ECO+WAZA: Caring about environment; Japanese style

Tokyo-based company eco+waza is drawing on Japanese tradition to inspire an environmentally-conscious lifestyle revolution. YL volunteer Nicola caught up with Founder and CEO Reina Otsuka to find out more.

Set-up in 2006, eco+waza grew out of the idea that many traditional ways of life were much more environmentally-friendly than our current bustling existence. The idea takes inspiration from Japanese tradition and encourages people to return to a simpler, more natural way of life.

The name itself is comprised of two parts – ‘eco’ referring to a push for people to take more care of the environments in which they live, and ‘waza’ derived from the Japanese concept of craftsmanship and skill.

* Watch Reina introducing the eco+waza magazine

 WHAT THEY DO

Working in both English and Japanese, eco+waza run a website, quarterly magazine  and workshops offering tips and tools for living a better, greener life.

They have everything from an online-shop for eco-friendly products, through to profiles on change-makers, gardening ideas, parenting advice and links to presentations by inspirational speakers.

Their dedicated team pull together a mass of ideas from all kinds of sources and break them into easily digestible portions for their readers. One enthusiastic writer, Sherilyn Siy, has even given step-by-step account of her own shift to a greener lifestyle following the birth of her child. See http://greenjapan.com/living-in-japan/3486/

One of their most recent projects involved working with elderly people who lost their jobs due to the devastating tsunami that crashed onto Japanese shores earlier this year, and who are still living in evacuation centres.

Named after the Japanese word for flower, the Hana Project provides wool and knitting needles to these individuals, together with face-to-face lessons in knitting dish-washing scrub cloths. Eco+waza then buy these dishwashers directly from their creators and sell them through their website.

Each dishwasher comes with a personal touch – a tag with the name of the person who made it. Purchasers are encouraged to show their support by writing back to the maker via the eco+waza website. Read more about this great project at http://greenjapan.com/joinus/3986/

 EARLY BEGINNINGS

Founder and CEO Reina Otsuka has long devoted herself to finding solutions to environmental issues.

She first delved into environmentalism at age 10. Reina had spent much of her childhood in New York before returning to Tokyo. There she started to get asthma and began to research air pollution.

But that was just the beginning. From there, she went on to produce newspapers for her primary school class on issues such as oil-spills. In high school she began writing and produced environmentally-focussed plays, and at university she was heavily involved in hosting environmental education events. THERE WAS NO STOPPING HER!

When she graduated she went to work for publishing company Recruit Co. Ltd., but was quickly drawn back to her passion for the environment.

 ECO+WAZA IS BORN

In 2006, working alone in her spare time after office-hours,  the tireless Reina started building the eco+waza concept. She wanted to have a positive effect on environmental issues, and saw bringing together people and ideas as a way to do it.

‘I believe that environmental issues [are] a problem between human and human, not human and nature,’ Reina explains. ‘There are many misunderstandings and conflicts that prevent us from being responsible [for] our own activities.[...] I know [from experience] that exchanging ideas is the first step to solving this.’

She continues:

‘The ultimate goal is to create a stream of wisdom (or ways of living in harmony with nature) that connects ideas around the world. We are starting from spreading knowledge from far-east Japan, but I believe that there are many hidden knowledge in each local area. I want to create a platform for everyone to share their lifestyle and everyday innovations’.

A year  after starting, a friend of Reina’s from junior high school decided to get involved. From there it quickly grew. The following year another friend who had studied with her at Berkeley joined the team.

Before they knew it, they had a fully-proficient operating unit with 10 staff, 3 in-house and another 7 contracted for writing and design-work.

Now 6 years in, the project is having an INCREDIBLE IMPACT. They sell over 2000 copies of their magazine every quarter and get more than 10,000 hits a month on their website from all over the globe!

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. For her work Reina was awarded the 2010 U.S. Ambassador’s Entrepreneurship Award as well as the 2010 Best Woman Entrepreneur in Start-up Phase. In 2011 she was also invited to attend the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland as a Knowledge Pool Member.

She is certainly an AMAZING WOMAN backed by an equally AWESOME team!

 WHAT NEXT?

We asked Reina what we can expect to see in future, and she told us about two exciting projects on the horizon for the team.

First is expanding their website to include an educational platform, which Reina sees as critical to their work in building environmental awareness.

The second thing you should keep an eye out for is their new, re-vamped website. Expect to see the finished product in March 2012!

It’s still early days for this small but extraordinary company, and we can definitely expect  great things FROM THEM in future!

 * Check out eco+waza’s opening talk at the EcoProducts 2009 exhibition

GET INVOLVED

There are heaps of things you can do to get involved, either by reading up on their ideas and making some changes in your own lifestyle, or working with the team directly.

Check out their website at www.greenjapan.com for heaps of great ideas about small changes you can make in your everyday life to reduce your environmental impact

  • Sign up on their website to receive free email updates about new articles and products
  • Subscribe to their magazine online. There’s even a Kindle version now out. Get it at:

        http://www.shop-greenjapan.com/index_en_jpy_41.html?htpl_id=8

* Watch an eco+waza channel broadcast of two hilarious Japanese street performers transforming simple bamboo blinds into an impressive array of stage props

.

Nicola Sutton
Has got a hands-on career in the international development as she envisions to put an end to extreme poverty. Traveler-writer Nicola is also Involved as a general member with Getup! (Australian political advocacy organization), Avaaz (international political advocacy network), Kiva (microfinance sector), and  Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC).

nicola.sutton.youthleader@gmail.com

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