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How to get sustainable souvenirs

Sustainable souvenirs - What you should consider when bringing back from vacation

Is there actually sustainable souvenirs? And what do you have to bear in mind when buying souvenirs from your vacation? As the trade in cheaply produced or simply illegal souvenirs is an environmentally destructive business worth billions, it makes a lot of sense to look into this before your next vacation and also to educate other people about it.

In this article, I would like to show you to what extent buying souvenirs exacerbates environmental problems and how you can bring home meaningful and truly sustainable souvenirs from your vacation.

Tip: If you would like more tips about sustainable travel want to get, just look at the linked post.

To what extent can souvenirs harm the environment?

Whether it's shirts or pins that say "I love my destination" or a little ivory necklace -. Vacation souvenirs can cause environmental problems in many different ways. as inconspicuous as they may seem at first glance. I would first like to give you a brief insight here.

  • Species extinction and animal suffering: For example, jewelry, shells or combs made from the tortoise shell of sea turtles, tiger wine made from tiger bones or the illegal export of live birds of prey as "vacation souvenirs". According to the Customs Criminal Investigation Office, around 580,000 protected plant or animal species or goods made from them were confiscated in 2015.₁
  • Waste of resources: An enormous amount of material is wasted in order to produce cheap tourist souvenirs. For example, to produce pendants, magnetic signs or shirts with city names. In addition, they are often produced in low-wage countries and flown and shipped around the world.
  • Waste production: At first, many souvenirs may seem useful - but as soon as you get home, they end up in a drawer or even in the bin. In the spirit of Zero Waste Lifestyle is absolutely not.
  • Demand determines supply: Anyone who buys souvenirs ensures that they continue to be offered. In the case of environmentally harmful or illegal souvenirs in combination with the Mass tourism is of course no different - regardless of whether you bought them consciously or unconsciously.

As vacationers, we may be partly responsible for illegal activities at our destination. That's why we should always question what we bring home from a trip when buying souvenirs.

What to look for when buying souvenirs

What to look for in sustainable souvenirs

Whether as a nice souvenir of your travel experiences or as a small gift for friends and family - I can understand that you don't want to come back from vacation empty-handed. But if you want to reconcile souvenirs and a sustainable life, you should question them. Here are some tips on buying souvenirs on vacation.

Tip: Incidentally, the targeted avoidance of waste in the form of souvenirs is also an important part of the Zero Waste Travel Tips. Take a look!

Souvenir should create positive memories

A sustainable souvenir is not a soulless knick-knack that has an ecological impact on the local environment and later sinks into a scrap drawer or yellow bag. It is something special and something that connects you with the experiences you have had on your trip. When you look at it at home, it should bring back memories even years after your vacation. Handmade pottery or a unique and locally painted mural that you can roll up and take with you? Avoid cheap and meaningless knick-knacks.

Prefer local, handmade souvenirs

How about essential oils made from frankincense, for example? Or handmade bowls made from FSC-certified wood or used coconuts? Try to talk to the traders and find out more about the production process. A tourist hat with "Made in China" written inside - which is sold in South Africa - is nothing local and nothing personal. I find postcards very personal - and also very charming in our digital age. They are a great way to capture memories.

Protecting animals and ecosystems

Lasse Sand, shells and especially animals where they live. Don't come up with strange ideas that will get you into trouble at customs at the latest. Do without Furs made of panda fur, medicine on tiger bones, carvings of whale bones and pendants with jaguar teeth.

Cruelty to animals report If you notice abuses or observe illegal animal trading, you can report it to the report to PETA. In the article about animal welfare organizations I'll introduce you to PETA and other recommended places to go.

Observe prohibitions

In Egypt, for example, there is a strict ban on the export of cultural treasures. Make sure you find out before or during your trip which souvenirs you are allowed to export according to Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora CITES what you can and cannot take with you. Apart from the fact that you should not bring live souvenirs such as snakes and turtles or parts of animals, such as ivory necklaces, with you anyway, this is also prohibited in many countries around the world. Heavy fines and long prison sentences may await you.

Tip: Use the WWF Souvenir Guide to find out which souvenirs are environmentally friendly and which ones you should steer clear of.

Sustainable souvenirs protect the environment and create memories

Sustainable Souvenirs Tips

And what if I can't find any suitable, sustainable souvenirs on vacation? Yes, then no one will blame you if you haven't brought any superfluous nonsense with you for this reason 😉

Souvenirs should not be some cheap knick-knack that you bring home from your vacation. Above all, they should not cause animal suffering or any other form of serious environmental damage. A truly sustainable souvenir creates memories of unique experiences at your destination or gives your friends at home a taste of local life.

Do you have questions about the sustainable use of souvenirs or your own experiences that you want to share? Then just write a comment below this article.

Stay clean,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Feel free to take a look at the Nature Travel Blog - There you can find out, for example, why you should should collect garbage on vacation and how easy it is to implement.


₁ WWF (2016): Cobras, corals and caviar - tourists and the illegal species trade, available at [12.03.2020].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, as I receive a small share of the proceeds - and of course nothing changes in the product price. Many thanks for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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