Mottainai for an Eco Life by Junko Simpson

created on Jun 30, 2016 modified on Sep 30, 2016 03:42


Global warming is a serious issue that people around the world are concerned about. San Diego has been listed as one of the 14 cities in the U.S., which may disappear over the next century because of global warming.

People in the U.S. work on recycling activities for the purpose of the earth and global warming. In Japan, Mottainai culture drives people not to be wasteful and leads them to recycling. Thus, although actions of the two countries are the same, the mindset that encourages each groups is different. 

This project is designed for students to learn about the Mottainai culture and introduce this Japanese concept to the San Diego Community. Many times, Mottainai is translated as waste, but it has deeper concepts beyond that. Mottainai includes the 3R = Reduce, Reuse, Recycle + Respect.

In this project, students in advanced Japanese class at the University of California San Diego will think about recycling/ reusable inventions and create a brochure to introduce their ideas to the San Diego Community. The target audience is San Diego residents, both Japanese and English speakers. (The brochure will be written in Japanese and English.) As for the plan now, we will ask Japanese grocery stores to leave the products for anyone who is interested in our activity. Through this project, we hope to start building connections between Japanese Students program at UCSD and the San Diego community.

Through this project, students are given opportunities to develop not only their language skills, but also a variety of 21st century skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills. This type of activity will help students become valuable contributors in a global society.



Product Square




How can the Japanese Mottainai culture help lead us (people in San Diego) to an eco life?

Global warming is a serious issue in the world. It has been changing our natural environment, and we need to take part in protecting our planet.  



After students learn about the Japanese concept of Mottainai in their Japanese class, they will apply this concept to their own lives.  They will create a brochure to make people in San Diego aware of current global issues and let them think of what each individual can do for an eco friendly life. Each student will present their ideas of how we can apply “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle + Respect” to make our environment cleaner.

Students on campus and local people in San Diego Communities.

Why do learners care?

My students are advanced Japanese language learners, and it is important to face this type of social issue to understand problems which countries around the world currently face. Japanese has a word Mottainai, which is translated as waste, but it has deeper concepts beyond that. Mottainai includes the 3R = Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, plus Respect. By focusing on this topic, students are able to think about this global issue critically as well as understand the Japanese mindset, which may be very distinct from their own culture. Through this project, students will be involved in different aspects of learning processes to enhance their language and cultural skills as well as the 21st century skills. Through these learning experiences, students can have first-hand experiences for becoming successful contributors to a global society.


National Foreign Language Resource Center


Subject Area(s): society, the environment, communities, education

Instructional Context

not specified

Language Proficiency

not specified

World Readiness Standards


Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives

School and Global
Lifelong Learning

Language comparisons
Cultural comparisons

Making Connections
Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives


Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives

21st Century Skills

Life and Career Skills
Leadership and responsibility

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
Creativity and Innovation
Information Literacy
Media Literacy
Technology Literacy

Life and Career Skills
Initiative and Self-Direction
Social and Cross Cultural Skills
Productivity and Accountability

Information, Media, and Technology Skills

Interdisciplinary Themes
Global Awareness
Civic Literacy

Life and Career Skills
Flexibility and adaptability

Project Sequence Overview

Preparing for the Project

1. Part 1 - Pre-Activities more detail

2. Part 3 - Eco Life more detail

3. Part 2 - Global Warming more detail

4. Part 4 - Mottainai (もったいない) more detail

Launching the Project

1. Part 5 - Part 5: Invention more detail

2. Part 6 - Part 6: Connection to the Community more detail

Managing the Project

1. Scaffolding Activities and Resources - This chart represents scaffolding activities and resources for the unit of Mottainai for an Eco Life. more detail


1. Rubrics - Rubrics for formative assessment more detail