Souvenirs should look cool, reflect the culture of the destination and serve a greater purpose than that of a paperweight. It also helps when they don't cost too much. Some items, however, cost more than what's coming out of your wallet. Some souvenirs are unethical—even illegal—and can be costly to a destination's people, animals and environment.
When it comes to souvenirs, you and your groups hold more than just purchasing power: Your actions could make a difference. Make a positive impact by considering these tips.
Purchase objects directly from the people making them.
Factory-made souvenir items such as magnets, key chains and T-shirts are often manufactured outside the destination. As such, they typically have no real connection to the places they're supposed to represent. Furthermore, many infamous examples exist of products made by exploited workers.
The best way to purchase souvenirs is to buy them directly from the people who make them. When you buy goods directly from local producers, your money goes straight to the community. Buying things at the source also allows you to see if the products are ethically sourced and made.
Avoid anything that was living.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that elephants, rhinos and tigers are three of the biggest endangered species senselessly killed for their tusks, horns and skin—and a recent report conducted by The Ocean Foundation discovered that 10,000 plus turtleshell items were for sale at more than 200 souvenir shops and vendors throughout nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Don't purchase souvenirs made from animals, insects or sea life—including corals and seashells, which are often used in trinkets, jewelry and decorations. Corals are living animals, and there's no sustainable way to harvest them without damaging critical marine ecosystems.
Ask about the origin of the object.
Make sure the souvenirs you take home have a documented and legal history. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), illicit trafficking of cultural goods is valued at US $7 billion each year, and often involves organized crime groups and criminal networks. When purchasing souvenirs, don't be afraid to ask about the origin of the object.
Don't purchase counterfeit goods.
It's tempting. You might believe you're helping a small market or street seller (while getting a great bargain), but counterfeit goods generate $250 billion a year for criminals. Many products are neither safe, nor ethically produced.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.