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Sustainable Travels

Lessons from Japan

DSCF4779Though I’ve given some negative press to Japan – for the slaughtering of dolphins – I do have great respect for the country.  I had the amazing opportunity to spend 10 days in Japan  with my Mom and one of my best friends. We explored everywhere from Nakatsu to Hirsohima, Kyoto, Tokyo, Nara, Nikko and Beppu.

Of course, I made sure to observe enviro-habits abroad. One of the most interesting things I noticed is how efficient the country is.  When the Japanese put out waste, they have to separate their plastics, aluminum, glass, and any other recyclables in separate bags from one ‘burnable’ waste area.  If this isn’t done, fines ensue.  (With a country so small, it’s risky not to take drastic recycling efforts).

One night I stayed at the Earth Embassy at the base of Mount Fuji.  American Jacob Reiner founded this organic farm, education center and restaurant to better the local area – especially with delicious produce.  We met five volunteers who stay anywhere from a week to several months – investing their time for the greater good.  (I also enjoyed a banana and garlic pizza from the delicious café – don’t knock it until you try it…)

Eco-Lessons that I imported from Japan for you?

  • In the same way Japan is efficient with their space, we should be efficient with ours.  The earth is a lot smaller than we think – we need to take care of it.
  • Be efficient.  Although we have the luxury of extra space with bigger DSCF4838(everything!) in America, think responsibly before you buy.  Sometimes bigger is better – and sometimes it’s wasteful.  i.e: Is an SUV really neccessary?
  • Respect nature.  When the Japanese kill an animal (or fish) to eat, they waste practically nothing.  While I’m not suggesting you should eat like you’re a contestant on “Fear Factor”, you can reduce your animal products or use what you buy and prepare.
  • Purchase refillable containers.  The Japanese typically buy foil refill bags of laundry detergent, shampoo and other household goods instead of constantly buying the larger plastic containers.
  • Take advantage of public transit!  We took trains everywhere in Japan – so cheap and easy! It’s easy to take advantage of driving or taking cabs in Philadelphia, instead take SEPTA or a bus to your destination.  Endure those commuting delays with reading, writing or relaxation.
  • Conserve water – Bathe with a friend.  While I’m (kind of) kidding about this, the Japanese take onsens, or communal baths.  They use soap/shampoo outside of one larger bath and only go in the bath while clean. Sharing bath water not appealing? Instead shut off the faucet when shampooing, shaving… you get the idea.
  • Be kind to others. I was impressed with how helpful the Japanese were.  When you brighten someone’s day, you can make our planet a little happier too.

For some more info on how to be an eco-tourist in Japan, see this TreeHugger article.

Posted by Julie

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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