Japan Times’ coverage of “MyMizu” highlights the intention of the app’s creators to challenge Japan’s definition of ‘sustainability’. MyMizu features a map of places in Japan where water can be obtained for free, either from drinking fountains or food and beverage establishments that have agreed to provide complimentary refills. Refill stations featured on the app would enable and encourage Japanese and other travelers to Japan to refill their own reusable water bottle.
MyMizu was launched with hopes of discouraging the consumption of plastic packaging, especially plastic bottles, which accounts for just a tiny portion of the copious amount of plastic waste produced by Japan. At the time of writing, the planning of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games was making headway and the knowledge that spectators could potentially be consuming more than 110 million plastic bottles in six weeks was alarming to say the least. Yet, the Olympic Games Organising Committee was not keen to work with startups like MyMizu in their efforts towards reducing the environmental impact the Games would have.
Despite Japan’s reputation for “eco-friendliness”, the article points glaringly to the country drowning itself in plastic. Personal practices highlighted show how its society’s inclination towards such seemingly environmentally-friendly practices are done not out of a love for the Earth, but out of necessity. Furthermore, with China having shut its doors to imported plastic waste since 2017, Japan desperately needs an alternative to managing the waste produced.
Overall, the article paints major conglomerates in Japan as being less involved in environmental causes. The commitment that locals show towards demonstrations for such causes also appear to be dismal. Yet, the app has drawn enthusiasm from many users in Japan. Currently-held attitudes and practices towards sustainability still need to be challenged and this app is opening the gateway towards doing just that.
From a political-ecological lens, different scales of power are at work to make this happen. The impact started locally, from MyMizu’s co-founder Robin Lewis who noticed the lack of refill points. However, pressure for change has to be made to the government which has more power over public policies. Pressure from the masses in Japan may currently be lacking but international pressure definitely has the power to move the hand of Japan’s government. Despite the postponement of the Olympics, Japan is still pressed show some effort towards environmentally-friendliness.
Since the term ‘sustainability’ made its way into Japanese politicians’ vernacular in the 1980s, its definition has remained fluid and has been appropriated to achieve different goals. Such goals were often aligned with International pressure that Japan had on many occasions bowed to (Kirby, 2011). Nonetheless, the Japanese branch of global conglomerates have been slow to embrace such measures for the environment. Even Coca-Cola, when interviewed by the Japan Times writers, affirmed the lack of change in their business plan which currently does not support environmentally-friendly practices, despite the strides that their American arm is making in a bid for sustainable development.
Kirby further expounds on the idea that Japan’s sustainable and frugal lifestyle has always existed out of necessity rather than a genuine “love” for nature. Even when examining representations of nature in art, it is evident that the Japanese cherish nature in its idealized state, and their impression of wildlife is something threatening and to be avoided (Kalland & Asquith, 1997). Yet, the fact that they use every part of a whale when caught, rather than wasting large chunks of it as foreigners do, seems to satisfy the personal narrative that the Japanese tell themselves of their noble sustainability efforts. Such contrasting sentiments seem to be the impetus for the development of MyMizu with its bid to alter how the term ‘sustainable’ is held in Japanese minds.
Word count: 617
By: Jovan and Gloria
Chase-Lubitz, J. (2019, October 10). New app MyMizu aims to reduce plastic waste in Japan, one drink at a time. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/10/national/science-health/reducing-plastic-waste-in-japan-mymizu/
Kalland, A., & Asquith, P. (1997). Japanese images of nature : cultural perspectives . Curzon.
Kirby, P. (2011). Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan. University of Hawai’i Press. Retrieved July 6, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqhtv