By Coco Masuda
Since I live in an apartment building in New York City, using solar energy and making compost is not possible, but I’m always looking for small ways to practice sustainability in my life, and I teach my daughter the importance of being environmentally conscious. I use only earth-friendly detergents and cleaner, I always carry a portable shopping bag, and grow herbs on our terrace just as many people do these days. My pet peeve is to buy bottled water. I have my daughter use reusable water bottles whenever possible.
Being a Japanese makes my approach to sustainability unique, I think. I use traditional wisdoms to save energy and recycle. Paper napkins are banned in my household and I keep tiny hand towels in a basket on a dining table. Kids who come to our home think it’s so cool. Instead of using paper towels to clean, I use “zookin” which is an old towel sewn thick to make it durable and easy to use. I carry a handkerchief, as everyone does in my home country, so we don’t need to use paper towels in the public bathrooms. I almost never turn on the air-conditioner, and carry a Japanese hand fan, which is elegant and functional. All the letters from school and junk mails with a blank back are cut into memo sheets. My late father taught my daughter, “never rip the paper when you are unwrapping a gift.” We recycle most gift-wraps.
And even though I don’t make compost, I try not to waste anything in my kitchen. Left over meat from a grilled chicken is used to make homemade dog food (seasoning washed, of course) and the bones are used to make a soup. A leftover fish becomes dried and seasoned sprinkles for rice. Dried old bread becomes bread crumbs. Most leftovers can be used to make a fried-rice. These are all what people used to do in old times, and they are smart and fun.