Tucked in the quiet backstreets of Tokyo’s artsy Kuramae neighborhood, in stylish premises accented by warm woods, verdant foliage and apothecary-style shelves of herbs and spices, the newly opened elab is initiating social change.

Operated in co-op style by a group of young creative professionals, elab — whose moniker is a portmanteau of the term “laboratory” and the similarly pronounced Japanese verb erabu, meaning “to choose” — is a three-pronged initiative encompassing a kitchen, living laboratory and rooftop garden. Its overarching objective is to help create a circular economy, wherein waste products and food loss are minimized or eliminated altogether, offering an alternative to mainstream practices of commercial materialism.

With members including a chef, circular economy specialist, food director, herbalist, landscape designer and real estate planner, the collective hits all of the right buzzwords: SDGs (sustainable development goals), zero waste and ethical design. Emphasizing that they prioritize action over words, however, members say they deliberately try to avoid using such terms in order to keep their focus on walking the walk.