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10 Tips for a Greener Trip to Tokyo

How green are the Japanese? In terms of being eco-conscious the residents of Japan are right up there but in terms of actually doing something about it they face the same challenges as many other countries. The Japan Times asks “How green are Japan’s urbanites?” and has puts together a list of 10 things that residents can do to live in a manner that is less harmful to the planet. Let’s take a look at the 10 green tips and see how you can apply them to your next visit to Tokyo:

Tip #1 – Cool Biz is one of the nations most successful green initiatives that allows workers to scrap the tie and jacket over the summer months so that less energy is used to cool office buildings. Cool Biz saved Japan an estimated 1.14 million tons of carbon dioxide in fiscal 2006, which equals the amount emitted by 2.5 million households in a month.

Apply Cool Biz principles to your trip by emulating the businesses in Japan and setting the air conditioner in your hotel room to 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees F) or better yet open up a window and enjoy the breeze.

Tip #2 – Shorter Showers could reduce carbon emissions by 69 kg per year if each person, of a three person family in Japan, turned off the faucet for one minute a day.

Heed the call by the Environment Ministry of Japan and turn off the shower every time you shampoo your hair and scrub your body when you visit. Or, shower with a friend, you’re on vacation right?

Bring your own toiletries and have hotel staff change your sheets and linens only when necessary to further limit your impact on the planet.

Tip #3 – Green Homes are not that common in Japan where there is a heavy reliance on oil for heating, little insulation, few energy-saving furnaces/appliances installed and limited use of renewable energies. Sadly, Japan’s housing is the second-least sustainable despite their small size.

Don’t contribute to this trend; instead of a palatial suite at a five star hotel choose smaller and greener accommodations like those offered at The Tokyo International Hostel where rooms are sparse, inexpensive and shared with others. How much time do you spend in your hotel room anyway – you should be out exploring the city!

Tip #4 – Use Eco Bags to reduce the impact of plastic bags on the environment. A grassroots campaign over the last few years to promote cotton or vinyl “eco bags” among shoppers has taken off. Nearly 75 percent of 251 housewives from Tokyo, Osaka and Aichi prefectures responding to a May survey said that they carry eco bags around daily and forgo the use of plastic bags whenever possible.

Eco bags are stylish and there are even models that are expandable. Place an eco bag in your backpack and use it when you make purchases on your travels throughout Tokyo. It doesn’t take up much room and our request will be well received at most retail stores.

Tip #5 – Reduce Waste – Recycling of paper and PET bottles can cut carbon emissions only if it comes with a less wasteful lifestyle.

Most public places in Japan offer recycling bins for both paper and plastic – make an effort to use them and refill your water bottle from local fountains when you are out rather than purchasing a new bottle. Also, make a point to bring your own chopsticks when you visit so that when you dine out you aren’t contributing to the deforestation of the planet.

Tip # 6 – Remove electric cords from their sockets – the Environment Ministry says that 7 percent of the electricity consumed by a household is the result of leaving VCRs, TVs, audio players and microwaves and other appliances plugged in when they are not in use.

Don’t leave your laptop plugged in at the hotel. Charge it and then unplug it. Use rechargeable batteries in your cameras and other electronic devices wherever possible and if you have to plug them in to charge them, unplug them as soon as possible.

Tip # 7 – Use public transportation or drive green – 82.6 percent of Tokyoites surveyed said they “always or often” get to their destinations by walking, riding bicycles and using trains and buses rather than using cars and taxis, ahead of the international eight- city average of 76.6 percent.

Tokyo has a great transportation infrastructure that is easy to use. Check out “Taking the Subway in Tokyo” to see how you can get in on the act when you visit the city.

Tip # 8 – Eat food produced locally and in season and select vegetables and fruits grown outdoors, because off-season foods are often grown in greenhouses, which require fuel to keep them warm.

In Tokyo’s residential areas you will often come across vegetable vendors operating out of small trucks. While there is no guarantee that the produce being sold meets the criteria set out above it is more likely that it does – your produce will certainly be fresher than that purchased at a chain supermarket and you will be helping out a small business person at the same time.

Tip # 9 – Get political – Tokyoites were found to be the least or second- least active in categories ranging from donating to green causes to participating in reforestation and local tree-planting activities.

Friends of the Earth, Japan is an international NGO that tackles environmental issues in Japan and in 70 other countries around the world. The group hosts a monthly hike that anyone can join and your contribution of Y1,000 (plus transportation costs) helps to cover the cost of organizing the hikes and supports the groups other initiatives.

Tip # 10 – Invest green – The value of all eco-funds in Japan as of June 2007 stood at ¥274 billion, compared with ¥210 trillion in the U.S. and ¥20 trillion in Britain.

While you may or may not invest green, you can purchase carbon credits to offset the impact of your flight to Tokyo on the environment.

Take some time to consider these 10 Tips for a Greener Trip to Tokyo before you come. Most of them are easy to implement and you will feel great about your efforts to leave a smaller footprint on the planet.

For more information on how to travel green, take some time to visit Liz at Traveling The Green Way.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Yes… the environment… let’s keep that! & Personal Collection

Tags: carbon credits, Eco Bags, Envornment, Freinds of the Earth, Green Travel, Hostel, Japan, The Tokyo Traveler, Tokyo, Tokyo Travel Guide, Tokyo Travel Tips, Tokyo Visitors Guide, Travel

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POSTED IN: Travel Tips – General Information