You recycle, carpool to work, and have a compost pile. Perhaps now it’s time to take a look at that shiny gold wedding band on your finger, the studs in your ears, and the chain around your neck. Although the gold may sparkle, it isn’t necessarily “clean.” According to a recent report by Earthworks and Oxfam America, supporters of the “No Dirty Gold” campaign, the production of one gold ring can generate 18 tons of toxic waste.

Carol Russell, with the Environmental Protection Agency mining team, says that number is realistic. Gold is mined from open pits, where large amounts of ore are extracted, crushed, and sprayed with cyanide. After the cyanide leaches out the gold, miners often abandon the ore, leaving a toxic pile that can contaminate drinking water and land for generations to come. The United States and Australia produce the largest amounts of gold, according to Russell.

You can make a difference, and it doesn’t mean getting rid of your most precious jewelry. Instead, recycle unwanted products that contain gold and other precious metals, make sure your investments aren’t funding the problem, and let your jeweler know you are interested in where his gold comes from and the mining practices used. You can also log onto and sign the No Dirty Gold Pledge, a campaign launched last year that plans to list “clean gold” suppliers.