A person looks out over a wide vista of hils and valleys.

Our Pledge to the Planet: A Message from Rio Grande’s Leadership

Protecting our environment and building resilient communities go hand-in-hand with serving jewelers. Because at Rio Grande, we believe that environmental stewardship is a social pact with future generations. In other words: Can we meet our present needs without compromising the needs of our children? Our pledge to you—and to the future generations of jewelers to come after us—is that yes, we can.

As one of the world’s largest suppliers to the jewelry industry, we recognize that Rio Grande has an outsized opportunity to help shape the world we live in. That is why we work continuously to implement and improve upon practices that decrease environmental harm while increasing the wellness of the communities we interact with.

Our business has made changes large and small going back a long time. In 1968, two decades before it became industry practice, Rio Grande eliminated harmful cadmium from the solders we sell. We devised a way to substantially reduce the investment material consumed in our casting operation. We eliminated toxic solvents from our cleaning processes. Today, we use 33% less energy to run our facilities than we did in the previous decade—despite the fact that we've continued to grow each year.

The items outlined above are just a partial list. We view environmental and social stewardship as a never-ending process filled with opportunities to make the future better than the past. It is an effort we can all participate in and benefit from together. Our commitment to you and, more importantly, to all of our children is to never waver in this effort, and to encourage others to do the same. We hope you’ll join us in working to ensure a healthy future for this planet and the creatures living on it (including jewelers).

Signature of Alan Bell

Alan Bell

President, Rio Grande

 

 
 
American Mined Collection logo and photos
Details from the American Mined Collection of gemstones by Rio Grande

Want to learn more about the lifecycle of Rio Grande’s gemstones before they become a part of your jewelry? Read our information-packed article “Gemstone Journeys: From the Mine to Your Bench.”

Mine-to-Market Gemstones

We know you and your clients want to be certain that no human suffering was involved in the acquisition and production of your gemstones. Like all U.S. businesses, we do not trade in “conflict diamonds”—gems used to finance wars or terrorism in Africa—under the purview of the international Kimberley Process. Over the decades, Rio Grande’s gemstone buyers have forged long-standing relationships with the most trusted and honorable suppliers in the industry. We visit many of the mines our gemstones come from, and we present a clear and documentable path from the mine to your bench in product lines like our American Mined™ gemstones. We also periodically visit the cutting factories that shape rough stones into our faceted gems, cabochons and beads. Along with legal documentation provided by these businesses, we personally check that our Verified Vendors Program ensures these best practices:

  • No child labor.
  • Adequate ventilation.
  • Available health care.
  • Reasonable work hours.
  • Fair wages.
  • Allowance for time off and reasonable vacation.
  • Compliance with local labor and pollution laws.
  • Adherence to import/export laws and consumer policies.
 
 

Powered by the Sun

The Rio Grande facility is 100% powered by solar energy. After all, our home city of Albuquerque, NM, is one of the sunniest places in the United States. With roughly five acres of solar panels shading our associates’ parking spots, our parking lot constituted the largest solar array in New Mexico when our panels were erected in 2010. Our solar array generates more electricity than Rio Grande uses, and we feed the surplus back into the local power grid. That makes Rio Grande a “net-zero” facility, in building speak.

Aerial view of Rio Grande's solar array
Rio Grande's five-acre solar array doubles as covered parking for our employees.
 
 
Wildlife Trafficking Alliance logo

Learn how to #BuyInformed with help from the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance.

Respecting the Wild

As long as there is consumer demand for illegal wildlife products, endangered species will continue to be illegally hunted and killed. As such, Rio Grande has always complied with U.S. laws concerning the conservation of wildlife and their habitat—we’ll never sell ivory products, for example. But that’s not all. As a supplier to the international jewelry industry, we do not carry biological products that may encourage people in third-world communities to poach wildlife that satisfies demand for a legal product. We have discontinued the sale of legal products such as farmed coral and stingray, as the consumer popularity of these items has been linked to increased poaching in the wild.

 
 

Forest-Friendly Catalogs

Both our Tools & Equipment and Gems & Findings / Display & Packaging catalogs are made from paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC), an independent authority that sets standards for good forest management. This paper goes from forest to page with verification checkpoints at every step in the supply chain—harvesters, processors, manufacturers, distributors, printers and retailers—that ensure best practices are followed. The FSC is endorsed by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Wildlife Federation.

 
 
A box filled with Rio Grande products and packaging
A typical shipment from Rio Grande includes several types of recycled and recyclable packaging.

Packaging with Purpose

We carefully layer environmentally conscientious packaging into every Rio Grande shipment. (And we recycle the excess packing materials that we don’t end up using.) Unbox an order from us and take a look for yourself!

  • Box-on-Demand Shipping Cartons

    In 2017, we began using a corrugate machine that creates custom, on-demand cardboard boxes. These corrugated boxes minimize the cubic space requirements of products shipped out in orders. The results are a marked decrease in packaging materials and cardboard (up to 263,000 square feet less of it in 2017 alone), a reduction in tedious and time-consuming labor for our associates, a snug fit that protects products better than ever during transit, and a lighter package that requires less greenhouse-gas-producing transportation fuel. It also saves you money on shipping. Plans to add a second corrugate machine are underway.
  • Recycled Void-Fill Paper

    Before your order is shipped to you, your box might be packed with “void-fill” paper to keep its contents from shifting around and getting damaged in transit. In 2017, we started using 100% recycled void-fill paper in addition to the 80% recycled newsprint void-fill we’ve used for years.
  • Better Plastics

    We work directly with a manufacturer to infuse our plastic zip-bags with a special biodegradable additive, and about 80% of the plastics used by our packing and shipping teams are made from this biodegradable material. There are also recycled materials in the heat-sealed plastics encasing many of our products. In addition, the bubble wrap we use to cushion delicate items in transit is composed of 50% recycled materials—and, after you’ve finished unboxing your order, it’s recyclable as well!
  • Recyclable Spools for Cut-to-Order Metals

    Do you know that you can recycle the black plastic housing that protects your spooled cut-to-order metals from Rio Grande? It didn’t used to be common knowledge. We now pay an extra fee to have the internationally recognized Universal Recycling Symbol stamped onto our spools, so that every jeweler can recycle their spent spools correctly and with confidence.
 
 

Managing Our Waste Stream

Manufacturing and distribution facilities like Rio Grande's can leave a large footprint on the environment in the form of landfills. It takes a little more time, but our associates go the extra mile to identify and divert salvageable materials away from the trash. We also use recycled and biodegradable products when possible, keeping those materials from clogging up landfills.

  • Plastics and Paper

    Every year, we recycle about 50 pounds of plastic bottles generated by our associates. And we recycle tons (literally!) of paper products each month: In an average year, we recycle more than 200,000 pounds of corrugated cardboard boxes and paper.
  • Scrap Metal

    We recycle the thousands of pounds of metal scraps—from precious metals to steel, aluminum and copper—that result from cutting your fabrication metals to order or manufacturing products like Neutec machines. (We also recycle aluminum cans collected from our associates.)
  • Tools

    Some items can’t easily be recycled, but they can get a second life in the hands of people who need them. Each month, we receive tools and supplies that have been returned with slight wear, preventing them from being resold. Rather than throwing away these items because they’re not as beautiful as they once were, we find good homes for them.

    Thousands of lightweight, non-electric tools and supplies have made their way to the Toolbox Initiative, which outfits jewelers in West Africa. We also invite public high school and college instructors from all over New Mexico to come pick out non-resellable supplies, including dented base metal sheet and large pieces of equipment, for their classrooms.

  • Precious Metal Sweeps

    Over time, your polishing buffs and dust collectors accumulate tiny amounts of impregnated precious metal scrap (or “sweeps”). Refining individual sweeps doesn’t make economic sense: On a small scale, sweeps cost more to refine than the precious metal they contain is worth. But you can combine yours with sweeps from Rio's production and those of countless other jewelers. All of the money generated from our Sweeps for CERF+ program benefits the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, a non-profit organization that supports American craftspeople who've experienced devastating emergencies. To date, we have donated nearly $19,000.

  • (Just About) Everything Else

    We are proud to work with the University of New Mexico’s Wemagination Resource Center, which provides alternative play and discovery materials for children. Every few months, we load up the Wemagination van with pile after pile of unsellable goods, including used or rejected jewelry boxes, linen bags, 5-gallon buckets and white plastic spools. Instead of these items landing in a dumpster, parents and teachers use these and other materials for play and learning development.

Toolbox Initiative logo with photos of a West African jeweler at work
The Toolbox Initiative finds new homes in West Africa for donated jewelry-making tools and supplies.
Sweeps for CERF+ logo with a photo of gold filings on a vise
Sweeps for CERF+ pools small quantities of precious metal sweeps together to benefit the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.

The Ripple Effect: What’s Next?

Do you see potential for environmental improvement in your Rio Grande package? Is there a particular recycled or renewable product that you wish we carried? Please call us at 800.545.6566 or email [email protected] and let us know what’s on your mind. You’ve got great ideas, and we’d love to hear them!

Widening ripples in a lake