If you are trying to travel as ecologically as possible, it makes sense to buy only sustainable souvenirs along the way. Watch out for locally made souvenirs and try and buy them directly from the local artisans, as this is always much more fun. Seeing them working on the gift you have just bought makes the gift extra special. The best hunting grounds for this type of gift include the local street markets and craft workshops.
It is really good if you buy souvenirs and gifts that are locally made as this supports the local economy – a look at the ‘made in X’ label will reveal all! Local handicrafts are particularly special as they cannot be bought anywhere else. If the country you are visiting produces spices, teas or coffees, these all make good buys and other foodie gifts such as local honey, cheese, conserves and wine are all great gift ideas too.
* If you are traveling with a cabin bag only do check the regulations carefully regarding liquid and foodstuffs.
There are some types of souvenirs that should definitely be avoided:-
Plants and animals including rare woods
A variety of pretty souvenirs including jewelry are made using shells and animal bones. Even though the trade in ivory is illegal you will still find items made with ivory, turtle shell, and real feathers as well as real fur. All of these should be avoided because if demand drops so will the killing of the animals. Rare woods are also not a good purchase nor are gifts using rare flowers and endangered plants.
It is essential that the message to local manufacturers is loud and clear – stop killing animals because nobody wants to buy the souvenirs you are producing.
Avoid any souvenirs made with plastic
The world was given a rude awakening by the recent David Attenborough documentary ‘Blue Planet’ which revealed the scale of damage being caused to our oceans by plastic rubbish. Cheap and fun though plastic fridge magnets and fashion jewelry plus other such knick-knacks should be avoided because they are not going to be made locally and plastic is certainly not an eco-friendly natural material.
The most important point is not to buy gifts and souvenirs impulsively, but to spend time thinking about their origins and what materials were used to make them. A great alternative gift to give the folk back home is a collection of artistic photographs taken during your travels…
Clever gift wrapping…
Get ecological with your gift wrapping too! Don’t use paper but have a go at the Japanese art of Furoshiki- wrapping gifts in fabric. Once the gift has been unwrapped, the piece of material can be used as a scarf, table mat, etc.
1. Treat everyone to some bamboo
Travel essentials made from bamboo are not just a good investment for your own use but make a novel gift for friends and relatives who like to travel too. Bamboo cutlery is light and comes in a travel wallet and is so much nicer than single-use plastic. Bamboo toothbrushes are great as they can easily be re-cycled and are often sold with charcoal teeth cleaning powder – don’t worry though, it doesn’t taste like you’ve swallowed the barbie as most are flavored with mint!
Everyone who tries bamboo socks thinks they are great! They are not cheap, but having said that, they are so kind to your feet as they are soft and comfortable. They also manage moisture so your feet stay cooler and fresher for longer. They are a great gift idea as they come in some colourful fun designs. If you feel like treating yourself to something extra special, a bamboo watch would fit the bill perfectly!
2. Pamper yourself with solid shampoo and conditioner
These are great ideas for your own travel luggage as they take up little room and they also make an unusual gift for family members who only want the best for their hair! Solid shampoo and conditioners are only made from natural materials and are really good for your hair and help keep it well-nourished. They are not presented in plastic bottles – good grief no- but in attractive recycled packaging.
3. Do your bit to save the oceans
Watch out for organic sun protection lotion which is just beginning to appear in really good supermarkets and shops selling natural body products. Along with trying to reduce the huge amount of plastic in the oceans, it is vital that chemicals are prevented from getting into them too. These sun lotions are totally organic and contain no chemicals whatsoever. They are very good at protecting the skin from both UVA and UVB and because they are totally natural, they are ideal for sensitive skin too.
4. Treat your pals to a collapsing drink cups!
There has been plenty in the international press in recent months about the obscene amount of rubbish created by the disposal of single-use coffee mugs. Whilst you are on your travels, look out for really well designed collapsing drink cups made from sustainable materials as these will go down a storm with friends and work colleagues! There are many different designs on the market, but the best are those that collapse into a flat shape that can be slipped in their protective sleeve and popped into a pocket – ready for the next offer of a cup of coffee, tea or cool beer!
5. Buy some extra shopping room!
If you are looking for some fun souvenirs that are practical too, there are some great folding shopping bags on the market! Many are made totally from recycled material and sacking and are cleverly designed so that they fold into their own integral carry pouch. They are available in a spectrum of colors and designs and are relatively cheap and cheerful- but oh so useful to always have in hand! If you are buying several, another bonus is that they are light and easy to pack!
6. Invest in some eco footwear!
Why not make a stylish fashion statement with some snazzy footwear? Tropic Feel shoes are lightweight and sturdy so are ideal for your holiday as they can be used for walking, trekking and swimming- with the huge bonus that they dry very quickly. They are actually made from recycled bottles and a portion of the sales money is donated to wildlife protection organisations.
Look out for Planet flip flops as these are made in Brazil from natural rubber harvested from rubber trees so are very eco-friendly. There are some great colours to choose from and they are a fun gift idea too.
7. Look out for unusual notepads
Everyone likes to receive an attractive new notepad as a gift and there are certainly some unusual ones on the market that are very eco-friendly! A number of different companies worldwide are now making notepads and other stationery from recycled paper and consumer waste. If you want to take things a step further, Poopoopaper is a company in Toronto that makes sustainable and chemical free paper from dung collected from elephants, cows, horses, donkeys and buffaloes – now that makes an unforgettable gift!
8. Don some sustainable shades!
These might well be a souvenir ‘to you from you with love’, but you deserve to look cool as you travel! There are several brands of sustainable sunglasses on the market, with the leaders being ‘Proof’. The sunglasses are made from FSC certified wood and cotton-based acetate. If you do buy a pair from ‘Proof’ the company pays 12% of its annual profit to charitable projects working in poorer countries.
9. Invest in a solar powered charger
This is a definite ‘must have’ as it is the ideal and totally free way to efficiently charge mobile phones- and more as many models have triple USB ports. You will find the charger so useful whilst you are away and a really practical gift for your nearest and dearest as it uses not electricty. Most models are waterproof and foldable with a smart protective case.
10. Search for a good vegetarian cook book
Eating less meat is one of the best ways to help the environment. The combination of deforestation to make way for grazing land plus the methane emissions from livestock and fertilisers causes more damage than all the transport in the world – including aircraft. Everyone is urged to switch to a plant-based diet and eat meat just a couple of times a
week. The mainly vegetarian diet eaten in Crete which is high in vegetables, pulses, and olive oil is regarded as one of the healthiest in the world. Spend time browsing the bookshelves in good book shops to find the perfect vegetarian cookbook.