14 October, 2007

5 Simple Things Even I Can Do

Snapshots throughout the post are from today's Sunday Market. (Click to enlarge.)

I had planned a post about reusing and re-cycling ideas but decided it might be better to simplify a bit, get down to the nitty-gritty of things since there will be a whole lot of us bloggers posting on the environment for Blog Action Day today, and you just might like to read a few of them. I know I will be reading as many as I can.

This is first time I have have participated in Blog Action Day, since this is my first year of blogging. I find I'm really excited. Being from that now somewhat faded generation known as "the flower children" I find more than a bit of joy in returning to my youth-driven ideals through re-discovering vegetarianism and trying to educate myself to be a better citizen of Earth. It's fun, I tell you. I feel joy in discovery every day and that's something that feels brand new, no matter how many years between those days and this. A lot of that I credit to the inspiration and learning from reading so many of your blogs. I feel inspired when I see people who care enough to live thoughtfully and share those thoughts with me and the world through their generous gift of blogging. Let me take this time to thank you all for that. It feels great to be doing this together, all 14oo81 of us, as of the time I write this.

Tonight I was watching the Discovery channel and happened to see a documentary on the great heat waves that hit Chicago in the 1990s and Paris and much of Europe in 2003. I was shocked to see that about 50, 000 people had died from nothing more than getting too hot and not being able to cool down their body temperatures. Politicians didn't help, mostly ignoring the problem until it was too late. Since then, they have put some warning measures in place, but they predict that these kind of heat waves will only increase as the planet warms up. I don't think we can depend on political will to protect us from disasters.

It's pretty hard to ignore this problem if you live in Japan where summer temperatures in the cities now routinely top 40 degrees. This year we had record high temperatures here and the summer was so long and hot that most people were starting to become bone weary of it by September. And it killed some of the elderly and physically weaker or disadvantaged of us. It does every year. That's truly sad.

For those of us it doesn't kill, it drains our energy, defeats our appetites, muddles thinking and takes the joy out of exercise, being outdoors, or doing much of anything at all. For me it makes concentrating on delivering a lesson a challenge, while sweat streams down my face and body. I spent most of July and August teaching with a sweat towel draped around my neck. And this year the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Abe, (at least I think it was his idea) suggested that businesses turn down their air conditioning and workers wear lighter clothing. A good idea in theory, but in practicality it meant bosses felt free to turn off the air conditioning and allow us to cook in our own juices, not exactly the kind of culinary event that I usually enjoy.

To get back to the point, and to cut myself off before this becomes a book, when a book is not called for, I'll just say that I've decided to make a list of five suggestions of simple things I (or anyone) can do if we want to start to take a few steps to halt the runaway heat. Easy steps that may lead on to others. Every good thing has a beginning. Today might be the perfect day to do that.

1. Shop at a farmers market.

You'll reap the benefits of better flavour and the prices are great. Everything is healthier because it's fresher and full of vitamins. You can meet your neighbours, support local farms and keep the farmland in use, and inspire yourself with the great panorama of the living and edible art you see to make yourself some delicious food.

2. Buy organic food.

Whenever you can buy organic produce and other staples because it will add to the health of you and your family since you will be eating fewer pesticides and artificial hormones. You will also encourage more farmers to go organic, and add to the health of the soil and water we all drink, add diversity to our food supply, and if you believe in karma, I'm sure reduce your lifetimes by a few hundred . :) You can help finance the extra cost of this by also shopping at farmer's markets.

3. Drink tap water.

We've all become addicted to bottled water but as many people are starting to recognize, tap water is better regulated than bottled water, hasn't travelled halfway around the world burning fuel to get to you, and isn't bottled in that modern scourge of landfills, the almost indestructible PET bottle. I've switched to tap water, filtered with a Brita filter (which I recycle) since the local water doesn't taste very good. The filtered water does.

I have almost eliminated my use of PET bottles, and this recycling day I had none to put out. By making and bottling my own tea and coffee to take to work I have been saving around 4000-5000 yen a month!

4. Hang up your clothes to dry.

If you live in Japan this is a given, because almost everyone already does this. We have wonderful little carousels with attached clothespins that maximize the laundry you can put out in a small space, like on a balcony. Outside clothes smell much better (assuming you don't live in a congested city) and the electricity we save by doing this must be considerable.

5. Carry a cloth or other re-usable shopping bag and refuse all plastic ones.

I know many people already do this, but many still don't. In Japan we are literally drowned in these bags. And they're put around things which are already wrapped in cello packs or other packages. It's easy to fold up a used grocery bag and fit it in your purse. If you drive a car you can keep a few bags in there.


Sea said...

All good suggestions! I admit, the summers in Japan just about did me in- without air conditioning I wilt very, very badly.

Speaking of tea... I just got your lovely package and I can't wait to have some! It was all bea-u-ti-ful and such fun to get. Your package is staring at me as we speak- the problem is that I have too much for the box and I haven't yet resolved myself to take something out. It's a weakness, I know. *sigh* But as soon as I can figure out what I can bear to not send, I will send it RIGHT AWAY. Please do not despair. It will arrive soon!

Thank you so much for this little exchange. I know as soon as I sip a cup of that lovely tea I will be transported back to my life in Japan- I can't wait!!!

*hugs and many, many thanks*

vegetablej said...

You're welcome. Glad you got it safely. I was waiting to hear from you before I sent the magazine, which I'll do now.

Did you find the two little chefs (you and DH, if you like:)) from an Umpanman set I use with the little kids?

Hope the tea is good.:) Hint: Make a big pot and chill the leftovers for later.

Melanie said...

Hey! Great post! Mr. Koizumi started the idea of "Cool Biz" and I think he did it for companies like mine, that don't have an adjustment for our a/c... so it's freezing (I am actually shivering and wearing a sweater in the summer) or burning up (wearing a t-shirt in the winter). As for sweating profusely at work, I think that clothes ideas in Japan in general should be relaxed, especially in extreme temperatures. I know in the winter, I have to walk outside classrooms with no temperature regulation. Yuck! And it's improper to wear a coat and scarf in the hallways, isn't it?

As for local vegetables and carrying around "my bag," may I also suggest "my hashi"-- your own chopsticks? I always get laughed at for being a foreigner who knows about this movement... but there's no need to use disposable chopsticks only once!

I re-use plastic grocery bags for garbage... but if you have a suggestion for how else I can package my garbage that involves something more enviro-friendly, I am all ears!

Keep up the excellent journal! Love from Osaka!

vegetablej said...


Thanks for the correction about "Cool Biz", now that you mention the name I do associate it with Koizumi.I think the idea is fine as long as it's used sensibly. Those big buildings with refrigerator temperature and lights on all the time are no good either.

Where I live I have to use special expensive bags for garbage sold by the city. I think that cuts down on how many people use. But the best idea is not to take them at all.

I put a back basket on my bicycle with small holes(mesh) so the groceries don't fall through. I put a bungee net on top from the Hyakku-en store that holds everything snugly. Then I drive out my cart(after refusing plastic bags) to the bike and transfer everything with no bags. It works fine and you can get more in there. When you get home you could use a cloth bag if you have to carry the groceries far(like upstairs).

Inside the apartment I put the garbage bags themselves into recycled cardboard boxes with the tops cut off and then just take the bags out when they're full. I don't use smaller bags inside of those(such as grocery bags). I used to but find it is just as easy to have two larger garbage "depots" and I don't use quite so much plastic. But if you are only using the smaller bags and that's all you need then I guess there's little difference.

Thanks for the hint with chopsticks. I have actually stopped using them. I always take a fork or spoon to work that is washed and then brought home again. I rarely can eat in restaurants because of dietary restrictions, but I'll be sure to take my own chopsticks when I do.

Finally, thank you so much for the encouragement, I truly appreciate it! Please come back with any more good ideas.

Sea said...

Guess what? I finally found a box solution and mailed your package! You should get it in 7-10 days. In retrospect I should have thought a little bit more about weight- it was one heavy box when the time came to mail it. Oh well... just enjoy every bite a little bit extra, ok? :D

I am loving the tea- it is helping me cut down on my 4 shot a day espresso habit that I sunk into when I got sick AND had lots of grad student work due. I'm back to one cappucino in the morning and tea in the afternoon... a much healthier habit. And we did find the cute little chefs- thank you thank you! I got the magazine today and I am very excited about the renkon etc. recipes. Just lovely! I'd seen it before but never bought one so it's a good introduction.

So... the international Japan-US package exchange has been completed. Everything makes me miss Japan more... but, I know I'll be back someday.

Enjoy! I'm so excited to hear about when you get the package.

(finally living up to my name again after weeks of pokiness)

vegetablej said...

Yay! Wow the magazine was fast! About two days, I think. I'll have to remember EMS.

I'm looking forward to the surprises in the package and I'll be sure to let you know in detail when I get it. Thanks!

And good luck with all the graduate work! Wishing you a tsunami of inspiration.

~(.\Us!!!/.)~ said...

Oh my god baby delicious all....me eat now pls spinafre etc... i love fest food Japan now I am full of hunger you leave me this divine plate my love thank you beautiful every congratulations...uuuuuuuuuh muahzz

vegetablej said...

~(.\us!!!/.)~ :

Whew! Hope I got that name right; it's a complicated one. :) Welcome, and thanks for the hungry feelings and congratulations! I appreciate your enthusiasm! :)

jonnyspace said...

I enjoyed reading your Blog Action Day post.

vegetablej said...


Thanks!:) If you liked it, you might like the "No Impact Man" blog (in my sidelinks under "eclectics"). I've been inspired by Colin Beaven's blog for the past year as he went off the grid in an apartment in New York city. A really interesting community has grown up there among his commenters. Very positive for the environment.

Thomas said...

I also live in Japan and one thing I do is reuse the bath water for my laundry. My washing machine has a hose that sucks the water out of the tub for the first cycle.

Mr.Movieman said...

enjoy with your post.. thanx..

Terri in Chiba said...


I just found your blog and am enjoying it since I am also in Japan and try to eat vegetarian and live thoughtfully, though it's often difficult in Japan.

I would like to add a link to your blog to my blog (www.ptsrainbowtalkstory.blogspot.com)

I want to comment here about your statement about drinking tap water. In my home (in Chiba near Tokyo Disneyland area), we use a water distiller made by Waterwise. We fill it with water from the tap, then distill that water. We stopped using bottled water 5 years ago when we got the distiller. Everything, even ice cubes, coffee and tea takes better and is cleaner than straight out of the tap. Although the tap water in Japan is relatively safe, there are many things in the tap water I am not comfortable drinking (or in bottled water too for that matter) and the safety of tap water is never guaranteed from day to day due to accidents etc. I personally do not like the chlorine that is added to tap water. You can read about Waterwise distillers at www.waterwise.com. I HIGHLY recommend them. They do ship to Japan but it's probably expensive. I carried mine over from USA. There may be a distributor in Japan, but I have not asked them about it. Maybe the folks at Alishan Organic Center in Saitama would carry and sell them in Japan.

Anyway thanks for the interesting blog, Terri in Ichikawa

vegetablej said...


The first time I heard about re-using water from the bathtub was in Japan. What with using smaller machines, cold water washes and re-using the water, as well as sharing the bath water, people here are setting a good example of conservation.