At some point on your trip, you’ll want to buy souvenirs. Responsible travel includes educating yourself on what trinkets you absolutely must stay away from. Your purchases will either do extreme harm to the wildlife or the ecosystem, or they will support the local people and their economy in an ethical way. Here’s what you need to know:
Don’t Buy Ivory, Tortoiseshell, Reptile Skins, or Furs
Illegal wildlife trade depends on tourists to buy trinkets made from animal parts. At least 33,000 elephants are killed every year just for their ivory. If that isn’t enough to stop you, customs agents from more than 181 countries seize souvenirs protected by the International trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). Besides being unethical, purchasing these items is also illegal and can cost you a lot more than you bargained for.
Don’t Buy Coral or Seashells
Coral is the basis of entire ecosystems and supports the local fish and other species. Harvesting coral and seashells for souvenirs has devastating effects and can take decades to grow back.
Don’t Buy A Shatoosh
When travelling to Tibet or Nepal, you’ll find beautifully hand-woven items, called shatoosh. They are made from chiru wool. Chiru comes from the endangered Tibetan antelope.
Instead, Buy Local Handicrafts
Buying handicrafts from artisans is the best way to support the area economy and responsible travel. And you won’t be feeding any money into the illegal wildlife trade. Better yet, do your research ahead of time, and seek out organizations and social programs that empower the disadvantaged.
…And One More Thing
I’d like to add that in many countries it is expected that you bargain with the local merchants. Remember, what may be a small amount to you, could mean much more to them. Bargain, yes. But be willing and happy to pay a fair price, don’t bargain aggressively.
Do you want to give a shout out to any co-operatives or social programs that sell hand-made, ethical souvenirs? If so, leave the details and a link in the reply section below.
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