No suit? No tie? No problem! In Japan, between May and October every year, the government encourages people to roll up their sleeves, loosen their collars, and leave their ties at home as part of the “Cool Biz” initiative. Launched in 2005, the Cool Biz initiative aims to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by getting people to rely less on air conditioning and instead come to work earlier, draw the blinds, and get creative in how they cope with the heat.
The program has prevented several million tons of emissions from being released into the air, and the government also enforces rigorous recycling guidelines. See graphic 1. Taking out the trash in Japan isn’t as simple as separating discarded food and items into garbage and recyclable piles. Green-mindedness is so embedded into Japanese culture that the government has issued guidelines for how to dispose of everything from lipstick to teakettles to clothing.
A guidebook on recycling home goods may seem like overkill, but it’s a big part of why Japan’s citizens lead the world in eco-friendly habits. Japan has improved energy efficiency by approximately 40% since the 1970s as a result of these and other policy changes and technological innovations. It’s clear that in Japan, climate action isn’t only about policy—it’s personal.