Photo: Aaron Baggett

9 tips for a more eco-responsible life in Japan

By Cyrielle Ugnon-Coussioz

Japan offers a fantastic and comfortable lifestyle, with 24-hour convenience stores, easy transit, and vending machines around just about every corner. But Japan also uses an outrageous number of plastics and products that are harmful to the environment.

With a few small adjustments to your daily habits, you can live a more eco-responsible life in Japan without radically changing your routine. Here are a few tips.

1. Get the MyMizu app

When I first set up in Japan, I was amazed by the variety of drinks offered in the vending machines. Once the summer started, I got knocked out by the heat and found myself buying—and throwing away—dozens of PET bottles a day.

While Japan claims to recycle 84% of all end-of-life plastics, the official figure might be a little misleading. Part of this material is considered waste and burned (think about the bottle caps and ornamental plastics that you separate into the “burnables” waste bin).

Tap water is more-than safe to drink in Japan, so get a hip reusable water bottle and download the MyMizu app which shows you a map of nearby water fountains and businesses that’ll gladly let you refill your H2O!

2. Say no to plastic bags

Japan is the champion in customer satisfaction, but it’s also the champion of unnecessary packaging. When the supermarket cashier separates your meat into tiny plastic bags which you then have to put into a bigger plastic bag yourself, you’ll find yourself asking, “but, why??”

Rootote is a Japanese brand specializing in tote bags designed and printed in Japan. Photo: Rootote

Bearing in mind that Japan is the world’s second-biggest producer of plastic waste per capita (after the United States), you might want to consider carrying a reusable tote bag with you. We recommend getting a Rootote which is a Japanese brand specialized in tote bags designed and printed in Japan. You’ll find every imaginable size and print, from the most basic to the most fun at their flagship store in Daikanyama! Alternatively, simply start reusing the plastic bags you already have.

Next time you buy groceries, to say no to plastic bags, you only need two words, “fukuro nashi” (no bag). If the staff asks you “fukuro irimasuka” (do you need a bag) simply say “iranai” (I don’t need it) or “daijoubu” (that’s okay). The habit will be just as good for your wallet since Japan started requiring all shops to charge for plastic bags from July 1.

3. Invest in a reusable bento set

Although you may find it challenging to give up eating on the go, there is one additional routine that can help reduce plastic waste: refuse single-use chopsticks, forks, spoons, and lunch-boxes. Better to just invest in your own bento set.

Click here to read more.

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About number 6, the washlet. Use a hand-held one - I got one really cheap. And in the winters, use a seat cover so your bum doesn't get a cold shock when you sit down.

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I think most rich poeople would carless they had to paying for plastic bags. They say a penny saved is a penny earned!

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They can have my washlet when they pry it from m cold, dead butt cheeks.

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Why not change plastic bags for paper ones and still charge for it duh

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Writing stuff that everybody already knows. I doubt this person would get published if they tackled some much bigger issues in Japan like home construction building practices like insulation and double pane windows. Does everyone realize that the best R-value fiberglass insulation sold on the market here is R-6? The corps here are ripping their own people off all the time, but the blame must fall on the consumer.

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