If you’re planning to go on vacation soon and want to bring some souvenirs home to commemorate your trip, make sure that you buy local, sustainable souvenirs. This might seem obvious, but if you don’t know where to look or what to look for, you might find yourself in a tough situation. For example, you could go to the Mayan ruins and find souvenirs made of plastic from China. You could also go to Switzerland and find souvenirs made by sweatshops in Taiwan. You could even go to New England and find artificial maple syrup made, not with the stuff that comes from trees, but with sugar made in a factory. If you’re going to remember a place with a souvenir, make sure that it’s actually made there and make sure that you’re buying something that won’t come with a huge carbon footprint or big environmental impact.
Locally produced souvenirs are the best way to go. By purchasing a souvenir in a local shop or street stand, you are doing two things. First, you are supporting the local economy. Secondly, you are buying a souvenir that didn’t travel from a far off place, racking up carbon emissions all the way. Supporting the local economy is a key factor when it comes to environmentalism, because it enables locals to earn a living wage. If locals are able to meet their basic needs, they’ll also be able to become good stewards of their local environment. Buying locally made souvenirs is also great because you can help the local culture to thrive. For example, if women in a certain region have been making wicker baskets for thousands of years and you purchase one of those baskets, you are helping that culture to continue to thrive.
Buy souvenirs made from sustainable materials. Don’t buy rare woods unless they’re certified in some way that indicates that they were harvested sustainably. Try to buy souvenirs that represent the local culture. If your vacation destination is known for something, like a certain kind of cheese or other kind of culinary delicacy, take advantage and stock up. Likewise, try to find and buy souvenirs that represent other aspects of the local culture, like its art, music, or theatre. Finally, buy souvenirs that are small and lightweight. When something is heavy and big, it takes more resources to make it and transport it, even if it’s made locally. Small, lightweight souvenirs are also great because they’re easy to take home with you, reducing the carbon footprint of your flight home.
Finding sustainable souvenirs can be easy and fun. EnviroCitizen.org suggests that you avoid chain corporations and stick to the streets, where local vendors operate in small shops or with street carts. You’ll be supporting the local economy and the local people, as well as the cultural heritage of the place.