Thursday, August 02, 2007
Team Minus 6%
Back when I was still mad about sumo, I watched a program about the wrestlers' personal lives which included Wakanohana (a grand champion from a family of grand champions - his brother, father and uncle were all famous sumo champions as well), I noticed that the Japanese love to give cute little names in katakana English to certain trends or commercial campaigns. At that time, it was pretty popular to say "my (whatever)". In the program I was watching, Wakanohana was bowling and used his own equipment so I'd hear things like "mai baggu" (my bag) and "mai boru" (my ball). I believe that marketers use Japanized English as catch phrases because they feel they will be more memorable. I was reminded of these sorts of naming conventions and how they're used to promote certain campaigns after a recent experience at a grocery shop.
Yesterday I went to the local market (Inageya) to pick up various and sundry items and chose to allow them to give me a bag because I needed a few for trash. As I posted previously, I'm very careful only to take bags when I need them as trash bin liners. At any given time, we've got 4-5 of them at most on hand, usually fewer. Instead of putting a plastic bag in my basket, the clerk put the packet pictured above in it.
Inside, there's a reusable, waterproof synthetic bag ("mai baggu") which is the same size and shape as a conventional plastic shopping bag. The market and others who are participating in the Team Minus 6% program are distributing these in the hopes of getting consumers to use them instead of taking plastic bags each time. I'm not sure how well this will work but it's a very good idea.
The distribution of these items is an attempt to help reduce greenhouse gas by 6% by 2012 in accord with the Kyoto protocol. Reduction of excessive packaging is one component of the plan. The others are water consumption reduction, using ecologically friendly products, setting air conditioner temperatures such that they consume less power, reducing gasoline consumption from idling vehicles, and reducing electricity consumption. In typical Japanese marketing fashion, a trite name in English, "Team Minus 6%" (チームマイナス６％), has been applied to the campaign to make it feel more personalized and memorable.
The main problem with these campaigns is that, even in a country like Japan where awareness of others is much higher than in the west and notions of personal sacrifice are lauded, people still tend to act based on personal comfort rather than on higher principles. The housewives who I see asking for extra bags and practically emptying the spools of extra-thin, free plastic bags for wrapping wet (vegetables and fruit) or drippy food items (meat in trays) aren't going to start going for re-usable bags any time soon because it'll cramp their lifestyle. I'm pretty sure that the only thing which is going to motivate them will be charging for the plastic bags distributed at check-out. It could be that these bags are being distributed in anticipation of starting to ask customers to pay for bags so that they will be less disgruntled when the time comes.
Getting this reusable bag has made me re-consider getting shopping bags as trash can liners. I'm guessing that shopping bags are thicker than required and the handles are unnecessary meaning they're using more material and are more wasteful as liners. It'd probably be better to buy specially-designed liners just for trash and cease getting shopping bags altogether. So, if nothing else, they've accomplished their goal with me.
Update: I went to Inageya again today and indeed they have stopped giving out shopping bags for free. Now, you have to grab one at the end of the aisle and pay 5 yen for it if you want one. I think it'd be better if they charged 10 yen each as I think people would take it more seriously but at least this removes the mindless element from getting a bag.