Skip the plastic knickknacks and bring home something more eco-friendly on your next vacation
The more we travel, the greater our responsibility to do better for the planet. As we explore, we must continue broadening our mindset, learning about new cultures, and respecting the environment as we adopt new ways to be a more responsible traveller.
An important consideration of being a conscious traveller is our purchasing habits. This encompasses everything from groceries to takeout to souvenirs to experiences. There are many ways to prioritize the environment through our purchasing, not least of which is avoiding producing waste from disposable containers down to micro-plastics. Micro-plastics are plastic debris less than five millimetres and include microbeads, which are found in health and beauty products and get washed down the drain and into the ocean, posing a threat to marine life. All of these plastics have a severe impact on our planet and the beings that live on it.
Souvenir shopping is one area where I personally am guilty of being irresponsible in the past. I’ve purchased one (and by one I mean 15) too many bobblehead turtles for myself and for friends, and the puka shell necklace that posed as the perfect accessory was never worn again after my trip.
When we travel, we often get swept away by the temptations of the time and place, leading to purchases that end up as waste the next month. But, on the other hand, some souvenirs can serve as a special or purposeful memory of the trip, or at least funnel money into a local economy that relies on tourism.
There are various aspects to consider when making your next travel purchase. Here are some tips for shopping ethically and eco-consciously while travelling...
1. Support local and small business
Choose street vendors and artisans over mass-produced tacky tourist shops. These dollars are more likely to help the merchants who need it, rather than a larger corporation.
2. Choose experiences rather than things
Funnel your tourism dollars into companies that are hosting tours or experiences that will create lasting memories of your trip, while not creating waste at the same time.
3. Consider the lasting value of your purchase
Skip the flimsy trinkets that will break in your bag and the wearables that scream “tropical” that you will never wear back home. Choose items that serve a purpose or hold sentimental value that will last well beyond your trip.
4. Choose materials that don't harm the planet
Avoid purchasing animal products such as tusks, teeth, skin and fur that may have been sourced unethically. Also avoid items with natural artifacts, such as sand dollars or coral, that may have been plucked from their natural environment. Nature shouldn’t be impacted by tourists’ desire for souvenirs.
5. Barter, but in moderation
Negotiating for a price is common practice in many countries, especially at markets, and it’s always fair and sometimes even fun to barter your way to a steal of a deal. But don’t go overboard; remember that the locals will likely need the money more than you, so don’t get hung up on what amounts to a dollar back home.
6. Choose businesses that give back
When purchasing a service or product, it’s a bonus if the company has a way of giving back to their environment or the community. Perhaps they donate a portion of their proceeds to charity or plant a tree for every item sold. Research or talk to the merchant and look for ways to support beyond just your purchase.