These days, the popularity of "eco bags," "my chopsticks," and "my water bottle" have introduced many people to ecology-conscious lifestyles in Japan. Dr. Advice, who just came back from his business trip, tells us about Japan's traditional "mottainai" culture and the new movement towards protecting the global environment for the future.
Dr. Advice Hi, everyone! I just came back from Indonesia. It was very hot over there, but summer has not left Japan yet.
Meilin Yes, I cannot survive this heat without my water bottle.
Dr. Advice Are you taking your water bottle with you all the time?
Meilin Yes, I pack homemade jasmine tea in my bottle and take it with me when I go out.
Kim You are demonstrating a good example of an "eco"-friendly lifestyle.
Meilin What does "eco" exactly mean, by the way?
Dr. Advice A word "eco" comes from "ecology" and generally means something good for environment. "Eco Navi," a website run by the Environmental Information Center, is a good source of information to learn about ecology and eco-conscious lifestyles.
Meilin I often see people using their own shopping bags at the store. Is that also considered eco-friendly?
Tom Right, those shopping bags are in fact called "eco bags." They are available in a variety of colors and patterns and are very popular among young women as well. Conventional plastic store bags are durable and waterproof and can be reused as trash bags. However, to protect our environment, using your own shopping bags instead is becoming a popular movement to cut down the amount of plastic bags.
Dr. Advice Have you heard a Japanese word "mottainai"? "Mottainai" is an old word that describes the regretful feeling for wasting or not saving things. It is the word that was born from people's appreciation and gratitude for natural harvests as well as for those who produced them. In a time of affluence like today, we have less opportunity to actually experience its true meaning. However, it is still very important for us to be more conscious about conservation and stop wasting things. A shopping bag may be a good start.
Kim I see now that carrying your own water bottle like Meilin is also an action of the "mottainai" spirit. I always buy drinks in plastic bottles--is this a bad thing for our environment?
Tom Plastic drink bottles, or PET bottles, are recycled in various ways. The website of the Council for PET Bottle Recycling gives you a wide range of information about recycling PET bottles, from how to prepare used bottles for collection to what types of products are made from recycled bottles. In reality, however, it is difficult to collect all bottles for recycling.
Dr. Advice In Japan, recycling advocators today are also promoting the idea of "reducing" and "reusing." The idea is known as the "3Rs" and has become one of the key terms for the environmental protection for the future. There is a proper order of the three R-actions to take; it starts from "reducing" the consumption of resources and the amount of waste; then "reusing" things repeatedly as long as they are usable; and "recycling" them when they are no longer usable and use as materials to make other products.
Meilin If I say no to those complementary chopsticks, or plastic forks or spoons that we are offered at convenience stores, would it be an example of "reducing?"
Dr. Advice Yes, that's right. What is important is that you do what you can do little by little everyday.
Kim One of our neighbors gave us some used clothes for my son. Is this "reusing?"
Dr. Advice Of course. Kids grow fast, and you can save some money too. It also helps you build a good relationship with your neighbors. Altering clothes and restoring furniture are also a way of "reusing."
Tom I am buying my own water bottle and am taking part in "reducing" the waste!
Dr. Advice It is always good to start with something you can easily do.
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