. Is there fair pricing and compensation for the labor and products produced? In this global pandemic, are there protections and precautions for workers to prevent the spread of disease and fear?
Crystals, like gems and metals, are mined from the earth’s surface or beneath it. They may be mined by hand, using machinery and through the use of explosives to move large amounts of material. Some crystals sold as healing crystals are by-products of larger industrial mines that primarily mine other materials. That doesn’t change the fact that the larger industrial mines are part of the pathway those crystals took to our hands. The whole supply chain must be considered. For instance, large copper mines are typically egregious environmental offenders, yet they can produce chrysocolla and pyrite. As The New Republic points out, companies aren’t required to disclose their byproducts, only the profits from them.
There are also crystal mines and factories that have great environmental practices, ranging from using all wind and solar power to recycling the water displaced and used in stone cutting, and repatriating the earth moved to extract the crystals. Regenerative practices have a place in mining — and so does transparency.
Mining, even healing crystal mining, is an extractive industry, and must take extra precaution to invest in the local community. Are children kept out of the mining workforce and supported to receive education? Does the company invest in the local economy, encourage healthy lifestyles, and follow the lead of local community organizers and leaders to identify the community priorities? A production partner like a mining operation can have an outsize influence in a small mining community. These relationships can be governed by community-based standards.
At the end of the day, I want to use amazing healing crystals. And I want those crystals to be supportive of the world I want to live in: An inclusive, cooperative, healthy and wise world.
I don’t want to use or share crystals that have been mined by children, that ruined the environment or that took advantage of a community. I want crystals that are mined with labor, environmental and community standards.
And I want to know what those standards are - and to share them with you.
Coba Crystals isn’t 100% fair trade, ethical, and sustainable — because there are no agreed-upon standards for what those classifications even mean in the crystal or mining industries. We found a different solution:
We are transparent.
We’ll share the story of every producer we use with you, along with the questions we ask to determine whether or not we’ll work with them. Because there are some fabulous producers out there doing great work, mining with the earth, her people, and their consumers in mind — and we want to share their stories too.