Before we begin with this article, let’s set one thing straight. I’m not a minimalist. Like not at all. In fact someone could argue that my character, aesthetics and the majority of my day-to-day habits would give minimalists a heart attack. However, a recent trip in which I overpacked, overthought, overshared - and was about to overbuy, helped me realise what actually happens when we infuse all our wonderful memories into an object that can’t hold the same power over time. That item is just a thing you bought when you fell in love with a specific place. It’s probably overpriced too. In an attempt to view what others deem as trash from a fresh perspective, here are 4+1 ideas for sustainable souvenirs that will save you and your loved ones money, (luggage) space-and plastic.
Food and Drinks
What better way to show your loved ones the true essence of your trip than actually giving them…a taste of the place you visited? Local delights, jams, sauces, spirits or food the place is famous for-always packed on sustainable packaging e.g. glass jars or rice husk containers- make for the perfect souvenir, which kills two birds in one stone; you gift something that is inherently useful and will be consumed sooner or later leaving minimum trash behind, while sharing part of your holiday experience with the recipient and helping them expand their palate.
TIP: Make sure you get people something they would really enjoy. For example, there’s no point in gifting your non-drinking friend a bottle of rum just because the place you visited is famous for that.
Decorations and Accessories from local artisans
A fundamental pillar of sustainable shopping is shopping small and empowering local communities. So, if you have already decided you wish to spend money on a souvenir, why not spend it intently? Buying knicknacks, decorations and accessories from local artisans means you’re bringing home a handmade, usually one-of-a-kind memento lovingly capturing the local aesthetic.
TIP: In parts of the world often flooded by single-use plastics, sustainable souvenirs are made from repurposed materials. I almost bought earrings made from corkscrews in Guadeloupe but then recalled how many earrings in my collection I’ve only worn just once and backed off -the minimalist heart attack, remember?
Random stuff to make an artisan out of yourself
Summon your creativity demons and make the most unique DIY souvenir out of nature materials, such as fallen leaves, stones, pinecones, milkweed pods, and/or little sentimental things from your trip like tickets. That way you amalgamate reminiscence with your personal touch and taste by making something you know you like-or even better need-using materials from your destination.
TIP: If you decide to go with nature materials, be extra careful about what you collect. For example it has been proven that the removal of seashells, one of the most famous DIY materials, could damage ecosystems and endanger organisms that rely on them for their survival. Also, double check both of your destinations’ air transport policy before flying, as many countries have some pretty strict policies about vegetation from other countries crossing their borders.
Photos are the most powerful way to capture memories. With everyone carrying their smartphones around, it’s also super easy and affordable! Photos make for a personal souvenir which captures both the place and the people in a vivid, visual way. As Burk Uzzle said “Photography is a love affair with life” so if you love travelling and getting new experiences, you can’t go wrong with combining the two.
TIP: When you get home print your favourite pictures and use them as postcards to share the highlights of your trip with your love ones
Don’t just tell your loved ones how amazing the place you visited was, show them! Prepare a video with the best of the local scenery, teach them a local dance or cook for them your favourite recipe from the place you visited. Easy, interactive and personal!
Bonus Tip: Wrap your sustainable, ethically sourced souvenir in sustainable packaging! Follow the Furoshiki wrapping method using old fabrics and clothes you don’t need any more or reuse old paper bags or newspapers and dry out some citrus slices for decor. The opportunities for resourcefulness are endless.