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Sustainable Souvenirs: 20+ Creative and Unique Ideas for Eco-Friendly Travelers

Everyone loves picking up souvenirs from their travels, but it can sometimes be a challenge to find something meaningful that is also sustainable and eco-friendly. So, we have compiled a list of 20 creative, unique, sustainable travel souvenirs.  

From handmade crafts created using locally sourced materials, books by local authors, and stylish jewelry, there is an item on this guide perfect for everyone’s taste. 

Plus, I added a list of things to avoid purchasing while traveling that aren’t so sustainable.

Affiliate Disclosure: There are affiliate links throughout this post. This means if you click on a link and purchase a product through that link, then I will receive a small commission for the referral. And that is kinda cool.

First, what does it mean to travel sustainably?

According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable travel is “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities.” 

This statement means that traveling and vacationing should not only benefit tourists but should also benefit the locals and should never be detrimental to the environment. Sustainable travel is the key to preserving and enjoying this world for generations. Here are a few things to consider: minimizing air travel, opting for local accommodations, and chowing down on the local cuisine. Steer clear of any animal products and irresponsible animal tourism. Refuse single-use plastic wherever you can. Ride your bike or go for a walk while exploring. Top it off with some sustainable souvenirs that are both creative and unique with the purpose of sustainability. 

Sustainable Souvenirs. A young man seen from behind riding a bike in a dirty road in La Graciosa, Canary Islands, Spain

First, here are ten tips to consider when choosing sustainable souvenirs.

  • Choose local artisans, street vendors, and markets, and avoid the tacky souvenir tourist traps. When it comes to sustainable souvenirs, local is always better. Not only will you be supporting local businesses, but you’ll also be getting a unique souvenir of the area you’re visiting made from locally-sourced materials.
  • Avoid purchasing souvenirs from mass-produced plastic stuff/junk whenever possible. Not only is plastic bad for the environment, but it’s also not very sustainable since it takes hundreds of years to decompose.
  • Look for fair trade certification. For example, if you purchase a souvenir made from a natural material, like wood or stone, ensure it is Certified Fair Trade, a certification that ensures the workers who made the item were paid a fair wage, worked under safe conditions, and involved no child labor.
  • Another great way to find eco-friendly and sustainable souvenirs is to shop at thrift stores or flea markets in the area you’re visiting. You never know what treasures you might find.
  • Avoid cheap plastic, mass-produced cheesy touristy items. It can be tempting to pick kitschy plastic souvenirs, but they are often not eco-friendly or sustainable and most likely not made locally. Not only will they end up in a landfill, but manufacturing these items can also harm the environment.
Sustainable Souvenirs, what to avoid...plastic mass produced magnets
  • Look for souvenirs made from recycled materials, they are often just as unique and exciting as other souvenirs, but they won’t hurt the environment. These items have been given new life and don’t require any new resources to be made into something unique and beautiful.
  • Choose souvenirs that you can use again and again. For example, consider buying a reusable water bottle or coffee mug instead of a t-shirt you may only wear once.
  • Avoid purchasing endangered animal products, including ivory, turtle shells, coral, teeth, animal skins, and fur. Not only is this cruel, but it is illegal to buy these products in many countries, and it’s also contributing to the decline of these species.
  • Single-use items are one of the biggest culprits concerning environmental waste. To ensure your souvenirs are eco-friendly, avoid purchasing anything that will be used once and thrown away; this includes things like straws, plastic cutlery, plastic bottled water, and disposable cameras.
  • When shopping for sustainable souvenirs, look for items made from sustainable materials like bamboo, wool, or organic cotton. These materials are all eco-friendly and will help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Sustainable Souvenirs. Eco friendly. Cloth shopping bag,  bamboo cutlery and  reusable coffee mug. Sustainable lifestyle. Plastic free concept.

One final tip is to ensure that whatever you purchase will fit your suitcase. There’s nothing worse than discovering that your beautiful ceramic vase won’t fit in your luggage.

20+ Creative and Unique Sustainable Souvenirs for Your Eco-Friendly Family Vacation 

1. Reusable Water Bottle

A reusable water bottle is a useful eco-friendly, sustainable travel souvenir. Not only will it help you stay hydrated while on the go, but it will also help reduce your reliance on single-use plastic water bottles. Various types of reusable water bottles are available, so be sure to choose one that best suits your style and needs.

2. Reusable Canvas Shopping Bag

A reusable canvas shopping bag can carry groceries, souvenirs, or anything else you may need while on the go. Plus, it will help reduce your reliance on single-use plastic bags. 

3. Travel Journal

A travel journal is a way to document your travels as they are happening. Write about your experiences, draw pictures or glue in ticket stubs and other mementos. Plus, it’s a great way to keep track of all the places you’ve been and things you’ve seen in real-time.

Sustainable Souvenirs. Old postcards, letters, mails and open journal with sample text My Travel Book. vintage src travel background

4. Recycled/Upcycled Souvenirs 

For example, upcycling jewelry made from recycled materials is perfect for adding minimalist detail to any outfit. Or maybe a recycled glass bottle reworked into a beautiful vase that will bring some added botanical charm to your home, plus it makes a thoughtful gift.

5. Sustainable Fashion

There are many fashion items out there that are sustainable, so no matter your unique style, you can find something that fits. Fairtrade-Certified clothing is one great possibility, but look for recycled/upcycled items too. When you shop for recycled or upcycled products, you are not only choosing a piece of clothing that looks amazing on you — but also giving a second life to pieces that otherwise would contribute unnecessarily to the already vast amount of landfill waste generated. So with all these sustainable fashion choices available, don’t hesitate to find your perfect fit and look as stunning as ever while reducing your environmental footprint.

6. Wooden Toys

Wooden toys offer unbeatable durability and safety, made from non-toxic materials to help protect your children. In addition, they’re much better for the environment than plastic toys, so you can help do your part in looking after our planet. And with a wide variety of wooden toys, you can find the perfect ones to spark your child’s imagination.

7. Reusable Coffee Cup

If you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, a reusable coffee cup is an essential eco-friendly accessory. It allows you to savor your favorite beverage from anywhere and reduces your dependency on single-use plastics. Unfortunately, I may have been overzealous in acquiring too many coffee mugs while traveling. But, day after day, these mugs provide nostalgia.

8. Natural Soaps, Essential Oils, and Skincare Products

Are you looking for the perfect, fun souvenir for your friends or family who love pampering themselves with luxurious beauty products? Natural soaps, essential oils, and skincare products perfectly combine luxury with friendliness to mother nature.  

Many brands source organic local ingredients that smell amazing and do not hurt the environment — letting our loved ones look and smell their best without feeling guilty about harming wildlife or the ecosystem. But why stop at high-end shops and marketers? Instead, show your support for the economy by finding the local soap maker at the market and purchasing something special for your loved ones (while supporting the community you are visiting).

9. Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

Eco-friendly sunscreen is a practical, sustainable travel souvenir for anyone who loves spending time outdoors. It will help protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays and reduce reliance on traditional sunscreens containing toxic chemicals. Look for mineral-based reef-safe sunscreen from sustainable ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. In addition, eco-friendly sunscreen is a thoughtful addition to a goody bag of pampering essentials, including natural soaps and essential oils.

10. Insect Repellent

Insect repellent will help you keep bugs away while camping or hiking and reduce reliance on traditional insect repellents containing harmful chemicals. Instead, find insect repellent from natural ingredients such as citronella, lemon, or eucalyptus.

11. A Piece of Jewelry Handcrafted by a Local Artisan

When traveling, picking up a piece of jewelry as a souvenir is always fun. But instead of buying something mass-produced, choose a handmade piece by a local artisan. Not only will you be supporting a small business, but you’ll also have a unique piece of jewelry with a story and a memory that you can wear for years to come.

Sustainable Souvenirs. Fashion Jewelry from India.

12. A Handwoven Textile

Another valuable and unique eco-friendly souvenir is a handwoven textile. Whether it’s a scarf, a table runner, or a set of towels, these beautiful pieces will surely add a touch of elegance to your home. And, since they’re handmade, you’ll know that no two are exactly alike.

13. Organic Coffee or Tea

If you’re a coffee or tea lover, why not pick some organic coffee or tea as a souvenir? You can find organic coffee and tea at many specialty shops, and it’s a great way to support sustainable agriculture. Plus, it’ll taste better when you drink it at home and reminisce about your fantastic trip.

14. Stovetop Espresso Maker

Start your day with a delicious, strong shot of espresso made quickly and easily at home with a stovetop expresso maker. Enjoy velvety espresso shots in classic coffeehouse favorites like the Cafe Americano or Café Mocha. Fill the reservoir with water, add ground espresso beans to its filter, twist on the top, and place it over a burner for a few minutes, then savor that rich flavor at any time. Ours is enjoyed at home and is easily packed for vacation.

Sustainable Souvenirs. Stove top espresso maker

15. An Eco-Friendly Travel Guidebook

There are now plenty of eco-friendly travel guidebooks available. These guides contain tips on sustainable travel and the best eco-friendly hotels and restaurants worldwide. So find one locally, use it, mark it up, circle fun things you experienced, highlight the highlights, then pass it on to a traveling friend.

16. An Old-Fashioned Map

Yes, I know, we have Google Maps, Waze, and all of those other apps to get us around, but have you looked at a good old-fashioned map lately? Use your pencil or highlighter pen to document where you’ve been and where you want to go. Use it to map out a morning walk or run. And maybe even use it to help you get somewhere like we used to in the olden days.

17. Sustainable Toys.

Shopping for children doesn’t have to be difficult either — look out for toys made from sustainable materials such as wood or bamboo, which are biodegradable and don’t contain toxic chemicals like some mass-produced plastic toys.  

18. Books.

Visiting a local bookstore while traveling is a must for this family. And picking up a book from a local author while simultaneously supporting the economy is a win-win. But, if you love the local cuisine and are adventurous enough to test it out in your own kitchen, find a cookbook as your sustainable souvenir.

19. Try Something Consumable (if it will pass through customs).

Try local wine, rum, jams, candy, spices, coffee, tea, or honey. When we traveled to Ecuador, we toured a Moonshine Distillery, and I safely brought back some tough moonshine in my suitcase. Always research the rules of taking food or drinks out of the country beforehand.

20. A Set of Bamboo Utensils

Ditch single-use plastics and go green with a Bamboo Utensil Set, a reusable alternative to that throwaway plastic. They are an Earth-friendly purchasing option with countless benefits on vacation and when you return home. Apart from helping the environment, you’ll avoid the annoying task of constantly having to buy those little packets of disposable forks, spoons, and knives every time you need them.

21. Locally Crafted Christmas Tree Ornament.

Every holiday season, our tree is adorned with unforgettable souvenirs. From wood-carved guards from Buckingham Palace to surfing Santa handcrafted in Puerto Rico out of coconut shell, every ornament serves as an adventurous reminder of the places we have traveled — and inspires me to dream up where our travels shall lead to next. Decorating the Christmas Tree has become more than just adding baubles each year: it’s also a sacred time spent together, reminiscing over past trips while imagining all that lies ahead.

22. Art from the Locals

Pick up a small ceramic bowl, painting, or photograph from a local artisan. Or a handwoven basket to use at the market at home. You will support the local talent and put your money into the local economy. Plus, you will always have something at home to remind you of an extraordinary vacation. Artisans will most often ship any large pieces you fall in love with. Our house is full of local art from Puerto Rico, bringing a colorful yet peaceful Caribbean vibe into our home.

Sustainable Souvenirs.  7 Artists and Friends, 100% Local art from Key West

Now for a few things NOT to buy.

  • Avoid anything made from animal parts such as ivory, tusks, animal skin, teeth, horns, or any item believed to be obtained by illegal poaching.
  • Fur products are often sold as souvenirs to tourists but are not eco-friendly. Fur products come from animals killed for their fur, AND this process harms the environment. Additionally, fur products are often made with synthetic materials that can release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.
  • Leather products are another common souvenir item, but they are not eco-friendly. The leather industry is responsible for a great deal of water pollution, and leather products often contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment.
  • Tourists often collect shells as souvenirs from trips to the beach. However, shells are a vital part of the ecosystem and should be left in their natural habitat. 
  • Like shells, coral is a vital ecosystem component and should be left in its natural habitat. Tourists often collect coral as souvenirs, which can damage the reef and harm the animals living there.
  • Taxidermy animals are often sold as souvenirs, but they are not eco-friendly. Taxidermy animals are made from dead animals preserved through a process that uses harmful chemicals.
  • Live animals or plants. As the story goes, a tourist captured an iguana in the Galapagos and tried to take it to the United States in his luggage. I’m not sure if this is true or not. However, it should go without saying don’t bring back an animal. 
sustainable souvenirs

With this guide, we hope you feel more confident and inspired shopping for sustainable travel memorabilia. Many thoughtful ways exist to commemorate your journey and simultaneously protect our planet. 

What would be on your list for that ideal souvenir from an unforgettable holiday? Share what creative options have caught your eye in the comments below. Or what would you add to the list?

Traveling Party of Four. Sustainable Souvenirs

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