This is going to sound really strange, but I’ve been thinking a lot about plastic recently. About how it’s literally everywhere and at the same time terrible for the environment.
Then, while still contemplating this, I looked around my room and made a discovery: it’s overflowing with plastic. There’s the regular everyday items like water bottles, storage containers, furniture… but the majority of my plastic comes from none other than my anime merchandise. Figures, key chains, Blu-ray cases, video games, and much more.
I thought to myself, “OMG, is my hobby killing the planet?” This is an exaggeration, of course. As one person, my geeky activities aren’t going to have a huge impact on Earth, but I’m still concerned. I don’t talk about it much, but I’m a huge tree hugger. I’m even voluntarily in charge of recycling at my job.
The truth is that whenever you buy or consume nonrenewable products, whether you get a quick snack from a convenience store or drive to the mall to buy new neko mimi headphones, it’s going to have an impact on the environment. And as much as I love geek culture, it also has an effect. Over the last few years, the anime and manga niche has expanded. At least in the States, more merch is being sold at “mainstream” stores – just think of all the Pops at Barnes and Noble – and cons have gotten bigger. This is great for the anime industry but not so great for the planet And it worries me.
And so, in this post, I’m going to give some tips about how you can be as green-friendly as possible while still enjoying anime and manga. Before I go any further, I want to make something clear: I am NOT saying you can’t buy anime merchandise or other related goods. I’m saying is that you should try to be a responsible consumer and also be aware of how buying these products can affect the environment.
If you can’t do all of these things all the time, it’s not the end of the world… but every little bit will help~
Author’s Note: I am based in the US, where we have a flawed recycling system. Some of the issues discussed in this article may not apply to other countries.
Buy In Bulk
It’s no secret. Everyone buys everything online. And while it IS super convenient, it does have some drawbacks. Namely, fuel consumption and lots of packaging material. This is unavoidable if you are ordering Japanese goods from overseas or another faraway location.
However, buying things in bulk can ease the burden on Mother Earth just a little. If you make two separate orders from one source, that’s twice as much packaging material and fuel they need to use. Instead, wait for a big sale – or a big paycheck – and then buy multiple items from the same site all at once. Or, some sites like Amazon purposely try to combine shipments, even if they are from different vendors.
Either way, your items will all come packaged together, saving on cardboard and other materials. Yay for the trees! Another option is to buy things in person. I rarely buy anything online. I save up my money and then buy a bunch of stuff at cons or anime/manga stores.
Buy Digital (At Least Sometimes)
I am one of those people who love physical items. There is nothing more satisfying than opening a brand-new book. And I also prefer to own physical copies of certain anime series or video games that I like. Still, you can’t deny that buying digital copies of manga, light novels, anime, and video games would help the environment since fewer resources will be produced and used. Oh, and don’t forget music. In Japan, CDs are still very popular (Dayman, 2017). But CDs = plastic cases and discs.
Music isn’t much of a concern in the US, where digital music reigns supreme. Digital video games sales have increased over the past few years, even surpassing physical sales (WePC, 2019). This leaves us with just manga and light novels. I’ve heard different viewpoints about this – that digital manga is overtaking print manga or vice versa. Either way, as manga continues to become more popular (Kozlowski, 2016), it means more series are going to be made, both in print and digital.
Again, I am a huge book lover. I love physical books. But I also love the Earth, so here is my compromise:
I only buy physical copies of my favorite books, anime series, video games, or music groups. If there is something I’m not sure about, I’ll buy a digital version. I can always buy a physical one later if I really want. I also stream Japanese music, and only buy CDs if it’s something really hard to find – or if it’s just too awesome to resist. I will never regret buying my Yuru Yuri album.
A digital copy may not be as satisfying, but you’ll still be supporting the creators and publishers. AND you’ll be enjoying it legally.
Properly Dispose Of Merchandise
I used to have a giant pile of empty figure boxes in my room. Figures, along with many other types of merch, come riddle with cardboard and plastic. Please do not just throw out these materials. Please recycle them. Or, you can reuse some of the boxes. The huge box that came with my big IA figure now holds a lot of my leftover figure supplies – Nendoroid faces, re-attachable arms. You know, that kind of stuff.
Hmm, but what about some of the more difficult items? Like old manga. For me, the solution is to donate. Many local libraries accept book donations. Some schools or colleges also have book drop-offs where old books can be donated to children or educational programs (just make sure there’s no 18+ material when you donate to these :D)
You should also check out local charities. Some take everything from books, clothing, movies, and toys, including figures. Oh, speaking of toys, there are plenty of toy drives or places to donate plastic dolls, especially around the holidays.
And don’t forget Ebay or Amazon. There’s bound to be someone out there on the internet who wants what you have. Additionally, you can sell anime DVDs/Blu-rays to FYE, or sell games and consoles to GameStop (as long as they aren’t too archaic). Nintendo also has its own take back program, and Best Buy will take gaming consoles too.
If all else fails, there’s always garage sales or simply your stuff to a trusted friend. And if THAT fails, you should recycle old merchandise. PROPERLY.
Do NOT Throw Merch In The Trash
Going along with the previous section… DO NOT throw merchandise – no matter what it is – in the garbage. There’s always a way to give an old item life again. Don’t just toss things away, especially plastic or vinyl. They’ll just go to a landfill and sit there indefinitely, taking years to break down. According to scientists, it can literally take a couple hundred to one thousand years for certain plastics to decompose (LeBlanc, 2019).
And even without this, plastic is really bad for the environment, as I said earlier. Simply making plastic has negative effects. For example, creating PVC vinyl (which many figures are made of) “includes the extraction of crude oil from the ground, refining it, [and] the subsequent processing of [turning] that refined oil into PVC” (Usher, 2018). This method consumes a large amount of energy… and to make things worse, certain plastics give off emissions and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming (Joyce, 2019).
…Why, my beautiful figures, why? ;~; But since I already own so many plastic products – and plastic production will continue indefinitely – it’s better to be responsible about it.
In other words, recycle vinyl and plastic, so it can be reused! So, even if it’s broken, please, please, please don’t throw away a figure. Or broken CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, disc cases, games, consoles, or anything else made of plastic. And unfortunately, these products are not usually a part of curbside recycle pickup in the US. Even if you put them out with regular recycling, they’ll probably just get thrown in a landfill.
I can’t say for sure where the material will end up – probably not geeky merchandise. But recycling your stuff is certainly better than nothing.
Be A Green Citizen At Cons
I love anime conventions. They are heaven on Earth. But sometimes I wonder – do they come at a price? Because at least in my experience, they’re a tree hugger’s worst nightmare. Many convention centers don’t have proper recycling equipment. I see so many water bottles in the trash ;_; There’s the potential for a lot of other waste as well. Plus, attendees and guests are traveling from all over, which means large quantities of gas and fuel are being used. The amount of environmental unfriendliness gives me anxiety sometimes.
But there a couple things con-goers can do lessen their environmental footprint. If you’re going with friends, carpool in one vehicle (preferably one that’s fuel efficient!). Or take public transportation, especially if you’re going by yourself.
Next, try to pack your own water or snacks if possible (I know some cons have tight security when it comes to food). Bring a reusable water bottle and pack snacks in reusable food containers. If you do end up with waste, please try to recycle it properly. I keep disposable bottles/containers/whatever in my bag until I find a proper recycle bin, even if it means carrying it around all day.
Speaking of bags, bring your own, whether it’s an ita bag, tote bag, or backpack. When you buy merchandise at cons, many times the vendor will give you a plastic bag. But, you guessed it, plastic bags are terrible for the environment. So, tell the vendor that you don’t need one and just place your purchase in your bag. If you run out of room because you bought too much (this has happened to me before), one plastic bag won’t hurt. Just try to consolidate your merch, so it will all fit and you won’t need more bags.
Hmm… what else? There is so much more we can do, whether we’re at a con or not. But the truth is no one is perfect. As I write this, my figures are above my head on a shelf, Pokemon Pez sitting next to me, and Pops are unblinkingly staring at me. Is this hypocritical? Yes, because I really do hate plastic. But unfortunately, we’ve backed ourselves into a corner, a cycle with no end in sight. Using plastic, fuel, and other nonrenewable resources has consequences, but such resources have also given us wonderful things, like video games, Blu-rays, and much more.
I’m going to continue enjoying anime and all of my merch, but the simple steps I mentioned can make a big difference. Yes, not everyone is going to follow these rules, and there will be a lot of waste ;_; But if 10 people decide to recycle a water bottle, 10 less water bottles in a landfill or the ocean. The same thing applies to 100 people, 1000 people, and so on.
Spread the word! Let’s save the Earth~ And if you have any other ideas about being a green friendly anime fan, please comment below! I know there’s a ton I missed.
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Dayman, L. (2017, March 13). Why CDs Are Still Big in Japan. Retrieved from https://metropolisjapan.com/cds-still-big-japan/
Joyce, C. (2019, July 9). Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn’t The Whole Story. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/07/09/735848489/plastic-has-a-big-carbon-footprint-but-that-isnt-the-whole-story
Kozlowski, M. (2016, Oct 23). Manga Sales Continue to Increase in the United States. Retrieved from https://goodereader.com/blog/bookselling/manga-sales-continue-to-increase-in-the-united-states
LeBlanc, R. (2019, June 26). The Decomposition of Waste in Landfills: A Story of Time and Materials. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-long-does-it-take-garbage-to-decompose-2878033
Usher, T. (2018, Feb 14). This Is How Bad Your Vinyl Obsession Is for the World. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_nz/article/9kz3y5/this-is-how-bad-your-vinyl-obsession-is-for-the-world
WePC. (2019). 2019 Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends & Data. Retrieved from https://www.wepc.com/news/video-game-statistics/