Sustainability in Japan

Wed, Sep 16, 2009

Green Countries

Japan is making great strides towards sustainable business practices. Local and state governments, companies, and individuals are all working together to make the country a more eco-friendly place to live and do business.

What is the government doing?

City governments are taking the lead in reducing carbon dioxide levels and greenhouse gas emissions. Shizuoka has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas by 37% by 2010; Nagoya has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide by 10% and Kyoto has pledged to lower greenhouse gases by 10%, also by next year. Local governments are enacting educational campaigns for their citizens; incentivizing activities that help curb global warming; and stepping up regulations.

Tokyo is subsidizing a massive increase in solar power in an effort called the 10-Year Carbon Minus Tokyo Project. Its goal is to reduce green house gas emissions by 25% by 2020. Homeowners can participate in a certificate system that provides incentives to those who use photovoltaic systems to generate electricity for their homes. Such investments should be recouped in approximately ten years.

On a national level, The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has created a carbon footprint program. Products will be labeled to show how much carbon dioxide they generate from production to end use. Japan hopes to use this data to better understand the most useful areas to cut emissions. One survey shows that 50% of consumers would be interested in purchasing such items.

What are companies doing?

Patina Japan is handcrafting carryalls out of a unique resource–old fire hoses. The company collects discarded hoses and recycles them into one-of-a-kind messenger bags, with straps constructed of old seatbelts. Part of the sales of the bags will be used for conservation. The town of Shimanto is also in on the green fashion scene with its recycled newspaper bag. It started as an environmentally friendly effort by one resident and has grown into an international sensation, selling worldwide for about $10.

Toyo Ink Manufacturing, in an effort to make their products greener, as well as increase quality and production, introduced soy-oil based ink. Soy oil makes the ink flow smoother, ensuring stable printing. The success of the soy ink inspired the company to create rice ink, derived from rice bran oil. Rice is grown, harvested, and pressed domestically, reducing the emissions created in shipping.

Shin Nikkei is selling solar air heating panels to schools. An aluminum plate, painted with fluoro-polymer, is installed on an outer wall. Air is heated by exchange as it passes through perforations on the panel, and is then drawn inside by a fan. When one panel is installed in a standard classroom, an estimated 76.9 liters of kerosene are saved each year.

What are people doing?

The Japanese are aware of their role in encouraging green business practices. Keio University and research company NTT Resonant released a survey saying 50% of consumers purchased eco-friendly products. 70% of people who had never bought a green product were willing to consider doing so.

Mottainai is a Japanese term that roughly means, “what a waste.” The Mottainai campaign is a effort begun by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and funded by the Mainichi Newspapers Company and the ITOCHU Corporation to encourage citizens to participate in “the 3 R’s”: reducing waste, reusing finite resources, and recycling.

The campaign’s promotional efforts in television commercials, print ads, and web sites, have paid off. A recent survey says that 69% of people use recycled paper products; 45% actively try to conserve energy; 33% use second-hand items; and 18% try to repair broken items instead of buying replacements.

These are just a sampling of the projects Japan has instated to promote green practices. Hopefully, more companies and local governments will sign onto the efforts to reduce toxic emissions and promote cleaner resources.

By Danielle Bullen. Danielle can be reached at DanielleBullen@comcast.net.

| More

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.