Tokyo may be crowded and land may be scarce, but it's certainly clean and cared for. Littering is rare in Japan, and Japanese are taught practically at birth about separating trash for recycling. You can do your part by depositing all your trash -- newspapers, plastic water bottles, cans -- into the appropriate recycle bins found in parks, subway stations, and other public places.
Other actions you can take include refusing extra packaging at department stores (which may otherwise wrap your purchase and then place it in a shopping bag), carrying your own chopsticks (in cheap restaurants they are likely to be disposable), reusing your towels and sheets in hotels, and opting for public transportation over taxis.
Luckily for a megalopolis this size, public transportation is efficient and most people I know in Tokyo don't own a car. Japan is no newcomer to the idea of hybrids, however, with Toyota introducing the Prius many years back and Honda's Insight now the best-selling car in Japan.
For a look at sustainability in Japan and grass-root organizations, or to get involved, go to www.greenz.jp.
General Resources for Green Travel
In addition to the resource for Tokyo listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel. For a list of even more sustainable resources, as well as tips and explanations on how to travel greener, visit www.frommers.com/planning.
- Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
- In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
- In Canada, www.greenlivingonline.com offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably, including a travel and transport section and profiles of the best green shops and services in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.
- In Australia, the national body that sets guidelines and standards for ecotourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Green Directory (www.thegreendirectory.com.au), Green Pages (www.thegreenpages.com.au), and Eco Directory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
- Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
- Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements; although there are no member hotels in Japan, the website describes what it means to be a green hotel. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodations ratings, including three in Tokyo.
- Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, including opportunities in Japan, see www.volunteerabroad.com/Japan.cfm.