ASHEBORO, N.C.-Where can you see giraffes, zebras and ostrich in front of you, then walk a few hundred feet and buy a ruler made out of old "Yellow Pages," toys made out of recycled milk jugs and "shade grown/bird friendly" coffee? Answer: The Leopard Spot at the North Carolina Zoo.

There are also pencils pressed from lumber-mill shavings, T-shirts colored with Carolina red clay and trinkets carved from "elephant friendly ivory." The latter are actually made from the tagua nut. This "vegetable ivory" is sourced from a small nut grown on a palm tree in the rainforests of South America.

Purchases will be placed in a bag made of recycled plastic and treated so that it will begin to decompose in nine months instead of the decades that many plastic bags remain in our land fills.

Why do the N.C. Zoological Society gift shops--The Leopard Spot and The Wolf Bay Trader--offer these bags and products? As Zoo Society Director of Retail Hayley McWilliams explains it, "It's to meet our 2009 objective: package/promote/sell wildlife-and-eco-friendly, environmentally sustainable products that stimulate "green" behavior."

The Society shops have long offered tagua nuts and other "green" products. "We're trying to do more of our part; and we are educating ourselves too in 2009," McWilliams said.

Stationary, envelopes and lined/punched paper made out of banana "by-product" and post-consumer, recycled paper is another offering.

Colorful indoor gardening kits and sand castle molds, buckets, hand shovels and hand rakes-all made from recycled milk jugs-are offered. According to the items' San Francisco toy maker, on average, every pound of recycled milk jugs used in the making of Green Toys saves enough electricity to power a TV set for three weeks.

But don't watch TV; go back to the zoo's animal exhibits and watch the ostriches, antelope and zebras, and-soon--feed the giraffes. Or go home and do some of your own recycling.

The North Carolina Zoological Society is a private, non-profit organization that supports the North Carolina Zoo and its conservation and education initiatives. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee A. Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.