Reduce, Reuse & Recycle <Part 1>

June 2009

Separating your garbage the right way is an important task. One of the reasons that Japanese landlords often give as an excuse for not wanting to rent to foreigners is that "foreigners don't know how to handle the garbage properly." It's an old cliche but is still used so let us be aware and make sure that we separate and dispose of our garbage the right way.

Each city/area has their own rules and so you need to find out what the rules are where you live. I'll give you the basics here but be sure to check with your local city office. Don't think logically that just because something can be burned it should go in the "burnable garbage"...........wouldn't be much of a challenge if it were that easy.........

For starters, if you reduce the stuff you take reduce the things you have to through away the trick is to not bring home anything you will have to throw out as garbage. Well, as you may already have noticed..........this is not an easy thing in Japan.

Many things you buy here are so excessively wrapped that sometimes it seems not just wasteful but almost ridiculous. Having a cucumber or an apple wrapped individually and then wrapped together in a beautiful paper and THEN again put in a plastic bag will seem odd and wasteful to a foreigner but perfectly normal to Japanese people.

The habit of wrapping everything comes from Japan's traditional way of gift giving, in which the way a gift is wrapped and given is actually more important that the gift itself and even the layering can have an important social meaning. More layers mean more formality and politeness.

Wrapping..."tsutsumi(つつみ)" or "origata(おりがた)" Japanese is an art in itself .........and how you wrap your gift is a way to show how you feel about the receiver.

So of course, the shop will wrap everything in lots of boxes, layers and bags.
Which means you then are left with a lot of garbage..........

Some of the beautiful wrapping you can recycle yourself by using it for craft projects or take with you home. (I always bring Japanese style paper bags and small paper boxes that I have kept from my shopping with me when I go back to Sweden for visits, they are very popular with my nieces & nephews).

You can also ask the shop when you buy something to not wrapped it and bring your own bag to carry things in.

Saving energy & resources..........and money too...........

The summer is coming and it is very hot & humid in Japan. I'm not suggesting that you sit and sweat in the heat without using the air conditioner but you can cut down on your energy use and cost by doing two simple things.

Shutting out the sun by hanging some Bamboo shades outside the windows is a great way to reduce heat. They are called "sudare(すだれ)" or "yoshizu(よしず)" and are sold everywhere in this time of year.

Using a fan together with the air conditioner will also help you to feel cooler.

Other things you can do;
  • If you live in a small apartment, check the ampere amount on your electric circuit. It is sometimes set higher than you need and the basic fee for 30, 20 or 15 ampere is different. Please ask your electric company for details.
  • Not loading the refrigerator with too much stuff will also help save electricity.
  • Turn off and unplug your computer, printer, television, radio - any electronic device that you're not using.
  • Skip the bottled water. Manufacturing the petroleum-based plastic water bottles and shipping them to market is extremely energy costly. In many supermarkets around Japan, you can now buy water by bringing a container which you can buy (for a small fee or deposit) and re-use. The water is usually very cheap and sometimes the supermarkets have days when it is free. Please take a short moment and check out you local store.
  • Support the local farmers. Food grown or produced halfway around the world didn't just appear in the supermarket - it was shipped by plane, boat, truck or rail, and no matter which method of transportation it took, energy was used. Buying locally means fresher products too.
  • Buy & sell things you don't need for a cheap price through internet groups like "Tell & Sell" and "FreeStuffJapan"or local recycle groups in your area.
  • Buy & sell from second hand shops, recycle stations, flea markets, etc.
  • You can carry your own reusable water bottle and your own chopsticks, your shopping bag etc.....

Even the small things we do will make a difference if we all do them together.

will continue in July with part 2.