When people are asked what “sustainability” is, most of them will answer “eco-friendly” or something related to the environment. Well, that’s just one aspect of sustainability. However, this is an important topic to discuss. In this blog, let’s take an insight into what sustainability is and its role in daily living and travel.
What is sustainability and its three pillars?
As defined simply, sustainability is a concept that promotes environmental, social, and economic practices that meet our own needs and future generations. The goal is to live a lifestyle that benefits people, the economy/profit, and the environment in the long term. When people are aware of sustainability, they make sure to limit the harmful impacts on all three pillars. Japan is one of the top countries that embraces sustainability.
What Japan is doing?
Sustainability has been embedded in Japanese culture since the Edo period when resources were scarce. As a result, Japanese people took good care of everything they had, making them a sustainable society without waste. The Japanese mentality of “Mottainai” was valued.
Fast forward after World War II, Japan experienced rapid industrialization and possessed some technologically advanced sectors in the global economy. It was criticized in the past because of the environmental challenges that came with modernization. Yet, over the years, Japan changed its global image by implementing laws on recycling and balancing its status as a highly industrial nation that prioritizes sustainability. Currently, it is ranked as the 11th most sustainable country in the world.
Japan hosted the Kyoto Conference in 1997 where the Kyoto Protocol was developed. It was an international treaty for developed nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a time when Japan provides aid to support global warming programs in developing countries. Now, the country is considered a leader in promoting environmental initiatives in Asia.
Sustainability in travel and tourism
Sustainable travel aims to maintain and enhance the vitality of tourist destinations for years to come. The modernized world is almost accessible and there are numerous harmful effects on this such as overtourism. Overtourism is an issue that causes undesirable effects on the region’s environment and residents’ quality of life.
Fortunately, Japan is now applying sustainability in all aspects of travel. As a popular destination for years, Japan organizes activities that benefit the three pillars. As a responsible traveler consider these activities for your next travel:
- Economic pillar – promotes local tourism and businesses that contribute to the local economy. Examples are staying at family-owned guesthouses, ryokan (inn), farm stays, eating at izakayas, restaurants, and buying local produce and sustainable brands sold at michi no eki (road stations)
- Social pillar– Pay respect to local customs and culture. Interact with the locals. Support local projects. Explore off-the-beaten places. Visit temples and shrines. Celebrate local festivals. Book a local tour guide.
- Environmental pillar– preserving natural attractions by going on hikes, walking tours, cycling, minimizing carbon footprint by using public transportation, and reducing waste and single-use plastics.
Applying sustainability in the hospitality industry and architecture
One example of how sustainability is applied in business is Genji Kyoto, a small boutique hotel located in the heart of Central Kyoto.
This newly-opened hotel is a sanctuary on the banks of Kamo river and lets guests reconnect to nature through its intricately-designed gardens inspired by the Tale of Genji. Guestrooms have pocket gardens and natural ventilation. The Sky Forest Garden on the rooftop is the perfect place for a retreat and quiet time, with stunning views of the river and mountains. Materials used in the hotel are sourced locally and some of them are repurposed materials from temples and shrines.
On the social aspect, the success of this hotel lies in community-based work and promotion of local artists. Materials throughout the hotel are original designs handmade by Kyoto artisans.
Genji Kyoto has a small food and beverage department but still, they promote the local economy by supporting family-owned restaurants near the hotel. Overall, this hotel has a perfect location, just a walking distance to Kyoto’s main attractions.
Arigato Japan had a chance to interview the hotel’s lead designer and architect Geoffrey P. Moussas during an Instagram live. During the discussion, he reveals every detail of the hotel’s design and how sustainability is incorporated in every aspect of the hotel. To learn more about this lively discussion, you can find the recorded video here.
Now that you’ve learned about sustainability, you can do your part by adopting good practices to preserve the environment, benefit the community, and support the economy for years to come.
Featured photo from Mike Stezycki on Unsplash
Learn more about Genji Kyoto in this interview!
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