How We Reduce Food Waste In Japan

We have an online sustainable-lifestyle study group, and gather on Friday evenings to discuss about any topic related to sustainable living. We believe that living in a shared-house is a great way to save the environment by sharing resources and building healthy communities, and we’ve been working on making one of our houses in Tokyo a zero waste house.
As a facilitator of the study group and the house manager of the will-be-sustainable house in Tokyo, my focuses are to build:
-a safe and positive community that we share and learn together about sustainable and slow lifestyle, and
-a sharehouse that you can pursue sustainable living in a city like Tokyo

Click here to see the slide show (available only in Japanese)

What is food loss?

“Food loss refers to all food produced for human consumption but not eaten by humans.” Globally an estimated 1/3 of all food produced is lost or goes to waste, which is insane!

What I do

1. Don’t over buy When I go grocery shopping without knowing what to cook for the day or week, I tend to expect myself cooking more often than I could, and end up wasting food. Now I shop with a recipe for the day, and buy what I’ll be eating not what looks a good deal. Think as if “the supermarket is your fridge and you share all the food with neighbors, so you don’t need to keep too much at home for yourself”.

2. Use the leftovers If I didn’t eat all the food I cooked, it’ll be my breakfast or lunch the next day.

3. Buy less attractive (but fresh), local-grown vegetables and fruits I’ve heard that the weird shared food is more likely to be left unsold, so choose these cuties.

4. Eat “whole” Eat veg skins like tomatoes, potatoes, apples etc. I also use apple cores to make apple cider vinegar, and coffee grounds to make home compost bran.

5. Choose package-free products I often hear “there’s too much plastic packages in Japan!”. Yes I think it’s true and also think that it’s the issue almost everywhere in the world. Plastic-packaged, pre-cooked food tends to contain more artificial flavors and unhealthy ingredients than the food we cook at home, so it’s a double win!

What our members do

-Bring eco bag (but often forget)

-Bring my bottle instead of buying buying plastic water bottles

What other people do

1. Zero Waste Restaurants Have you heard about “zero waste” restaurant? They don’t produce food waste in any stage of their businesses. Unlike the conventional restaurants, zero waste restaurants often partner directly with farmers, so the farmers tell them what is available in that season. This is a great example of reducing carbon footprints, and also a great idea to be involved with the local community. If you’re a “locavore”, who is conscious about food and eats local-grown/produced food, you’d love the concept.

2. Recycle According to MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), in food business 95% of food waste is recycled, while below 30% is recycled in restaurant business in Japan, more than 70% goes to landfill. “Being recycled” here means majority of these will be animal feed, the rest composted or fertilizer etc.

3. Distribution Although not in Japan, there’re apps that 1. you can see the list of shops that sell leftover food with discount (too good to go), 2. connect supermarkets with charities and homeless shelters that allow them to donate the unsold food (foodcloud) In Japan, Food Bank and Food Drive help distributing uneaten food to the low-income families, homeless people and orphanages.


What I found interesting is that in England, the discounted leftover food is called “green discount”, while in Japan some people call it “Otsutomehin”, which means like “retired items” or “items on duty”.

I discovered there’s so many people and organizations out all over the globe, working so hard to make positive impact in the society and the environment. With the like-minded community and house mates who help me to reduce the waste at this house, I feel motivated and supported. Let’s start from where we are,  by doing what we can do! If you’re interested in our “zero waste sharehouse” project, please contact us and we, especially I, are very happy to welcome you at our house and talk with you.

Blog post ->about our zero waste project



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