How green is your balcony?

June 10th, 2011 by Felicity Hughes

A Tokyo florist sells goya, morning glories and more, perfect for your veranda's "green curtain."

Sloping canopies of lush green leaves are slowly spreading their tendrils across Japan as a campaign to encourage homeowners to cultivate midori no ka-ten (green curtains) gathers pace. Though the Midori no Ka-ten NPO was founded back in December 2006, the energy crisis has encouraged a sudden growth spurt.

Midori no Ka-ten's website shows you how to plant a bitter melon green curtain on your veranda

The idea, which dates back to the Edo Period, is simple: Simply plant goya (bitter melon) or Japanese morning glory seeds in pots on your balcony, then train them up a net to form a natural green shade that significantly cuts down on the amount of heat entering the building. With a green curtain on the veranda, you’ll be a lot less likely to turn on the air con.

A quick search of Twitter revealed a number of tweeters enthusiastic about the campaign. @you_like_beer comments, “Goya is not only a green curtain but you can also eat (it) … wonderful.” The bitter tasting goya, a key ingredient in the Okinawan dish goya chanpuru, is not exactly to everyone’s taste, but it seems to be the favorite of the green curtain options.

Local governments are lending their support, according to Mainichi Shimbun. Akashi in Hyogo Prefecture, for example, is encouraging private citizens to pick up a trowel by distributing goya seeds free to citizens. Midori no Ka-ten are not just targeting private residences with their campaign, they’ve also been encouraging schools and government offices to plant green curtains. This summer Nishiwaki City in Hyogo Prefecture is installing 25 curtains in government offices and schools. The cost of the project is a mere ¥620,000.

The NPO is also lending a hand with the relief effort and is currently planting green curtains at 30,000 temporary housing units in areas hit by the tsunami. (And they’re currently taking donations; check their website for more details).

In addition to the green curtain campaign, there’ve been a few other inspired ideas for bringing some greenery into homes popping up lately, from manga farming to gardening in a book. Hopefully the future will see more and more greenery sprouting up through the urban jungle.

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