If you haven't yet heard that we need to pay much more attention to the environment then, firstly, where have you been? And secondly, pay attention. Everyone on the planet needs to be more aware of their actions towards the environment and become much more responsible with regards to these actions.
Getting on a plane and jetting half way across the world doesn't exactly scream "environmentally friendly"... But there are ways of balancing out the effects of your travel (or reducing your carbon footprint) whilst promoting green and sustainable travel at the same time, so you can still visit the many incredible places all over the world.
Here is a list of ways to show you How to be a Green Backpacker and Reduce your Carbon Footprint and as an added bonus, a lot of these tips also save you money!
1. Support local stores and markets. It is sometimes daunting entering local shops in new countries but it is important to support the local communities that you are visiting. Big chains are comforting at times when you feel a little bit out of your depth or are missing your home comforts but if we don't use the local options then they won't survive and there will be little point in visiting these new places. In my opinion it's also the best way to experience a new culture and get proper tips on what is good to do in those areas.
2. Limit the amount of technology you take. Do you need it all? A phone, an ipod and a laptop? It's just another thing to plug in and charge up, using up electricity. There are internet cafes all over the world, do you really need that laptop? If you do need all your techy gadgets, get a solar charger. This is an easy way to get 'green' especially if you are visiting those hot countries. And the biggest tip of all...
3. Unplug your appliances. This is a very easy and very important tip for reducing your carbon footprint. It may seem simple but just because you are not paying the electricity bill personally doesn't mean you should take advantage. This is a really easy way to get 'green' and stop wasting electricity.
4. Don't waste food. We all do it, both when backpacking and at home. We buy food in advance and then our plans change and the food gets left in the fridge. If you can't use up all your food, give it to a fellow backpacker who wants it rather than leaving it to be thrown out.
5. Get yourself an aluminium water bottle. You can re-use it through your whole trip and taking it out with you during the day will stop you from buying bottled and canned drinks when you are out and about which just means more rubbish to be thrown out and of course wasting money buying something you can get from free out of a kitchen tap.
6. Swap Clothes. When you've been on the road for a while, you do start to get a bored of the limited clothes you have in your backpack... so why not swap a few items with someone else? It's a great way to refresh your look!.
7. Have short showers. Communal bathrooms are never that pleasant that you want to stand around so most backpackers are probably greener than other travellers already! Buy a 'quick-dry' towel and re-use it. Hostels will often offer backpackers towels but this is just more laundry for them to wash, meaning more water is used and more power is used.
8. Use Book Exchanges. You don't need to buy new books on your travels, nearly all hostels have book exchanges so trade in yours for a new one.
9. Think about your transport. Get on your bike. See the sights by walking or cycling in the fresh air. If the sights are a little further afield, take the bus rather than a taxi - it's cheaper too. Sometimes you have little time and a large country to see. Flying can save you time. Try and take an overnight train or bus if possible. Rent cars in groups. If you want to rent a vehicle and see the country, find some fellow travellers to join you and fill up your car.
10. Wind-up torches and radios - You can have hours of light or music out of this, no batteries needed. This will also save you money in the long run.
11. Volunteer. This is one of the best ways to really see a country and give something back to the local community. Whether it's for a day or a few months, it's also a great way to meet other like-minded people.
12. Choose a 'green' hostel. There's no excuse for hostels these days not to contribute to addressing issues of sustainability and the environment. If a hostel doesn't support this then don't stay there.
13. Recycle and Clear up your rubbish! So simple yet apparently so difficult.
Sometimes the best way to support a country is to visit it and with so many incredible places to explore it would be a sad world if we didn't experience each other's cultures. However, by taking on board even just a couple of these steps we can help to do our bit for sustainability and the environment and start a new generation of 'green' backpackers.
The picture of the garden in this article shows the sustainable garden at The Arts Factory Lodge in Byron Bay, where backpackers can help with the upkeep of the garden (and then enjoy some of the produce) and they can also create recycled art from items found in the grounds.