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??”
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.
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