Souvenir Shopping as a Conscious Consumer
Experiencing local markets and purchasing locally made souvenirs is always an exciting part of any trip. Here are some ways in which you can make sure that the items you are purchasing are sustainable and not contributing to any form of exploitation: human or animal.
1. Make a list: Think about who you want to purchase for, and what you have in mind for them. This will help you stick to a purchasing guide where not only will you save money, but also ensure that you will not end up with an excess of souvenirs. Not only does this help curb overconsumption while ensuring you have the perfect knickknacks for your loved ones, but also reduces your personal carbon emissions. Definitely a win-win!
2. Shop local: Choose local markets, local artisans, local foods and producers over imported. Not only do you get good quality products, but ensures the money is going back to the immediate community, and the environmental footprint is drastically cut because of reduced transportation.
3. Circle of life: Pay close attention to the materials with which your souvenirs are made: coral, ivory, tortoise or turtle shell, reptile skins and bone are all detrimental to purchase and contribute towards their rapid decline and extinction. Research beforehand on what materials are commonly sold in the country you are visiting that are unethically produced e.g. Luwak coffee and make the decision to avoid sanctuaries, zoos and other places that allow you to interact directly with animals, or create entertainment with them. This is because there is a high chance of animal exploitation within those facilities.
4. Leave behind more than you take: Seashells and native plants are often trafficked across continents by well-meaning tourists, but often cause havoc to their own native species. Remember- if it looks like it belongs to the earth or water in that area- leave it there. The same applies to historical artefacts unless you're taking home a replica you purchased from the gift shop.
5. Purchase things you love: Pick items that will make it onto your shelves or walls, not tossed into a drawer. This way, not only will you get pleasant flashes of nostalgia whenever you look that the souvenir, but you also made it an integral part of your life, making it a sustainable purchase that gives you your money's worth while providing communities with vital tourist income.
Where are your favourite souvenirs from?