Japan for Sustainability Newsletter #004
Here is one participant's report of the Eco Products Exhibition. Thank
you to the contributor for sharing this with us!
2002 Eco-Products Exhibition, Tokyo Big Site, December 7th
Reduce, reuse and recycle are the themes of this event said Morita-san
of the Nikkei Newspaper, the organizer of this event. JFS organized a
special tour so foreigners like me could get a closer look at what is
happening in Japan.
The "Reuse" and "Recycle" themes were embodied in a lot of products that
we saw, especially plastic and paper. We also saw a disposable camera by
Fuji [film manufacturer] broken down into individual pieces that can be
reused after the film is taken out. Matsushita [electronics
manufacturer] showed a video of factories established in Japan that in
their words "make new products from end-of-life products". Recycling is
engrained in today's culture in Japan. There are some difficulties
though, for example using a higher percentage of recycled paper lowers
the whiteness which will be a challenge for business and consumers to
accept. These changes are in large part occurring in response to the
new Law for Recycling that took affect in April, 2001.
Reduce was evident too, especially in the Nikkei's display of
fluorescent bulbs of the same wattage dropping in weight from 390 grams
to 95 grams, a 75% reduction over 12 years. At the Matsushita booth, an
insulating material was developed for refrigerators called U-Vakua that
is 10 times more efficient than conventional material of the same
thickness. This was all exciting stuff! On the not-so-eco side there was
a lot of hard selling at the exhibits with the traditional "booth babes"
and unnecessary handouts that contradict the true meaning of "reduce".
I picked up two other themes at the show: the first was global warming;
and the second was environmental education. Global warming was addressed
in most of the material we received at the show. We learned about a new
coolant used in National's [home appliance manufacturer] refrigerators
called HC-600 that is about 400 times lower in green house gas emissions
than the current coolant called HFC-134-a, used today. The HFC-134-a was
a replacement of the ozone depleting CFC coolant. This proves that
sometimes we take a step sideways instead of forward. At the East Japan
Railway booth also called "JR" the spokesperson explained that 16M
people use JR everyday! This is encouraging since the train is about 10X
lower in CO2 per kilometer than cars. They also cut their CO2 generated
from this activity by 17% as compared to 1990 levels. An exciting change
I learned about was a new energy program available next February
allowing consumers to choose green power. It will cost an extra 6 Yen
per kilowatt hour to reduce CO2 from electricity to zero from 400 grams
per kilowatt hour. This equates to 13,500 Yen or $108 per ton of CO2
which I think is on the high side of the current market price per ton.
Environmental education was another important part of this exhibit.
Grace, a temporary agency holds seminars to expand knowledge to
students/candidates. They screen for candidates based on their
environmental awareness. Hiring the right people is the key to
accelerating a company wide culture that values the environment. There
was also an Eco-Summit sponsored in part by Seiyu [a department store
chain] featuring a panel of 4th to 6th grade kids. They visited Sweden,
a leader in environmental awareness and readiness, and brought back
their observations and ideas. Their comments, suggestions, and desires
moved us. Here are a few examples:
- Why do we have to have rules to behave correctly, why don't we behave based on principles like they do in Sweden?
- Adults should listen to kids.
- Why only kids and housewives pickup garbage, why not government and business too?
- Adults shouldn't wait to do something (for the environment).
- A clean city with nature is what we (kids) want.
- Let's abandon selfish thinking.
This was a great show because it gave consumers more information about
how their choices can improve the environment. Comparing the products at
the exhibit with products sold in the US, I would claim that Japan is
setting a new standard for competitiveness like they did for quality. I
see cooperation between business, society and the environment here which
will lead Japan into the 21st century. Thanks to JFS for putting this
together and to Edahiro-san for her translation.