"The lungs of the world" are often said to be the rainforests of South America. But these forests do more than simply absorb carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Unbelievably packed with biodiversity, they yield renewable and sustainable treasures like Treetap and Tagua. Before the advent of plastic, the Tagua nut from special rainforest palms was a significant contributor to the world supply of garment buttons. Known as "vegetable ivory", this firm white nut was one of the early projects of the Conservation International. They developed a new international market for the buttons, selling over 75 million to the likes of the GAP and Patagonia. Read more ...Sustainably harvested by rainforest communities the program created nearly 2,000 jobs. Inspired by the success here CI moved on to other fair trade programs like coffee. The forests are still be protected through purchases of Tagua buttons like those above from Blue Moon or the almost-alive carved frogs from Panamá Artisans. For more information and other products try ::Rainforest Ivory [by WM]