Sustainable Souvenirs: Guidelines for Conscious Choices

We have discussed how sustainable tourism is a responsible way of traveling that seeks to minimize the environmental and social impacts caused by mass tourism. Traveling inevitably has an environmental impact, from the flights we take to the food we eat and the activities we choose. Every decision carries consequences, and in this context, the type of souvenirs we choose to bring home with us is no exception.

Parts of animals

It is well known that some traditional medicines use products derived from wildlife, including endangered species. Countless animals are killed to produce traditional Chinese medicine, such as tiger and leopard bones, musk deer glands, antelope horns, rhinoceros horns, and bear bile.

However, it may be less known that many threatened animals (or plants) are also used to create souvenirs. When purchasing items like pendants, bracelets, amulets, bags, belts, wallets, drums, necklaces, brushes, combs, fur, and other clothing items without knowing their origin (whether they come from poaching or animal farms with poor treatment), you can unknowingly harm the environment.

When embarking on a journey to a new destination, it can be challenging to determine the species being traded and their conservation status. Consequently, when searching for souvenirs, it is advisable to refrain from acquiring items crafted from parts of animals. There are international regulations, such as the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), that protect animal species. The list of items to avoid purchasing is extensive and includes ivory products, bird beaks and feathers, snake and crocodile skins, shells, teeth, bones, corals, and seashells.


CITES, also known as the Washington Convention, is an international trade convention dedicated to safeguarding endangered species of wild fauna and flora. With 180 member states, its primary objective is to enforce stringent international trade controls for over 35,000 species of animals and plants. The convention promotes the sustainable utilization of protected plants and animals, subject to specific permits for their import and export.

CITES categorizes protected species into three appendices, each signifying a different level of protection.

Appendix I comprises species facing the threat of extinction, posing an increased risk through international trade. Trade in these species is generally prohibited, except under authorized circumstances and specific conditions. These may include pre-convention specimens (species acquired prior to their inclusion in CITES appendices, typically before 1975), animals bred in captivity, specimens intended for zoo breeding programs, or scientific purposes.

Appendix II encompasses species subjected to significant international trade. Their trade is regulated to prevent excessive exploitation. Animals, plants, and derived products listed under Appendix II can be legally traded with the requisite permits.

Species listed under Appendix III are protected in at least one country. For these species and their related products originating from these countries, the same conditions applicable to Appendix II species apply.

Through the implementation of CITES, international trade in endangered species is carefully monitored and controlled, ensuring the preservation of biodiversity and the responsible management of our natural resources.

Parts of Plants

Seeds and living plants

Even in this case CITES Certifications help regulate the trade of endangered species and provide guidelines for sustainable trade. It is important to check if the seeds or plants you are purchasing comply with these regulations and certifications.

wood souvenirs

Sustainable souvenirs made from wood are an excellent choice for environmentally conscious travelers. Wood is a versatile and renewable material when sourced responsibly. By choosing souvenirs made from sustainably harvested or reclaimed wood, you can support sustainable practices and contribute to the conservation of forests.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is an important standard for promoting sustainable forestry practices and ensuring the responsible management of forests. FSC certification provides assurance that the wood or wood-based products, including souvenirs, come from responsibly managed forests that meet strict environmental, social, and economic criteria. The FSC certification ensure these artifacts are made using wood obtained from sustainable forest management practices and controlled cultivation, which are crafted from high-quality wood sourced from fast-growing trees specifically chosen for their carving suitability, supporting income generation for forestry workers and local artisans.

Sand and stones

Taking colorful sand from the beach as free souvenirs may seem like a tempting idea, but it is important to consider the potential negative consequences. Firstly, it’s worth noting that in many places, removing sand from beaches is illegal and can result in fines or other penalties. In addiction, remove sand can have negative impacts on the environment.

Coastal erosion is a natural process intensified by rising sea levels and powerful waves, which result in the removal and displacement of sand, rocks, and even entire beaches. This phenomenon is further exacerbated by coastal flooding. Consequently, the loss or dispersion of sand contributes to the erosion of coastal areas.

While erosion is commonly attributed to storms, human activities such as sand mining have also played a role in accelerating the process. Removing sand and stones from natural environments not only disrupts ecosystems and causes habitat destruction but also amplifies the risk of erosion. The absence of sufficient sand can render coastal areas more susceptible to erosion and flooding, posing significant challenges for both natural habitats and human settlements. Furthermore, the alteration of water flow resulting from sand and stone extraction in riverbeds disrupts the delicate balance of river ecosystems, compromising the availability of suitable habitats and food sources for aquatic species.

In this case, the best way to preserve a memory of a beautiful and colorful beach is through photographs.

How and What souvenirs chose?

The best choice is purchasing locally handcrafted products: you will support the livelihoods of local artisans and contribute to the local economy. These artisans often rely on traditional techniques passed down through generations, preserving cultural heritage and craftsmanship. Moreover locally handcrafted products often employ traditional techniques that have minimal environmental impact.

When possible, choose souvenirs made from eco-friendly materials such as recycled or upcycled materials, organic fabrics, bamboo, cork, or responsibly sourced wood.

Another option is look for souvenirs that promote environmental awareness and conservation efforts. This can include educational books and guides about local flora, fauna, and conservation initiatives.

Have a good choice!


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