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Buy ‘Green’ Gifts – And Edible Bugs – at Plum Creek Nature Center



Photo for: Buy ‘Green’ Gifts – And Edible Bugs – at Plum Creek Nature Center

Photo by Cindy Cain

If you’re looking for some “green” and nature-themed holiday presents this year, check out the newly revamped gift shop at Plum Creek Nature Center.

The gift shop has been updated in the past year to feature “Gifts that Give Back,” which means they come from environmentally friendly, fair trade and educational vendors.

“Plum Creek wanted to start selling items that matched the facility’s nature theme and the District’s values,” said facility supervisor Diane Carson. “We want to provide quality products, promote environmental awareness, and serve as an inspiration to others in the community.”

Items for sale include birdhouses, chimes, gloves, handbags, ornaments, bookmarks, earrings, bracelets, locally produced honey, coffee mugs and – if you’re up for a challenge – edible bugs and worms. The edible items from Hotlix come chocolate dipped or in enticing flavors such as bacon and cheese, sour cream and onions or Mexican spice.

The crunchy creatures are fun for adventure-seeking kids and adults, but they also show that people around the world do consider these items as a food source, said Jason Stevenson, facility office manager at Plum Creek.

“One teacher came to buy all of our bugs encased in amber-colored candy to use during her class on prehistoric bugs trapped in real amber,” he said.

Some of the items for sale help artisans around the world. For instance, funds from the sale of handmade bracelets from Threads of Hope are returned to the organization to help impoverished Filipino families avoid exploitation.

The bracelets range in price from $2 to $3.50, so they are a popular, affordable item with school children who visit the nature center during field trips, Stevenson said.

Many of the products help highlight Plum Creek exhibits. For instance, jars of honey complement the live honeybee hive at the visitor center. And some of the Safari Ltd. educational toys for sale at the site feature native creatures that can be found in the preserves, not lions and tigers from far off lands, Stevenson said.

The expanded gift shop is catching on, Stevenson added. “We have some people who come in regularly now to see if we have new items in. We used to spend only a couple hundred dollars restocking the gift shop, and now we spend $1,000, and we have to do that two to three times a year."

Products for sale range from under a dollar to $55 for wall hangings.

“These are the kinds of items you are not going to find at most gift shops or stores,” Stevenson said. “Most of them are handmade and unique.”

Other vendors featured at the gift shop include:

Arkansas Cane: A husband and wife team runs this Arkansas company, which produces handcarved walking sticks. They manage their property in a sustainable way to replant what is used to make their products.

Askinosie Chocolates: The Springfield, Mo.-based company’s product is 100 percent traceable from bean to chocolate bar. The company deals directly with hand-picked cocoa farms around the world, which are visited regularly. All profits go directly to the farms. Chocolate bars now in stock at Plum Creek Natue Center come from Tanzania, Ecuador, Amazonia and the Philippines.

Iroquois County Honey: Plum Creek volunteer beekeeper Mike Rusnak supplies the nature center with regionally produced honey.

Serrv: The nonprofit company is dedicated to fighting global poverty through fair trade. Plum Creek stocks a variety of unique handmade items from Serrv including jewelry, handbags, scarves, birdhouses, wind chimes, pottery and hand-painted Christmas ornaments.

Your True Nature: The company makes journals, notepads, bookmarks, magnets, etc. out of mostly recycled materials. For every 217 pounds of recycled paper the company uses, 10 tree seedlings are planted through the Trees, Water and People organization. The company’s website urges customers to, “Reduce, reuse, recycle, replant and regenerate!”

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