Handmade souvenirs, traditional handicrafts, fair trade products—shop responsibly and give back to the local communities you visit
Author: Suvasini Sridharan
When we travel we take in wondrous sights, have unique experiences, and make great memories. But many of us now also like to think about what we can give back to the places we visit and the people we meet. In a recent survey by American Express, over two-thirds of the travelers surveyed said that they want the money they spend to go back to local communities. More than half the travelers also said they preferred eating and shopping at small businesses. One major way to give back is through sustainable shopping, by buying products that are eco-friendly and made by local artisans. It’s also a good way to interact with people living in the places we visit.
At Enchanting Travels, responsible travel is about creating sustainable experiences, and that also encompasses sustainable shopping and giving back. Here are some tips to help you shop responsibly and sustainably on your next vacation.
1Seek out handmade
The beauty of handmade products cannot be matched by mass-produced ones. When you buy something handcrafted you are usually choosing an eco-friendly option. You are also promoting rich art and craft traditions passed down the generations. Kazuri in Kenya is known for its handcrafted brightly colored ceramic beads threaded together to make eye-catching jewelry.
Shanga in Tanzania produces jewelry, homeware and glassware using recycled materials. The social enterprise employs and equips people with disabilities to create stunning products. Similarly, Jacaranda Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, is a non-profit organization that supports differently abled artisans in the art of jewelry making. We source some of our gifts for our guests from here, and they’re always much appreciated! When you shop from organizations like these, you not only get a one-of-a-kind gift but also positively impact local communities.
2Encourage small businesses and artisans
Seek out artisans and buy directly from them wherever possible. When traveling in India, for instance, you could include a visit to a weavers or potters village in your itinerary. Alternatively, places like Dilli Haat in Delhi are perfect one-stop shopping destinations. Here, artisans from across the country come together to offer a range of regional products and foods. Their painstakingly produced art and crafts make for lovely gifts and souvenirs to take home.
In India, there are hotels in Rajasthan and Agra, among others, that encourage local craftspeople to come and sell directly to guests. When you buy from the artisans, you give back to the local community and also get to interact with someone who is passionate about what they do.
3Labels that support causes
On your travels, you may meet people and come to learn about local causes. Keep an eye out for NGOs, self-help groups, and social enterprises that sell products and work towards empowering communities, and buy directly from them. This lets money go back to the people and communities that created the product (many of which work toward protecting the environment). For example, Ocean Sole in Kenya creates vibrant, striking art pieces using discarded flip flops that wash up on beaches. When you buy one of their artworks, you support marine conservancy.
4Fair trade first
An easy way to shop in a sustainable and eco-friendly way is to look for products that are World Fair Trade Organization certified. Getting this certification is a rigorous process, but it means that the chocolate or cloth that bears the tag has been traded ethically and produced in a factory or farm where workers are treated well. When you buy this product, you are improving livelihoods, standing up for better working conditions and protecting our planet.
Colombia is known for its brilliant coffee, grown high up in the Andes. The National Federation of Coffee Growers helps small farmers improve working conditions and implement sustainable measures. The federation also helps them receive the fair trade certification which empowers them and allows them to earn fair wages. When you are traveling in Colombia, do buy directly from farmers or look out for coffee that has the fair trade certification. Go on a tour of Colombia’s coffee region and discover verdant estates and vibrant cities with us. We’ll be happy to help you with pointers on where you can buy the best fair trade coffee!
5Questions to ask
Shopping for a sustainable product is hard when there is no label or certificate to vouch for it. But ask a few questions and decide if it makes sense to buy. Is the product eco-friendly? Who makes them? Where and how is it made? How long does it take to make? Is it certified by a third party agency? Is it organic? Does it support a social cause? Most importantly, who benefits from the purchase?
Speak to the artisan or store owner directly wherever you are shopping. Ask for details about the craft, its history, and if possible see how it’s made. The answers to these questions can help you make a decision.
And don’t hesitate to ask our experts for recommendations on sustainable shopping when you plan your responsible vacation with us.
Kenya: Cultural Encounters and Wildlife Safari
Discover classic Kenya with this short safari and culture tour. Go camel trekking, hiking and on bushwalks in the stunning Laikipia Plateau and enjoy authentic encounters local Samburu and Laikipia Maasai tribes.
Northern Tanzania Safari and Zanzibar
Take a trip to the wild heart of Tanzania on this safari tour. Explore three major Tanzanian national parks – Tarangire with its Baobab trees and tree-climbing lions, Manyara & Ngorongoro, famous for awe-inspiring safari experiences, and the Serengeti, the best-known safari destination in the world.