With the growing world wide concern over global warming and its effect on the environment, many countries are reinvigorating their environmental policies, and Japan is no exception. In the past few years, there have been a number of campaigns within both the private and public sector to encourage the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, save energy, and recycle. In fact, Japan can boast a lead over many Western countries in its citizens’ environmentally friendly practices.
Both within your own home and in your daily life, there are simple and easy ways to save energy and do your part for the environment. Below is an introduction to some of these strategies as well as an explanation of the current eco-friendly campaigns and practices that can be seen throughout Japan.
Within the home: During the winter months, in order to save on heating costs and to save energy, try to utilize one room as the main area for everyone to gather so that the lights and heat can be turned off in the rest of the house. The same can be done with air conditioning during the summer months. If you use futons to sleep on, this can also be done by putting the futons in one room to create a sleeping space.
When using the ofuro (bath) at night, instead of draining and re-filling the tub each time someone gets in, continue to use the same water for multiple people. If you make sure to use the lid on the bathtub, the water will stay warm enough to bath in.
Cool/Warm Biz: The Cool Biz campaign was started in the summer of 2005 to help Japan meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations. Thermostats in public buildings are set to 28 degrees and no less in order cut back on air conditioning. Employees are thus encouraged to wear short sleeved collar shirts and leave ties at home to help deal with the balmy office environment. There was some hesitation and confusion about the campaign at first, as public employees felt uncomfortable next to their counterparts in the private sector in full suits； however, the campaign has shown favorable results, including a 1.14 million ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in 2006. The equivalent campaign in winter, Warm Biz, sets the thermostat of public buildings at no more than 20 degrees.
Eco Bags: Although available in numerous countries, Eco Bags have become somewhat of a craze in Japan as a way to reduce the number of plastic shopping bags used in supermarkets. From brand name designers like Benetton to the donut chain restaurant Mr. Donut--who included an Eco Bag as one of their prizes, Eco Bags have turned into an environmentally friendly and fashionable item to have. Generally, they are compact and able to fit snugly into a purse or pocket and expand enough to fit in the day’s groceries.
The bag was first popularized by British designer Anya Hindmarch in the United Kingdom. In the UK, it has been calculated that using Eco Bags reduces the approximately 13 billion plastic bags used nationally, resulting in carbon emissions reductions equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off the road. These numbers calculated for the UK are a hopeful indication of the benefits the Eco Bag can bring to Japan as well, and they can easily be found in Yamaguchi as well!
No My Car Day: Throughout the country in many prefectures, certain days have been designated as “No My Car Day” to encourage people to use public transportation, bicycles or walk to work. Last year in Shimonoseki City, December 14 was designated as a “No My Car Day”in which all residents of the city were encouraged to participate. Local buses offered half-price tickets and trains increased their service to accommodate the greater number of people using the trains. Approximately 5,500 people participated, and it was estimated carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 26,583 kg or the amount emitted by 1,770 households in a day. At the Yamaguchi Prefectural Government, every 5th and 21st of the month is “No My Car Day.”
There are no shortages of options when it comes to saving energy and helping the environment. It need not be a painful or bothersome task； investing in a simple Eco Bag represents quite a trendy way to be environmentally conscious. The next time you see a public employee sporting a short sleeve collar shirt in the summer, instead of the traditional suit, you can applaud them for putting up with their balmy office space in the name of eco-friendly action. Ultimately, living green in Japan, and in Yamaguchi Prefecture, can become a natural part of your daily life.