*sign reads “Car sharing for your life”
Last December, I spent three weeks in Japan. As a first-time visitor to the country, I spent most of my time just taking it all in…the people, the food, the cities, the country side, the social norms, and the practices relating to environmental action. Here were some of my observations:
1. Getting Around
The Japanese-made car is one of the most respected in the world and clearly, they love them here too. But more notably, people embrace bicycles, the Shinkansen (the bullet train goes up to 300 km/hour), and super wide-spread and efficient transit systems. As a foreigner, it was simple enough for me to get around, starting from the airport, and including the busy cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and the countryside.
2. Keeping Warm
Unlike most Canadian homes, there is no reliance on central heating. Instead, electric heaters have been installed in most rooms, and even at that they are used sparingly. Rather, people beat the cold indoors by making a habit of wearing sweaters, “tummy warmers” and slippers.
3. Wrapping and Packaging
Because presentation is valued in the culture, retailers tend to over-package food, gifts, and basically anything for sale. Actually, this is an understatement. Packaging is excessive here and reusable bags are not common.
4. Waste & Recycling
The population of the Tokyo metropolitan area alone is larger than all of Canada. Garbage disposal for millions of people living on a small land mass cannot rely on landfills . Approximately 80% of garbage is incinerated. Japanese people must separate their garbage into burnable, non-burnable and recyclable items.
5. Efficiency and Common Sense
Things just make sense here – design of homes, neighbourhoods, transit routes, an overall good use of space. Preserving heritage sites and embracing innovation and technology proves that tradition and contemporary living can work in harmony.
Verdict? A global leader in many areas, Japan can improve on its environmental commitments, say The Tokyo Times. Sound familiar to Canadians? As the picture above indicates, there is an effort to promote environmental behavior change at the individual level. Sometimes it’s the people who will change government priorities. After all, it is ‘for life.’
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