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Published on January 7th, 2013 | by Sara Stroman

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An American Entrepreneur Learns Eco-Living in Japan

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Greetings from Japan, readers!

I have been studying Japanese paper making the past month and will continue traveling in Japan through the New Year. As part of my education, I am learning the Japanese way of life that includes recycling, eco-living, and less waste.

My posts for the next few weeks, or until I get back into the American swing of things come January, will be about lessons I learn, tips that are totally doable in America and anything else that strikes my fancy based on Japanese eco-living practices.

Before I begin though, let me share a bit about me: I am an environmentalist at heart. During my most recently New York City life (2006-2012), I became seriously active in my community and in recycling. I recycled everything down to textiles and when purchasing items asked myself, “will you be able to recycle this (and the packaging) item when it no longer fills its need?”

I bought almost all of my food from local farmers at farmers markets and joined a Community Supported Agriculture program in my neighborhood, as well as acted in the Core Group as their Communications Manager. I did my best to educate friends and family and strangers on the recycling opportunities in New York City as best and as often as I could. In other words, taking care of the Earth is important to me and I believe in taking direct action and using it as a way to softly educate loved ones and my community.

I believe that we are too commercialized and that people buy unnecessary and unwanted items to fill a greater void in their lives. (I say this speaking of myself – having loaded up credit cards with purchases I cannot remember anymore, and I’m sure I no longer own.)

I do not have the answer for how to fill the void many people feel outside of offering self-discover and exploration. (Both of which have me across the Oceans and in Japan, but they can take place anywhere and does not require a trip to a foreign land.)

I do not speak Japanese very well, or even 98 percent well. I rely on facial expressions, limited Japanese words, and body gestures to get me through most days, but I have never felt more alive and aware than I have during the past six weeks I’ve called Japan “home.”

But, let me continue with more about why I am writing for “Green Living Ideas”

In 2009, I decided (after a long dream) to start a stationery company. The main idea behind my company was (and still is!) to offer environmentally sustainable stationery products.  By stationery, I don’t mean what you find in most stores: notebooks, note cards, greeting cards, etc. Instead, I offer personalized social stationery. Yes that does include customized note card sets, but I don’t offer many options for generic note card sets that you can easily find at Target, Papyrus, or Hallmark stores.

I have always enjoyed fine, luxurious papers. Some of the best comes artisans in countries like Japan, India, and Thailand who continue to use handmade processes and all natural products.

As I used more and more of these papers, I started to wonder about their origin. Which brought me to a larger question- what is the origin of all the paper that I use for my orders and products?

Yes, any company can state their sustainability goals and attempts in an annual report, but is it actually true and honest? How can a small business owner or simple paper lover know the truth?

Needless to say, this helped bring me here, to where I am in Japan now, Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, studying the traditional techniques of papermaking.  See, my goal is to be able to source my own paper and if I don’t, then to work directly with artisans that practice sustainable methods.

I realize this is a long way to travel to study sustainability methods and to attempt to run a true blue eco-first business, but it’s what makes the most sense to me.  I’m a fan of walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

That means that once the recycling in Japan articles end, you may hear about sustainable business practices and topics along those lines. I’m excited! I hope you are, too!

 

 





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