Senses of waste

Japan, being an island, has a highly developed sense of waste and sustainability which, according to Morinosuke Kawaguchi, can be summarized by the terms Mottainai (勿体無い) and Kawaisou (可愛そう). Mottainai would roughly translate into “What a waste, but cannot be helped”, while Kawaisou would be the equivalent to “You poor thing”!.

When it comes to the definition of consumables products with no emotional attachment worth to be designed into, then it would probably be toilet paper. Toilet paper is the ultimate product to be wasted. And still, someone in Japan took the time and effort to write the message “Arigatou Gozaimasu” or “Thank you” onto the cardboard roll. Reading the message evokes both Mottainai and Kawaisou feelings, not least because of the humanization element. The little paper roll has done its deed and will be disposed of, but not before saying thank you for using it. To a culture that is more emotional than rational, and more child-like than adult, this message holds a certain appeal.

While toilet paper should certainly not be preserved, it is that exaggeration of the sense of waste that can be applied to products. Kawaisou is rather suited for durables as it will make it harder to throw Kawaisou products away. For consumption products such as food it just can’t be helped. But consumption could be encouraged to be more sustainable in any case.