By default, backpacking and staying in hostels is already a fairly green way of travelling. Being on a budget implies that you don’t waste resources and backpackers tend to travel by bus or train and not by plane and will share transport costs rather than take individual vehicles. There are a few simple ways that you can further cut down your carbon footprint and do your bit for the Planet while you are away.
Use hostel water refills rather than buying new bottles every time you need water. If there isn’t a refill option, suggest it and maybe next time you pass by there will be one. By refilling water bottles, not only do you use less plastic, but you set an excellent example to other travelers and people in places where the recycling message may not have arrived.
Take a battery recharger with you rather than leaving nickel-cadmium time bombs strewn behind you on your travels. Not only is this ecologically sound, but you will save a lot of money over a long trip. You can now even get solar chargers that do it for free!
If you have to fly, offset your carbon miles when you take a flight. If will only cost a few dollars and is well worth it for the warm fuzzy feeling alone. Another worthy option is to spend a bit of your travels helping out on a voluntary project that promotes sustainable practices in the country you are visiting. There will be information about these in most decent hostels and on the net. Just watch out for the odd scam. There is a rumor in Vietnam about an eco-project bridge that is built by paying volunteers every year and taken back down by the locals after they have finished, ready for the next year.
Support local initiatives that promote sustainable activities. Take a canoe trip rather than a Jet Ski tour or cycle about town rather than hiring a moped. Buy local crafts from sustainable forests and skip anything that you are not sure about. Avoid buying seashells and starfish as these are almost always overfished to supply the tourist trade. The same goes for those exotic sounding animals on the menu.
Instead of trying to see the whole of a country or continent in six weeks, choose one small area and see it well. The less long distance travel you do the more eco-friendly your trip becomes and the more money you leave in the local economy of the places you visit. This way, you can even save paper by not having to print off that must-see list!