High School - Japan, High School Abroad

Japan’s ‘How To’ on Energy Conservation

by Colleen McCollum, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad Participant in Japan

At this point in my writings about Japan, I’m going to get technical and ramble about Japan’s environmentally friendly lifestyles.

First off, water conservation. Wow. This country uses water more carefully than we did mid-drought in Colorado. Despite the fact that it’s humid enough here to have a rainy season; Japanese people have a completely different way of bathing, which involves washing yourself while sitting on a stool and using a handheld shower head, and once you’re sparkling clean, you hop into the bath, or furo, for a relaxing soak. Then you hop back out, rinse yourself down, and your done.

Now, how is this related to water conservation? For one thing, washing up on a stool means you don’t have a constant stream of water. Cleaning yourself before you enter the bath means you barely dirty the bathwater. Barely dirty bathwater can be used again, and it is. Japanese families use the same bathwater for every member of the family. So when it’s evening, the bath is filled only once, and then kept warm while each family member takes his or her turn. But don’t be impressed yet; there’s more.

The next day, the bathwater from the tub is pumped into the washing machine via hose to be used for the laundry. The rinsing stage of the washing uses fresh water, but the soaping stage ensures the leftover bathwater doesn’t go to waste. The toilets here are also made to conserve water, with a flush handle that goes two ways, one for a large flow of water and one for a smaller flow of water. On the top of the toilet is a small faucet for washing your hands that turns on when the toilet is flushed. Another form of water conservation.

Next up, trash. A few years back, all of Yokohama began a new recycling program. That means everyone is required to sort their trash into plastic, paper, bottles and cans, products to be burned, and products that will decompose. Each block has an assigned area to put their trash, where it will be picked up. Depending on the day, the trash they take out is different. The residents have shifts for cleaning up the trash area in case the pesky crows decide to come for a visit.

Electricity is also used sparingly. In both the schools and houses, each room is heated or cooled separately, and there’s no central heating. Back in the horribly hot summer, my host family didn’t turn on the air conditioner until 7:00 p.m. to save energy, and we weren’t allowed to turn on the AC in our bedrooms unless we were studying. At night, we set the timer to turn off the AC automatically after two hours. Right now it’s very cold, and at school my classmates are bringing blankets to put on their laps during class to keep warm.

Gasoline, of course, is used in smaller quantities because of the sheer number of people who use public transportation. The cars they do use are small, compact, and if possible hybrid. But for short distances, bicycles are preferred.

The ruthless organization and careful efforts of the Japanese people make this country a well-oiled machine in terms of energy conservation.

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


4 thoughts on “Japan’s ‘How To’ on Energy Conservation

  1. thanks this website really helped me complete this assignment

    Posted by niaya | May 21, 2012, 10:24 am
  2. Hi Colleen,
    Your blog was so interesting. It brought back memories of the bathtubs we had in Okinawa. They were made from little one inch tiles. I was amazed that they didn’t leak! We Americans were given the opportunity to conserve when the military shut our water off every other day for a year. That was tough because we then had to boil all our drinking water. I remember filling an ice chest with hot water every night before water would be shut off so we could mix it with water from the bath tub for two gallon showers the next day. It was hard to believe we were in a drought with all that water around us. Keep having fun…it will be over before you know it.
    Mrs. Bogart

    Posted by Mrs. Margaret Bogart | November 4, 2010, 8:56 pm
  3. I found the use of handkerchiefs as another environentally conscious cultural practice. I think of all the paper we waste everytime we use the restroom and how easy and economical it is to carry our own handwiping device. So much of our consumption is cultural. I remember never carrying a little washcloth to the bathroom and feeling frustrated that public restrooms did not supply paper towels. However, once I got used to the practice of carrying around my cute hello kitty kerchief, I thought “how obvious and smart!”

    Hope you’re having a great time Colleen!

    Posted by Sabrina Witt | November 2, 2010, 2:35 pm
  4. Colleen, I love your blogs and this one on energy was especially informative. What a great opportunity you are experiencing! We look forward to your return, but in the meantime have an awesome year in Japan.
    Mrs. McRae

    Posted by Kathy McRae | November 1, 2010, 12:37 pm

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