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Go Nuts Over Tagua Buttons

A tagua nut sure has a lot of names. Like The Rain Forest Ivory or Vegetable Ivory. Other titles are Corozo (also spelled Corrozzo), Binroji Nut (Japanese), Steinnuss (German), and Coquilla Nut. A tagua nut is the fruit of a palm tree, primarily Phytelephas macrocarpa, which flourishes in tropical rain forests from Paraguay to Panama.

Natives replant palm trees for their seeds instead of logging them, which saves a bit of the rain forests. They polish the shell of the seeds and typically carve them into the shape of a button, living creature, or beautiful jewelry. Just think: an object much like a gem with all the qualities of ivory, but without harming wildlife.

Where tagua nuts grow high up in South American palms, there are about 40 shelled seeds to a cluster, called a cabeza. Harvesting them appears totally harmless to trees and forests.

Some businesses customize tagua nuts by company contracts. Being a fraction of the cost of ivory, it’s not a hard sell. Tagua vendors can toot their horn for indirectly saving elephants, whales, walrus and other species. Humans are so fortunate to have a natural, organic, resourceful product in plentiful supply.

There are other interesting facts about tagua nuts. Twenty percent of all buttons were made of tagua nuts in the 1920’s. Ecuador continues to offer tagua buttons and enjoys a thriving tagua jewelry market too.

Stephanie Schiff is the owner of Ecobutterfly in Los Angeles. She offers buttons and beads made from tagua nuts. Check out her bamboo, sustainable wood and recycled glass items as well.

“Like all creations made from a corozo or tagua nut, each button is a little different from the next,” says Stephanie. “When it comes to color shading, the nut has swirl patterning that makes colors more varied and interesting. That especially makes these buttons so beautiful and unique.”

Be sure to stay tuned for more interesting facts about tagua. How they are naturally processed and colored is fascinating. Bring on your comments and queries.

No matter what you call this lovely ivory-something, designers have good reason to go nuts and save a little rainforest with tagua!

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Written by Delia Montgomery

I am Delia, d/b/a Chic Eco on, and established myself as an eco fashion guru by learning "who makes what in the world of environmental fashion and design."

Enjoy reading some of my freelance writing about environmental design, fashion and art -- from both consumer and supplier perspectives. You may notice I focus most on individual eco designers, movers and shakers.

From sustainable fashion apparel to paint and flooring, discoveries are a rush. I get my kicks this way. I also offer sales representation of earth-friendly designed products for wholesale buyers. Retailers may take advantage of my services with factory-direct pricing. Spend less time sourcing and prevent green-washed purchases!

My other forte is connecting suppliers with business-to-business tools. Aspects of my business vary with consulting services while I'm proud to be the aide that embraces unique and innovative gigs.

I'm originally a Kentucky Blue Grass gal who relocated to Maui early 2006 and the tropical Puna District of Big Island, Hawaii late 2007. Walk the talk is my motto here.

Early 2009 I constructed a yurt home office in a semi-urban setting on a tiny lot. My water comes from the sky, contained in a catchment that's not likely to dry in this rain forest. The electric is designed for solar conversion. I grow about 30% of my food organically, compost, and recycle to the hilt. Permaculture with a full eco system is my gardening style.

In fact, gardening is my ultimate joy. I seek gigs like design, weeding and planting between other jobs. My love is Hawai'i which has more climate zones than any state. There are frequent earthquakes here, typically under a 3.0 magnitude, and I happen to dig the vibrations. It's a wonderful simple life in paradise. As I grow older and wiser, I become more and more grateful.


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