Simple Steps to Sustainability for Your Family

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sustainability tips for your family

Simple Steps to Sustainability for Your Family


Setsubun unofficially marks the beginning of springtime in Japan! While the weather can still feel a little wintery, it's nice to think about the longer days, warmer weather and abundant sunshine to come. Watching flowers bloom and trees turn green is also good motivation to give a little more thought to how we treat our environment.

There are a lot of simple ways your family can incorporate sustainability into your lives. They can also be a lot of fun! We've rounded up a few of our favorite eco-friendly lifestyle tips that will help the whole family be a little greener.

Just Say No — to Plastic Bags

The plastic bags you see at grocery check-out may be convenient (and double as trash bags when you get home) but they come with a lot of... baggage. For one, producing the plastic they're made of takes a lot of fossil fuels. And once you're done with them, they end up in landfills or worse — the ocean, where fish and other marine wildlife mistake them for tasty treats.

Instead of paying the extra yen for those disposable bags, invest in a reusable one (or two)! Not only are these bags better for the environment, but they're also a great way to show off your fashion sense. Baggu has tons of fun prints and patterns. They also offer several different sizes, so even little kids can get in on the action.

Stay Hydrated, Sustainably

You can't go one block in Tokyo without stumbling upon a vending machine (or several). There's never an excuse to be dehydrated while out and about! But one downside to these very convenient watering stations is the waste they create. Plastic bottles can be recycled (thankfully!) but unless you're prepared to carry your empties around town with you, you're taking a gamble tossing it into a public bin. Some may scatter in the wind and the rest is sometimes recycled in ways that you wouldn't imagine.

A better bet is a reusable cup! Another opportunity to show off your personal style, you can also pick up cute options for the little ones. Thermos has tons of versatile options that make staying hydrated on the go simple and sustainable.

indoor gardening in japan

Grow Your Own Veggies (and More)

If you've never experienced the joy of cultivating your very own food garden, you have been missing out! Gardening provides a wonderful lesson on science, sustainability and patience.

Unless you have a large outdoor space, you probably won't be able to replace your entire grocery store produce haul with at-home gardening. But there are plenty of options for city-dwellers to take advantage of. This hydroponic kit even saves you the trouble and mess of soil. It's simple to use — instructions and all the tools you need are included — and at the end, you'll have a bunch of delicious baby lettuce for your dinner!

Apartment Friendly Composting

Another sustainable practice — composting — is not something many families in small spaces may think is possible for them. Composting, which is the practice of taking organic matter like leaves and leftover food and turning it into fertilizer, can sometimes necessitate space for a big heap in your yard, or at least a large bin in your kitchen. Composting can also create some... interesting... smells, which are harder to avoid in apartments.

However, there are lots of new products, like this kit from LFC, that are specifically designed to be compact and prevent odor. So instead of dumping your leftover food into the trash can, you can instead start composting— and create rich fertilizer for your at-home gardening!

Shop Secondhand

Who doesn't like to be fashionable?! Staying on top of the latest trends can be a lot of fun and a great way to display your individuality. Unfortunately, a lot of "fast fashion" isn't very sustainably produced. It may be inexpensive to purchase, but the cost for the environment is pretty high.

Luckily, your retail therapy doesn't need to suffer! Tokyo is filled with secondhand (or vintage) clothing shops. Shimokitazawa, a neighborhood in Setagaya-ku, is especially well-known for its abundance of amazing consignment finds. With a little bit of patience, you can find unique, funky and high-fashion pieces to add to your whole family's wardrobe.

Conversely, if you have clothes that your children have grown out of or that no longer suit your style, you can donate them! This article has tips on where to take your old fear, as well as places that accept furniture and home goods, too.

farmers markets in japan

Shop Local

Many of the goods we can find at the grocery or department store come from far away. They've been shipped, using planes, trains and/or automobiles from other cities or even other countries, using a lot of fossil fuel in the process. Shopping for locally produced goods not only helps to curb this energy usage, but it also supports small businesses and farmers in our own communities!

Visting Farmer's markets and flea markets is a great weekend activity for the whole family. Especially in nice weather, it's a treat to wander from stall to stall, discovering unique treats. The Farmers Market at United Nations University has vendors selling homemade honey, fresh organic veggies, tea, wine and more. The Yebisu Marche also has an abundance of locally produced food options and is held in the lovely Chateau Square, a destination in and of itself.

Decorate with Low-Water Plants

Everyone loves to have a little greenery around the house to perk things up — especially when we've spent so much time at home in the past year. Not only do they look nice, but houseplants also help clean the air and keep us happy. Plus, they're mostly easy to take care of (every once in a while, we lose one!).

The plants we choose to decorate our outdoors are also important in keeping our air clean and our neighborhoods pretty. Unfortunately, outdoor plants can prove to be a bit harder to keep on top of. Many of the prettiest flowers require a lot of resources, namely water. While it may not seem like it during rainy season in Japan, water is very much a precious resource! One way to help preserve it is to choose low-water plants. Many on this list, like succulents, are very hardy and also easy on the eyes!

Living sustainably doesn't need to be a chore for your family! We hope these tips help you get started. 

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