Smart souvenir shopping
It’s easy to be dazzled by all the trinkets on offer to help you commemorate your holiday experiences, but it’s important to be aware of where these items have come from, and avoid any that harm wildlife.
Many products contribute to the harm of animals and overexploitation of fragile ecosystems. By avoiding these items we can collectively stand in favour of eco-friendly choices, and reduce demand for environmentally damaging products.
Things to avoid
Coral is made up of tiny animals called ‘polyps’, and the hard parts we can see is a secreted skeleton. Growing at a rate of a few centimetres a year at most, coral structures provide food and a home for countless marine animals. Usually found polished to a shiny vivid reddish-orange, coral is popular in jewellery and ornaments.
Don’t be tempted to pick up a piece of bleached, dead coral either – many tiny creatures make their homes in the hollows!
This beautifully patterned material is actually the polished shell of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. Look out for it in jewellery, hair accessories, ornaments, and sunglasses.
Shiny seashells can be tempting, after all – you find empty seashells on the beach all the time! The catch is that a shiny shell usually means that the animal that once inhabited the shell has likely been killed for it. The moment a shell-inhabiting animal dies, the shell tumbles and bumps along the ocean floor, dulling its once-glossy surface. As with coral, it’s best to leave shells on the beach be too – it could be a hermit crab’s dream home!
Dried sea creatures
This likely sounds a little odd, but dried starfish are often presented painted and disguised for use as ornaments or smaller starfish used as jewellery. Keep an eye out too for seahorses.
Other animal products
Aside from the obvious one to avoid: ivory, other animal products can be equally damaging. Teeth, bones, furs, feathers, leather, claws and scales, or entire body parts are all popular products, sold either as standalone items, or built and moulded into accessories, jewellery, and ornaments. As it's not possible to tell whether these items have been ethically sourced, or indeed, if they have come from endangered animals or not, they are best avoided.