Mottainai for an Eco Life

A Project Prototype by Junko Simpson

not published

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.


Overview files comments

Preparing for the Project

Part 1

Part 3

Part 2

Part 4

Launching the Project

Part 5

Part 6

Managing the Project

Scaffolding Activities and Resources



Implementation Info

Implementation information not specified.

Preparing for the Project

Part 1

Please see the following handout for detailed information about this project.

 Handout - Mottainai for an Eco Life



1.    List 5 places people visit in San Diego 


2.    Look at the hypothesized pictures of San Diego in 2050


By using these websites, students will think about what will happen to San Diego by 2050.

The Huffington Post (08/26/2013)


Lamm, Nickolay (07/14/2013) 

What Would Sea Level Rise Look Like on the West Coast?


Part 3

Part 3: Eco Life

3.1. My Eco Life

3.1.1. Brain storming (Technology activity: stormboard)

3.1.2. Think about similarities and differences 

3.1.3. Analyze in class


3.2. Japanese Eco Life

3.2.1. Warm up

3.2.2. Warm up

3.2.3. Answer check

3.2.4. Vocabulary and kanji activity

3.2.5. Reading 1

3.2.6. Green purchase

3.2.7. Web research

3.2.8. Group work - Make a check list

3.2.9. Collaborative writing (Google Docs)

3.2.10. Making a poll in class (Google slides and Poll Everywhere)

3.2.11. Participate in the poll

3.2.12. Analyze the result

3.2.13. Find similarities and differences between your own eco life and Japanese eco life

3.2.14. Compare with your partner


3.3. Eco Activity

3.3.1. Vocabulary activity

3.3.2. Vocabulary activity

3.3.3. Web activity (How much oil can you save by using an eco bag?)




Part 2

Global warming:

2.1:  Global warming (地球温暖化): what does it mean? 

2.1.1. Pre-reading activities

2.1.2. Discussion with a partner

2.1.3. Think about influences of global warming in one's own life (Technology Activity: Padlet) 

2.1.4. Vocabulary and kanji practice for reading

2.1.5. Vocabulary and kanji practice for reading

2.1.6. Reading activity 1

2.1.7. Group discussion

2.1.8. Reading activity 2 

2.1.9. Answer questions

2.1.10.  Reading activity 3

2.1.11. Think-Pair-Share


2.2: Causes and Effects of Global Warmining

2.2.1. Pre-reading activities

2.2.2. Web research

2.2.3. Think about the problems in your area/country

2.2.4. Think about concerns in the future

2.2.5. Vocaulary and kanji practice

2.2.6. Reading activity 1

2.2.7. Reading activity 2 

2.2.8. Group research and sharing





Part 4

Part 4: Mottainai (もったいない)

4.1. Mottainai concepts

4.1.1. Pre-reading activity

4.1.2. Pre-reading activity

4.1.3. Definition of Mottainai

4.1.4. Viewing activity (Wangari Maathai, Green Belt Movement)


4.2. Actions for Mottainai

4.2.1. Vocabulary and kanji activity

4.2.2. Reading activity (Green Belt Movement)

4.2.3. Viewing activity (Interview of Wangari Maathai)


4.3. Mottainai Culture in Japan

4.3.1. Listening activity (Mottainai baasan ondo)

4.3.2. Group discussion


4.4. Cultura - Cultural Comparison

4.4.1. Word Association: Mottainai (waste)/ もったいない

4.4.2. Sentence Completion: When do you feel "Mottainai" in your daily life in the U.S.?

          I feel Mottainai when ______________________________________________

4.4.3. Analysis of similarities and differences between Japan and America

4.4.4. Class discussion


4.5. Finding Mottainai on Campus <Formative Assessment> 



Launching the Project

Part 5

5.1. Analyze existing old reusable items

5.2. Explain those existing ideas in Japanese

5.3. Think about reusable ideas in the U.S.

5.4. Share in class

5.5. Think about own invention

5.6. Critical friends protocol (giving and receiving feedback)

5.7. Refine ideas

5.8. Show and Tell  

Part 6

6.1. Research community based activities (Webquest)

6.2. Think about sharing ideas for eco friendly life with the people in the community





6.3. Finalize an idea as a pair

6.4. Share ideas with the class (Google Docs)

6.5. List necessary tasks for this project and distribute each task to all class members

6.6. Work on individual tasks

       Keep a log to share progresses with the class 

6.7. Check the progress of the project

6.8. Check the final product in class

Rubric for the final product will be made based on what type of project the class chooses to do. 




Managing the Project

Scaffolding Activities and Resources

Scaffolding Activities and Resources

PDF Version

Objectives of Activities

Students will be able to:


Resources/ Technology

Part1: Pre-activities



   Hypothesize what will happen in San Diego (where they live now) if the global warming continues.






Students see the hypothesized conditions over the next century in the U.S. cities and to help them realize that this may he happening if we don’t face this problem seriously.




The Huffington Post (08/26/2013)

14 U.S. Cities That Could Disappear Over The Next Century, Thanks To Global Warming

Lamm, Nickolay (07/14/2013) 

What Would Sea Level Rise Look Like on the West Coast?

Part 2: Global Warming




Reflect their own life in regards to global warming.

Share their opinions in Japanese in writing.



2.1.6. - 2.1.7.

   Read culturally authentic materials and

obtain necessary information by utilizing given illustrations.




<Collaboration, analyzing information, interpersonal communication>


   Analyze information obtained in the class, and express own opinions in a target language.






analyzing and finding information, interpersonal communication>


   Research about the target topic.

   Share and explain finding with group members.






Students write what they feel/realize are influences of global warming in their own life, and post their thoughts on Padlet.




Students read culturally authentic materials and understand the contents, not only by written texts, but also interpreting illustrations.







By gathering all information in the covered section, students explain what global warming means and hypothesizing what they should do to prevent this situation in the future.








Students are assigned their responsibility and research about one of the selected topics. They bring back findings to the group, and explain about it to the members.






(Teacher will create a page and share the link with students.)



SourceJapan Center for Climate Change Actions


SourceNHK Eco-channel





Think: Students think individually

Pair: Students work in pairs and discuss their 


Share: Students pairs share their ideas with a large







Part 3: Eco Life


<Collaboration, analyzing, interpersonal and interpretive communication>


3.1.1. - 3.1.4.

   Compare and contrast their opinions.

   Categorize things logically.







Students reflect on their own eco life and compare what they do with the classmates.

Students can adapt others ideas through discussion.

Students have opportunities to read comments written in Japanese by other students.








(up to 10 people can post on a storm.)



   Read culturally authentic materials and

obtain necessary information by writing and illustrations.



<Collaborative writing/ Making a poll: Google slides and Poll Everywhere>

3.2.9. - 3.2.11.

   Think about the situation critically to solve the issues.

   Make the survey questions to make judgements about the topic.









   Visualize the consequences from their own actions.




Students read authentic material of Japanese eco life. Pictures can be used as hints for them to understand the contexts without mastering every single words on the site.






Students learn about the green purchase. After gaining knowledge about it through reading materials in Japanese, students work on making survey questions collaboratively to find out how students in the class pay attention to these points in their daily lives.








Find out how much oil can be saved by not accepting (using) plastic bags at stores.




SourceTokushima no Kankyo






SourceMinistry of the Environment

Green Purchase (グリーン購入)


Poll Everywhere

Use Poll Everywhere on Google Slides to collect data in the class.

In order to use this function, we must use Google Chrome.



SourceGlobal Warming White Paper 

Part 4: Mottainai


4.1.1. - 4.2.3.

   Develop curiosity on this topic.

   Identify, describe, and analyze cultural perspective and phenomena.

   Compare and contrast similarities and differences between one’s own culture and Japanese culture in regards of the concept of waste.







4.3.1. - 4.3.3.

   Compare and contrast similarities and differences between one’s own culture and Japanese culture in regards to the concept of waste.







Students read the website about Mottainai and watch Wangari Maathai’s interviews to understand her messages toward this movement.











Students listen to the song, called “Mottainai baasan ondo.” They will analyze Japanese views on Mottainai and reflect on their own culture.






SourceNHK Eco-channel


YouTube Videos



YouTube Video



4.4. Cultura - Cultural Comparison

   Compare and contrast similarities and differences between one’s own culture and Japanese culture in regards of the concept of waste.

   Express one’s opinions clearly.

   Articulate how one’s cultural perspectives and biases are shaped by one’s own experiences.

   Acknowledge the multiplicity of cultural views.


<Formative Assessment>

4.5. Finding Mottainai on Campus 

   Evaluate the facts based on other culture’s perspectives.




Through this Cultura activity, students will exchange opinions and compare their views on Mottainai. This discussion will become an opportunity for students to reflect the views toward one’s own cultural values as well as to accept and understand others.






Students walk around campus and take pictures of situations/objects, which are Mottainai according to the Japanese belief. Report the Mottainai condition of UCSD to your classmates.      



Word Association:

Mottainai (waste)


Sentence Completion:

When do you feel “Mottainai” in your daily life in the U.S.?



Presentation Format

(Students can choose their presentation tool.)

PPT/ Keynote


Glogster Edu:


Part 5: Invention


5.1. - 5.2.

   Observe the existing ideas and explain how they are made in Japanese.




   Create an item by using reusable materials.

   Explain how their item was made in Japanese.



<Critical Friends Protocol>


   Evaluate students’ idea and opinions, and give feedback in a professional and academic manner.

Listen to others’ opinions and critique one’s own ideas and work.


<Formative Assessment>

   Present ideas in logically acceptable sequences.






                Students look at the pictures and talk with

                their partner about how old reusable

                items were used for new inventions.



Students invent one item by using items which are not being used. This activity helps students to realize that those unused items are not necessarily trash.





Students can deliver both positive and negative feedback by using given structures.





After receiving feedback from classmates, students will refine their ideas and create an actual item. All students will bring an actual item to the class and present it.





Source: Mashimaro (Recycling ideas)


Part 6: Connection to the Community



   Research existing community based activities for recycling and ecology in Japanese (the target language).













<Collaborative writing/Deciding the project: Google Docs>


Share ideas and select the most appropriate project in a given situation (considering for locations, time, needs of the community, etc).




<Summative Assessment>

Carry out the final plan (organize an event, make a brochure, make an online presentation, etc) and deliver it to the community.




Students can look up more sources by researching on the internet. By giving these resources, they will be able to see some examples of activities and have better understanding for the expectations for the project.














This project will be collaboratively carried out by all class members. Each student has a specific task to contribute to the project, and the teacher needs to closely monitor their progress. Students will record their logs on Google Docs so that all members can share levels of progress.  





1) Introducing personal eco activities on the website


2) Collecting pet bottle caps


3) Introducing tips/ eco friendly activities on the website


4) Planting trees






Tool: Google Docs





1. Finding Mottainai

Walk around campus and take pictures of situations/objects, which are Mottainai according to the Japanese belief. Report the Mottainai condition of the campus to your classmates.

2. Show and Tell

Create your own invention and present it to the class.

3. Final Product

Rubric will be made based on what type of project the class chooses to do. 


Implementation Info