Environmental friendly Japan?


Abroad there seem to be two common general images about the Japanese approach to nature or then consequently environment sensibility: A highly nature sensible soul in all Japanese that values and respects tiny changes in nature. On the other hand, the wasteful wrapping style (mostly gone now), little hesitancy to litter in the street/country side or “so-called eco campaigns” that seem so contrary to an environmental conscious approach (buy a bigger TV to get more eco points). From personal observation, I believe both exists. Nature tends to have a poetic character, because most locals have little access to get their own hands dirty with actual nature. Further the word “eco” seems to me somewhat disconnected to actual wild, smelly nature, much more a marketing project nice to show on paper. To make the situation even more complex, at the same time at manufacturing sites I see many times increased eco-friendly production and recycling. The construction industry has key eco buildings, while at home almost inexistent isolaton and single glass windows are still common.
I fully understand that not each country has the same approach to environmental protection. For sure I learned my lessons in Switzerland (“Don’t take the car, take the train!” or “Don’t throw away the coffee cream lid, collect it because it is aluminium!”) or then in the US (“Nearest recycling center is 20 minutes away by car” or “room heating is installed in the roof”) and then in Japan (“Popular summer barbecue on the river side resulting in tons of dumped garbage”).
You can call me naive, when I assumed that in the case of Japan respect for nature results in the urge to protect nature and therefore from the grass-roots individual level everyone will make conscious choices in their purchasing behavior and daily activities. As Japan is dear to my heart, I wish there were higher awareness that everyone can make a difference.
Let’s look at one simple example: Paper tissues. According to Japan Times tissue-marketing is a proven and inexpensive way to advertise. For the cost of as little as JPY 10 to JPY 25 you can get your message directly into the hands of potential customers. Even better, most likely consumers who accept the tissues will read the advertisement. Further the Japan Times article said that according to market research 76 percent accept free tissues. Along the same lines TV channel 4 (Nippon Television Network) showed that an average Japanese uses 17 boxes of tissues per year (US, Canada, Italy, Germany 6 boxes, England 5 boxes). Possibly for some countries the difference might be offset by the use of paper towels. Of course the use of tissue at a public toilet without any paper (less and less common) or cleaning your nose makes sense, especially now in the hay fever season. My request is, please think twice next time when you are given the choice of accepting free tissues: Do you really need the advertisement with the tissues? Or let’s go one step further: Next time when you use a tissue, is it just a habit or an actual need?

Dreaming about a grass-roots promoted environmental friendly Japan,

Sibylle Ito

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