What Is a Sustainable Souvenir? Take Home Eco Memories


Sustainable souvenirs are pretty and environmentally friendly. Image by Morgan Pettersson.

We all love returning home with something that reminds us of our travels. It’s a great way to keep the memories of a trip alive.

But did you ever consider that your favorite souvenirs could be detrimental to the local environment? That traditional necklace might look pretty cool, until you realize that the inlay is made from turtle shell.

At home I always make sure to not purchase products that are made from palm oil, for example, as a way of sending a message that I will not back companies that support large scale deforestation in Indonesia.

The same ethical purchasing power applies when you are on holiday. By paying attention to the souvenirs your purchase, you can encourage local craftspeople to only use sustainable materials and to not stock anything that is illegal.

Below are the top ways to ensure that the souvenirs you stuff in your suitcase are eco-friendly:


Purchasing souvenirs from artisans and markets helps boost the local economy. Image by Morgan Pettersson.

Buy local.

Make sure to always purchase from local craftspeople directly. This makes it more likely that your money is going directly to the local people.

Not only are you helping the local economy, but you might learn something as well by chatting with the people who live in the area you’re visiting.

Avoid souvenirs made from plant and animal materials.

This includes shells, teeth, bones, ivory, fur, feathers, hardwoods, and any items from endangered plants and animals.

Purchasing products made from these materials sends a message to local manufactures to keep killing animals because tourists want to buy what they produce.

For more information about why you should avoid purchasing anything made from endangered plant materials or animals, check out this article from the Humane Society. 

Avoid mass-produced plastic.

Avoid mass-produced, cheap, plastic trinkets. They might be sold in local tourist shops, but most will not have been made locally and may not be made from sustainable materials.

Take a moment to think.

It’s often far too easy to purchase something in the heat of the moment.

Before spending your hard-earned cash on a souvenir, take a moment to stop and consider whether you really need it.

Can you imagine it in your house, or do you think that in a few years it will realistically end up in a box or thrown out with the garbage?

By taking the moment to stop and think, you are making sure that the souvenir you purchase is one you really want. And, most importantly, that it will not end up in a landfill later down the line.

Do your research on what’s permitted.

Another important thing to note is the entry requirements of your home country and any countries that you will pass through during your travels.

Some countries, like Australia, have very strict custom and quarantine laws about what you are and are not allowed to bring into the country. This is very likely to include anything made from plant or animal materials.

Make sure you do your research beforehand — or you might find that your new travel keepsake is taken from you when you enter another country!


Recording memories is a great alternative to buying souvenirs. Image by Morgan Pettersson.

If you want to avoid purchasing souvenirs altogether, there are still ways that you can make your memories last.

Other Ways to Remember Your Trip Forever:

1. Journal

This is a great way to record the memories of your trip. Write down your thoughts in the moment so that you can go back and re-live them.

2. Sketch/draw/paint.

This is another great way to be creative on the road whilst also recording what you see and do.

3. Carry a Polaroid camera.

Polaroid cameras are small and light and can easily be thrown into your day bag. They are the perfect way to capture a mood or a scene in a way that you can creatively display.

With most people carrying digital cameras and storing their pictures on the computer, it’s nice to have a Polaroid snapshot that you can show people and hang up in your home.

4. Purchase a book about the local history or culture where your travels take place.

5. Buy postcards, and mail them home to yourself.

Not only will you have mail waiting for you when you return home, but you can read back on what you were thinking and feeling during every special moment of your trip.

Taking home a memento from your travels doesn’t need to become a headache, and following these steps can help to ensure that your souvenir is not harming the environment.

Do you purchase souvenirs when you travel? How do you make eco-conscious decisions about keepsakes? Tell us in the comments below!


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