Greener Travel: Japan Part 1

Traveling to Japan, pack your bag!


Hey Everyone, thanks again for joining me here for the social experiment which is my life. Some of you may know from my IG account, that last week I had to opportunity to travel to Japan with the Hubs for work. I always have an internal conflict and discussion with myself in regard to air travel and my personal carbon footprint. Flying to Tokyo from Vancouver is essentially my entire transportation CO2 budget for the year (it is more because I don’t drive a whole lot), so there are significant impacts on my carbon footprint. However, I love to travel. I love experiencing other cultures because I find it cultivates a greater level of understanding, empathy, and connection within me for Others. Being insular culturally leads to biases and assumptions which are not helpful or constructive in these divided times.

Fushimi inari temple in Kyoto.

So, to combat this increase in CO2E, I find travel encourages me to live an even greener life when at home and abroad. This trip was no exception! I decided that in this blog post I would share with you guys the tips and tricks that I use to reduce my waste while I am abroad to offset the carbon costs of traveling. There is a lot to cover so stay tuned for a part 2.

Packing Light

Packing is ESSENTIAL for a waste reduced trip. Having an international flight means I had the opportunity to check two pieces of luggage. However, I was only going to be away for 8 days and I believe that (even if it is a minuscule amount) that if we all packed lighter, the plane would be more fuel efficient because it would be lighter. Therefore, I carefully packed a single carry-on bag, as did the Hubs. Not only did this come in handy on the plane and in the airport, but it was extremely helpful navigating public transportation and the busy streets of Tokyo. There wasn’t a need to rent a car, call an Uber or a taxi.

Packing light for my trip to Japan was my very first goal for traveling greener.

Pack the Essentials

The focus of my packing was on creating a capsule wardrobe with pieces that could be mixed and matched to create several different outfits. Examples of this was a striped t-shirt and jeans worn during the day with a hoodie and a pair of runners for cruising Osaka, then taking it from day to night, could be worn with a blazer, necklace and heels for a chic casual evening look. That same blazer, necklace, and heels could be then paired with a casual daytime sweater dress on a different evening, elevating it once again. If you want more information on creating chic travel capsule wardrobes, there are no shortage of them on Pinterest. A great place to start is here at EverydayEcoLiving.

Channeling my inner Marie Kondo, I always roll my all my clothes keeping them wrinkle-free and packable. My clothing included 15 items plus socks/under-roos and 4 pairs of shoes.

My Mason Jar Merchant was an essential part of packing for my trip to Japan.
  • Striped T-Shirt (from thredUp)
  • White T-Shirt
  • Black T-Shirt
  • Patterned Blouse
  • Yellow Blouse
  • Sweater Dress (from thredUp)
  • Green Tunic
  • Black Long Sleeve
  • Leggings
  • Light Jeans
  • Dark Jeans
  • Black Jeans
  • Black Blazer
  • Jean Jacket
  • Black Sweater
  • Socks & ‘roos
  • Heels
  • Flats
  • Boots
  • Blundstones

In addition to slimming down my outfits, I also slimmed down my makeup and toiletries. This is because taking a carry-on means you can only have so much liquids and gels, but also because I wanted to keep it down to the essentials. I packed my trusty Ordinary brand moisturizers since they are small and come in great reusable and recyclable containers.

Additionally, I utilized refillable travel sized containers for my Pacifica face wash, Carina shampoo & conditioner. As for cosmetics, I only brought organic Physicians Formula tinted moisturiser and mascara, Pixie by Petra eye shadow duo and eyeliner. All of these items fit amazingly well in my new favourite Mason Jar Merchant travel tumbler. I knew that I wanted to take a travel tumbler with me to Japan as I knew caffeine was going to be essential for me to battle jet-lag. It is amazing what I could fit inside the 24 oz tumbler!

*Tip* Nesting items within other items is a great trick for traveling lighter! I fit all of my cosmetics in my Mason Jar Merchant tumbler, which prevented them from getting squished and eye shadows from crumbling. Additionally, I pack my socks and under-roos in my shoes for extra space savings.

Waste Reduction Strategies

Traveling with a greener conscious is fairly easy as long as you apply your existing green habits from home while you are away. The first thing I knew I wanted to pack was a travel mug. I opted for my Mason Jar Merchant West Coast is the Best Coast tumbler as it can handle both hot and cold drinks easily. I love this local Surrey-based company as they create adorable travel mugs and decor items from mason jars. Additionally, they sell essential zero waste mason jar accessories and vintage jars. The love that they put into their work is undeniable! Mason jars are tough suckers, so I had no concern packing it in my luggage.

I also made sure I packed the matching straw and Cuppow mason jar drinking lid. So not only did my tumbler act as my cosmetics case, it also doubled as a cup. The Hubs packed along the smaller Mason Jar Merchant Botanical Quartet Seeds tumbler for his daily cuppa as well. This was super fortunate because, it turns out hot coffee is not big in Japan. In several hotels, we were given these interesting fold-out coffee sachets which needed to be held over a cup or a mug. Unfortunately, they only provided us with disposable plastic cups! Tumblers to the rescue! These hardy little guys handled the job of brewing our morning coffees perfectly. Instead of using the tiny one-time-use creamers, we learned to call down to the front desk to ask for a fresh cup of milk, so we didn’t create plastic waste.

Additionally, when out and about we opted to ignore the thousands of cold-coffee vending machines and stopped at local cafes having them make cold-brew coffees in our tumblers. As always, the Japanese workers were polite and took our cups without a second glance. The smaller of the two easily fit in my purse, and we were able to easily take it with us while site seeing

Eating at restaurants was inevitable in Japan as none of our hotel rooms had kitchens. Therefore, we were careful about where, what and when we ate. I had previously thought about bringing my own reusable chop-sticks; however, I thought they may think I was being rude by not using theirs. In a culture that is so proud of their heritage and graciousness, I thought better of it. However, I was pleasantly surprised that most restaurants used reusable plastic or wooden chopsticks! Only on several occasions at more fast-food like places did I use disposable wooden ones, which I didn’t mind.

Ordering intelligently was also imperative as I was concerned about having leftovers that we couldn’t store. When ordering food, we made sure not to over-indulge and get too much, ensuring that we finished everything that was brought to our table.

Tokyo side street between high rise buildings.
Tokyo Side Street in the entertainment district… How is that street so clean?!

Snacking was difficult in Japan, as they do seem to have an affinity for single use/wrapped snacks and convenience stores. On the opposite side of the coin, is that there is a distinct lack of garbage cans anywhere. Heaven forbid you have a tissue you need to throw away, because you won’t find a trash can anywhere. This was the interesting aspect of Japan for me, as there didn’t appear to be anywhere for their garbage cans or dumpsters to be. The alleys between high rises in Tokyo and Osaka contained more restaurants, not dumpsters. I kept asking the Hubs “Where is all their garbage?!” Upon returning home, I did some research into Japan’s recycling and waste rates.

Small alleys in Osaka Japan. No dumpsters!
Every single space seemed to be used in Kyoto.

So how does Japan deal with its waste? Well you will have to tune in next time, because it is an interesting story – I know I know, you just can’t wait to hear me discuss their waste system.

In part 2, I will be covering transportation- trains, Uber & taxi’s, micro-hotels, consumer cultures, and how I kept my sustainability goals in mind while being bombarded by the lights and excitement of Tokyo and Osaka! Additionally, I will be discussing how Japan uses Waste to Energy systems and where they stand on the world stage for waste recovery.

Cheers – Heather

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3 Comments on “Greener Travel: Japan Part 1

  1. Your right !! There’s no garbage cans in any of your photos. Ok now I’m interested to see how they manage such a clean street

    • >There’s no garbage cans in any of your photos. Ok now I’m interested to see how they manage such a clean street

      There are public trash cans in Japan. But not an abundance of them. If we have garbage, we carry it until we find a public garbage can…and bring it home if we don’t happen to see a public garbage can. No one thinks anything of it…it’s just common sense to hold on to your garbage until you can dispose of it – not litter.

  2. >I had previously thought about bringing my own reusable chop-sticks; however, I thought they may think I was being rude by not using theirs.

    You could’ve brought your own chopsticks if you wanted to. Actually, it was popular for a short time a few years ago for people to bring their own chopsticks when they ate out…if an effort to lower the amount of disposable chopsticks being used. As a result, more restaurants here replaced their disposable chopsticks with “real” ones – so hardly anyone brings their own to restaurants anymore — but no one would be offended if you did.

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