Cultures around the world each seem to possess unique, deeply ingrained beliefs and traditions for cutting down on waste. For just two examples, Yankee ingenuity helped America put down its early roots, and the Dutch custom of sharing unlocked community bikes at train stations inspired bike-sharing programs in NYC, Paris and other world capitals. Many such notions are the inspiration for entrepreneurs who are hard at work launching new products that can help all consumers prevent water, energy, food and various materials from going to waste.
Many of these entrepreneurs’ stories are being shared at WeHateToWaste.com, an online community of waste watchers that my colleagues and I launched in January of 2013. As I described in a recent article, its goal: define an attractive ‘no-waste’ lifestyle that can help all consumers thrive during the leaner times expected ahead. With the entire world as our fishing hole, many more opportunities await to cross-fertilize a near limitless supply of cultural traditions to harvest insights for more new ways that can help all consumers reduce, reuse and refill. Take Japan and Sweden for starters.
Mottainai: The Japanese Alternative to Waste Not, Want Not
To help them stretch notoriously limited resources, the Japanese adhere to the principle of mottainai, which literally means, “waste nothing.” Used to instill the fear of a bogeyman into children who wasted food, as well as to undergird Toyota’s Lean Manufacturing System, mottainai embeds a sense of gratitude and respect for resources throughout all of Japanese culture.
Live Simply, Like the Swedes
Did you know that in Sweden, it’s tacky to park your red Ferrari in the driveway for all to see? Inspired themselves by the Danes, the Swedes’ Law of Jante promotes social stability and harmony by attempting to wipe out status as a driver of consumption. No wonder the Swedes enjoy the highest standard of sustainable living on the planet today, and their brands — such as IKEA, with its utilitarian designs, and Volvo, with its timeless styles and long-lasting vehicles — promote high value and encourage straightforward living.
Other Lessons on Waste Prevention from Around the World
Inspired by India’s widespread use of reusable food-delivery boxes, one of our WeHateToWaste.com community members, a chef in Vancouver, Canada, started The Tiffin Project, aligning local restaurants in a joint effort to provide discounts to customers who bring their own take-out containers. Daily, Americans use nearly four gallons of water just to brush our teeth. Of course, we could all turn the water off when we brush, but then there’s the issue of the toothbrush and paste; perhaps an inventor one day soon will take note of the Indians’ use of neem twigs to start a modern-day, waterless and natural tooth-care revolution.
The French have an uncanny knack for using up every bread crumb and turning leftovers into ‘soup du jour.’ The NASA space program gave us Tang and freeze-dried ice cream so food could be transported more efficiently. What more can we learn from the frugal Dutch and the challenges of living in space to feed an estimated 9.5 billion mouths by 2050?
Since launching WeHateToWaste.com in January 2013, we have begun to create a picture of what a leaner, more sustainable lifestyle looks like by gleaning insights from global cultures. Still more insights can be gleaned from listening intently to the entrepreneurs, the Green Team leaders, the sustainability ambassadors, the local composting chiefs and other influentials who are gathering at WeHateToWaste.com to compare notes, be personally inspired, and bolster their efforts to nudge spouses, co-workers, businesses and governments in a leaner, no-waste lifestyle direction.
If you have a moment, stop by WeHateToWaste.com and drop in on some of the many important conversations taking place 24/7. If you personally hate to see things go to waste and would like to learn more about partnering with us, check out our PPT presentation on Slideshare. With the population growing so fast, there’s not a moment to waste!