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Why is Tagua (Vegetable Ivory) Eco-Friendly?

Friday, September 5th, 2008

What is eco-friendly?

Over the last several years Eco-friendly and ‘green’ have become marketing departments’ favorite buzzwords around the globe. Everything from cars to houses is being marketed as good for the environment. All the while a simple fact remains true: consuming nothing is always more environmentally friendly than consuming something, even eco-friendly.

However, recognizing that it is in most peoples’ nature to sometimes induldge and buy stuff it is important to be selective about what you buy. Items which are eco-friendly are supposed to leave a smaller footprin, or even better – no footprint at all, on the environment. This  is somewhat difficult to gauge only based on what the marketing department serves up, because anyone can call their products or services ‘eco-friendly’. In most countries there is no regulatory requirement or criteria which a product or service has to meet  to be called eco-friendly. Therefore an ‘eco-friendly toxic waste dump’ may be an oxymoron, but legally not out of creative reach of advertising copywriters everywhere.

As a result of this, it has become increasingly important for consumers (and companies) to ask question and examine these eco-friendly claims before they purchase a product or service. There are three angles to take when looking at products or services:

  1. What if it did not exist:Although not always practical, such as in ‘what if electricity didn’t exist’, it is sometimes worthwhile to judge a product solely on its negative (or positive) effect on the environment. What sort of environmental impact does the product have.
  2. Can it be more eco-friendly:Unless you are a materials engineer or scientist it may be difficult to judge eco-friendliness of how a product is sourced, made, shipped and disposed. This being said, there are generally common sense questions that you can ask such as:
    • Was ‘green energy’ used in production and delivery of the product
    • Were recycled materials used Were raw materials collected/extracted in sustainable manner
    • How is post-production waste handled
    • How is disposal of the product handled (some manufacturers offer eco-friendly disposal of their products for free)
  3. How does it compare to other products in its class:If there is a large market for a product class, chances are that there will be a multitude of manufacturers vying for your consumer dollars (e.g. automobiles). Hopefully at least some of these companies will leverage eco-friendliness of their brand or product as a competitive advantage. They will point out why it is more eco-friendly than the ‘other guys’ and will provide reasons how or why their particular product or service is more eco-friendly. Although you should be cautious with respect to these claims, it is safe to say that if a company has no environmental agenda at all, it is not on their priority list.

Why does it matter?

As Environmental Science gains momentum, we are becoming more and more aware of the impact we have on the Earth. A number of environmental issues such as global warming, rainforest clearcutting, water polution, etc. have bubbled up to the top of many people’s consciousnes and are becoming increasingly important on the political stage as well. The reason for this, and we hope it is not just a fad, is the tremendous impact we have on the planet.

Without going too deep into environmental arguments, it is safe to say that our record has been pretty dismal. There are some, including us, who believe that if we do not change our ways we will  push the environment off the proverbial brink.

Whether it is the full blown Armageddon or less apparent issues such as specie extinction, lack of drinking water in the 3rd world countries, rising ocean levels, etc. it is important for us to act before it is too late. We must understand that we are a part of this fragile eco-system which we have been abusing for many centuries. Not just is our impact accellerating due to increased industrialization, but it is also becoming more global. It is no longer oil spills, or localized clearcutting that are our biggest headaches; it is rising ocean temperatures, droughts across vast regions and floods across others that we have to contend with.  It is therefore imperative that we do something to change our behaviour.

Unless you are the real-life emobdiment of Dr. Evil, there is something on this planet that you care about and is worth saving to you. Whether it is your family, the view from a mountain, the cute bunnies you saw in the park last week or simply access to drinking water is up to you  to decide,  but remember that our existance and existance of many other species is at stake. This is why it matters.

What can I do?

It is quite simple:

  • Educate yourself and those around you.
  • Use critical reasoning to separate marketing-speak from real facts and issues
  • Start small and turn it into something big: it is very difficult for most of us to cut the power lines, sell the car and start growing our own food in home-made composted soil. But you can make choices which are environmentally friendly and over time adjust your lifestyle.
  • Make it a goal. As with anything else that you hope to achieve environmentalism has to be one of your goals and we think a priority.
  • Put your money where your future is. Be ready to pay more for environmentally friendly products. Eco-friendly products often cost more because the price includes the cost of eco-friendly sourcing, production, shipping and increasingly disposal.
  • Demand more from producers. Make sure that they are aware that environment is one of your priorities.

Where Can I buy Eco-Friendly Tagua (Vegetable Ivory) Jewelry?

There are a number of on-line and brick and mortar stores where you can buy eco-friendly vegetable jewelry:

On-line Eco-friendly Jewelry Store:

Bricks and Mortar stores:

To Be added

What is Tagua (vegetable ivory)?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008


Tagua (”tah-gwa”), also called ‘ivory nut’ or ‘vegetable ivory’, are primarily the dried seedpod of the Tagua Palm tree (Phytelephas macrocarpa) which grows in tropical rainforests of South America.

Family: Palmae

Division: Magnoliophyta comprising flowering plants that produce seeds enclosed in an ovary; in some systems considered a class (Angiospermae) and in others a division (Magnoliophyta or Anthophyta)

Botanical name: Phytelephas Macrocarpa Palmae

There are several species of tagua (tä´gwä) (Tah gwa) palms. In average it is a small understory tree of 20 to 30 feet that grows in damp areas of moist tropical forests of South America. The tree produces a vegetable ivory nut called Tagua nut. The Tagua nuts grow in large armoured clusters with each cluster containing many nuts.  They range in size but on average each Tagua is about the size of a walnut. Chemically they are pure cellulose and before the nut matures contain a milky liquid in the centre. When ripe the nuts fall to the ground and are gathered and dried from four to eight weeks after which they become extremely hard.

Forest animals such as agoutis and squirrels eat Tagua nuts. The cellular structure and grain is similar to that of elephant or animal ivory, but is more dense and flexible (In one year a Tagua palm produces the same amount of “ivory” as one female elephant In the late eighteen hundreds up through World War II, before the invention of plastic, this ivory nut was used to make some of the finest buttons in the clothing industry. Some were even used on United States Army uniforms. Other common items such as jewelery, dice, chess pieces and cane handles were made out of Tagua nuts.  In fact, some expensive “ivory” pieces from the Victorian era were actually made from Tagua nuts.  For close to eighty years the ivory nut was a commodity of global importance and factories on three continents used to manufacture articles of utility and luxury. The creation of synthetics killed the world ivory nut market. The vegetable ivory nut has undergone a come back because of the slaughter and near extinction of various mammals that are hunted for ivory, e.g., elephants, whales, walrus and other species.

In addition to protecting animal ivory, tagua products help preserve tropical rainforests by providing a sustainable income for forest gathers. The sale of tagua products also helps forest peoples make the transition to a cash economy when they are unable to survive in a completely traditional lifestyle. The tagua nuts, however, are harvested by hand without harming the tree.

The indigenous people of South America used Tagua to represent the feminine because of its great magnet-like romantic energy. Each member of the tribe was given a Tagua pendant to wear around his or her neck. The natives believed that persons wearing Tagua would live in harmony and always be loved by their family and friends. Seedpods are peeled, sliced or carved and dyed in different colors. Tagua jewellery and watches are made from those dried and polished seedpods.

More Information About Tagua

Jewelry Made from Tagua