Crafting Mementos

black bearThis past week, I had the amazing opportunity to visit and enjoy Yellowstone, our nations first national park. I had never been and was completely amazed and overwhelmed by the vast mountains and wondrous landscape. I had the chance to see grizzly bears, wolves, bison, elk, otter, antelope and so much more.

Seeing such amazing wildlife just reinforced why I care so much about this planet and why we need to find a balance between people and wildlife. It solidified in my mind just how precarious that balance is and how precious clean air, water and land really is.

Like a typical tourist, I spent some time perusing gift shops at various points of interest throughout the park. I was taken aback by the amount of well, stuff, to put it politely, that I found in them. Much of the, ahem, stuff, was made from China, too. All I could think of was lead and the recalls. Ick. But I really wanted to bring back something special to the special people in my life.

Charles Gordon, writing in Maclean’s, agreed with me and stated “We live in a souvenir society, a world in which everything we do, everywhere we go, has to be commemorated.” And according to, by the mid 1990’s shops that catered to gifts and souvenirs had become a billion dollar industry, with no signs of slowing.

So I gave in to the need to commemorate and share, and purchased some items. I think in the end I made some positive choices in my gift buying and giving, and avoided products made from China. I bought things that contained recycled materials and printed with soy inks. I also sought out items made by local craftspeople who were supplying some of the shops with their wares.

But now that I’m home, I wonder:

Is there a way to fulfill the need to commemorate trips with souvenirs that is more environmentally friendly? Oh, and make it a craft project?!

Taking the premise of Leave No Trace and the edict of take only pictures, leave only the lightest of footprints, and bring home only memories, here are a couple of projects that I came up with:

  • Using several photos from the trip, make a small photo collage of your favorite shots.
  • Take a thifted frame and matte medium and cover it with your photos, taking the photo collage one step further.
  • Group your photos into fun themes like animals, landscapes or people to make a photo quilt. All you need is an ink jet printer, photo transfer paper and cloth to print on. Make smaller photo quilts into items like potholders or wall hangings. Remember to use leftover or organic fabrics.
  • Since a large part of souvenir business is t-shirts, why not make your own? Use that ink jet one more time and reuse an old t-shirt and use freezer paper to transfer one of your favorite pictures onto your t-shirt.
  • Use Autumn’s paper bag technique and create personalized souvenir postcards.

Have any other green souvenir ideas? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Image Credit: Kelly Rand

Written by Kelly Rand

Kelly covers visual arts in and around Washington, DC for DCist and is editor of Crafting a Green World. Kelly has also been published by Bust Magazine and you can find her byline at Indie Fixx and Etsy’s Storque and has taught in Etsy’s virtual lab on the topic of green crafting.

Kelly helps organize Crafty Bastards: Arts and Crafts Fair, one of the largest indie craft fairs on the east coast and has served on the Craft Bastard’s jury since 2007. Kelly is also co-founder of Hello Craft a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the advancement of independent crafters and the handmade movement. Kelly resides in Washington, D.C. and believes that handmade will save the world.


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  1. What a lovely idea. I will definitely do this during the summer. I plan to take my kids to lots of parks and woods so this will be a great way to remember our trips.

  2. I also keep the ephemera which accumulates during trips…and I feel guilty about; I’m talking about ticket stubs, maps, diner placemats which the kids colored, and maybe even receipts. Those elements can also be used with photos to give visual interest and also as a way to reuse unavoidable waste.

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