Kansai Scene Magazine
 

 
Environment

Living Without Garbage



I would like you all to look in your garbage cans. I looked in mine. It has some receipts, some ground coffee, a milk carton, and other bits of paper. But my question is, what if we eradicated garbage? Really, what is the purpose of it? Where does garbage fit into our lives? Its very existence explains that our lifestyles are not sustainable; that we are consuming more than we need– and the excess is just being relocated.

Let me explain how garbage fits into my life. I am an English instructor at a university in Kobe, and I am from Portland, Oregon. Back home, you can bring your own reusable containers to any number of places to refill products instead of wasting packaging for things such as peanut butter or cereal, and I thought my move to Japan, except for the obvious, wouldn’t change my life drastically. I had been sorting recyclables and using compost piles my whole life, and naturally thought that similar procedures would follow in Japan. Not so. Now, it seems, that recycling is not the ultimate option, but rather cutting out the need to dispose of garbage altogether.

I’m not trying to knock Japan here. Japan is doing brilliant things to reduce energy consumption. Public transit is used widely and bicycles are a fantastic, healthy way to get from A to B and lower fuel consumption. Many people reuse bathwater to wash laundry, and most Japanese take a shower before getting in the bath anyway so that the water is pretty clean, making it unnecessary to refill the bath for each member of the family.

But I’ve always wanted to see if it is possible to live without garbage. There are possibly people who already do this but I want to see if I can do it in Kobe, Japan, the land where bananas are individually wrapped in plastic and then double-bagged at the register. I’ve been preparing for my life without garbage for a while now. I have a reusable shopping bag, as well as a fancy handbag, which I shove groceries in as well. I’ve also set up a worm bin on my veranda: simply a box with ventilation holes where you place your plant and vegetable scraps and worms eat it up and turn it into some of the best fertilizer.

Already though, I foresee some challenges. Firstly, I don’t think I will be able to eat eggs or anything processed, because they come pre-packaged. I have located several fruit stands where I can purchase my fruits and vegetables unwrapped, and I can bring my own container to the tofu store. Meat may be impossible as well, but if I am really trying to do a favor for the environment, I’ll need to cut it out eventually. I am an avid fan of chocolate and ice cream, but I will no longer be able to buy those either.

All of my food scraps, as well as used coffee grounds, will go in the worm bin.

Receipts can be shredded and go in the worm bin, and dust from the floor can be tossed in as well. I will need to stop using all disposable products such as plastic razors, cotton squares, and paper towels or tissues. And all this makes me wonder what people did before disposable products were introduced. When did we stop being so resourceful? Did it happen at about the same time that we got so rich and greedy?

By no means do I want to insinuate that I live more environmentally friendly than anyone else. I do all sorts of awful things like travel and consume meat and watch trashy television. Furthermore, I’m not an expert on the sorts of resources available for living with less disposable stuff. In fact, I hope that my lack of knowledge on resources for living without disposable products can be an inspiration for others who want to help me in “de-garbagization.”

Text: Anne Parmeter Illustration: Phil Couzens

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