Posts Tagged ‘eco’

Cool heat-blockers for summer 2012

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Though Japan is still experiencing rainy season, the country is bracing for a super-hot summer. Predicted power shortages and another season of setsuden are raising the demand for products that can help beat the heat without electricity. Here are a few of the more unusual ones.

Forget icy glasses, frozen foam is where it’s at

Frozen beer: Kirin has invented a machine that creates frozen suds on top of your pint. Working rather like a softserve ice cream machine, the device adds a frosty froth to a glass of draft beer. The froth is actually made from beer so that it doesn’t dilute your drink as it melts. According to Kirin, there are currently 252 establishments serving it nationwide, and 91 of those are in Tokyo.

Chilled foods: It’s unsurprising that manufacturers are casting around for unexpected foods to stick in the cool box. Chilled doughnuts have been around for a few years now and have proven to be more than a passing fad. Last year we had chilled Hiroshima okonomiyaki and cold curry. This spring snack giant Calbee brought out Potato Chips Zeitaku (Premium) Vanilla, which, the company claims, taste much better after being chilled in the fridge. There’s even a chilled instant ramen from Nissin (which, strangely enough, was launched in February).

Fans: Old-school paper fans have enjoyed a bit of a revival 0ver the last few years, but why waste all that energy flapping your hands around when you can get your hands on a Kurukuru Eco Fan? This environmentally friendly toy fan from Takara Tomy has been so popular that the company has had to double the shipments of the product. Thanko, our favorite store for wacky gadgets, put out this petite little fan that resembles bladeless household fans and comes in at a very affordable ¥980. Thanko has also got a product for cooling the insides of your shoes. The USB Shoes Cooler produces a cooling breeze when inserted into footwear, promising to prevent your feet from getting all sweaty.

Pointing out good deals

Monday, March 12th, 2012

In Japan it seems that almost every company offering goods or services has a point scheme, so much so that some people carry a separate wallet just for customer loyalty cards. Keeping track of what you can use these points for and when they are expire can be a hassle, but if you fail to do so, you could end up losing out.

Get the point?

The end of March is the deadline for using up Eco Points and, according to Otona no Kaisha News, ¥11.5 billion’s worth of Eco Points issued are yet to be exchanged for goods. A government scheme to support eco-friendly practices while invigorating the economy, Eco Points are accrued when buying domestic electronic appliances and can be exchanged for eco-friendly items before the end of the Japanese financial year.

This looming deadline is perhaps the reason why the website Poi Tan (“point search”) suddenly rose to fifth place in Google Trend Word rankings on March 3. Poi Tan aggregates a dizzying array of information on points and air mile schemes to allow users to keep track of their point balances. The website shows visitors how to convert dormant points into other points: for instance,points earned at department store Takashimaya can be converted into ANA air miles. It also alerts you when your points are about to expire.

If after searching Poi Tan, you’re still none the wiser on how to spend leftover Eco Points, then it’s worth bearing in mind that they can be sent as monetary donations to victims or to fund volunteer work in areas affected by the disaster last year. It’s also heartening to know that Tsutaya also run a similar scheme in which points accrued at their stores can be sent to a range of charities including the Japanese Red Cross Society and World Wildlife Fund.

Power saving puts Christmas illuminations in a new light

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The Winter Sakura lights along Meguro River are powered by used cooking oil

As is the tradition, Christmas lights are twinkling all over Tokyo. When it comes to Christmas decorations the Japanese, who tend to go wild for the glitziest, brightest possible displays, aren’t exactly famed for their self-restraint, so this year poses the problem of how to accomplish the desired amount of dazzle without being seen as an energy hog.

The most obvious answer, and the most popular one, is to swap out normal bulbs for energy-efficient LED lights. Due to LED bulbs’ power-saving qualities, ad agency Dentsu has rated them as the second most popular product in Japan for 2011.

According to Sankei News, Keikyu Railways and the New Otani Hotel have both switched to LED lights. But Ebisu Garden Palace has not only switched over the bulbs of its gigantic Baccarat Crystal chandelier, it’s also reduced the number of bulbs from 60,000 to 40,000. On top of that a solar power panel has been installed to supplement the power supply. The Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa’s, however, have outstripped this effort by installing an entirely solar-powered display of LED lights in its Japanese garden.

Though the hotel’s garden sounds attractive, our favorite eco-friendly display in Tokyo is the “Winter Sakura” illuminations along the Meguro River. Pink LED bulbs are strung on the branches of trees along the river so that it appears as if the cherry blossom trees are blooming out of season. Better yet, the lights are powered from bio diesel made from used cooking oil collected from homes and restaurants in the area.

Some businesses have decided that the best way to do their bit, however, is to dodge the whole issue by not putting up any decorations. SG Holdings, for instance, who run Sagawa Express Ltd. announced that in light of power-saving measures, they decided to cancel any plans for illuminations that might have been put up at their head office or branch offices. This seems a pity especially seeing as Nikken Release Kyogo Ltd has begun renting out eco-friendly LED Christmas trees to meet the demand for a setsuden (power saving) Christmas.

Apartment dwellers go potty for growing their own veggies

Friday, July 29th, 2011

John Moore's organic workshops has become increasingly popular

Over the past few years a trend for growing potted vegetables has been taking root on balconies throughout urban Japan. Driven by an increased interest in organic produce, many have been deciding to have a go at growing their own produce on tiny strips of sun-kissed balcony. Now with the crisis at Fukushima utmost in many people’s minds, the idea of growing your own vegetables is even more attractive.

Since the mid-noughties, a bumper crop of books containing the words “veranda saien” (balcony vegetable garden) have been published. Indeed, March this year alone saw three new titles hit bookstore shelves. “Easy to Grow Vegetables in Containers and Pots,” for example, shows budding gardeners how to grow veggies including cress, carrots, egg plants and cucumbers. According to Nikkei Trendy who reported on the “boom” back in summer 2008, one of the easiest plants to grow on a balcony are baby tomatoes, but as we reported a little while back, “green curtains” grown from goya have also been popular with those who want to use foliage to provide natural shade for their windows.

John Moore, a British resident of Japan, teaches classes in Tokyo on how to grow organic vegetables. Moore says that he has noticed a significant rise in the number of pupils recently.The numbers to our workshops have been increasing for the past three years. Safe food, safe DNA for the next generation and clean safe living is foremost in Japanese people’s minds, and also in the minds of overseas customers of food from Japan,” he said in a recent email interview. “On balconies, or inside the house in various places, good food can be safely grown, no insects, no climate worries, no nuclear worries, etc.”

As concerns about the safety of produce mount and vegetable-centric cuisine grows in popularity we think the trend looks set to spread even further. Japan’s cities are notoriously short on green spaces, so this is trend also has the advantage of making the concrete jungle look that little bit more leafy and pleasant.

Save today for the summer blackouts

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

GreenFan2: energy efficient

As the country faces power shortages and the threat of blackouts extending into the summer, consumers are going to be more conscious than ever about purchasing energy efficient products. Here’s a roundup of the latest technologies on sale:

GreenFan2: Electric fans are going to be an obvious option for those wanting to do their bit and cut down on energy consumption as the weather heats up. Balmuda, who makes this fan, has gone one better by designing an electric fan that is significantly lower on energy consumption than conventional electric fans. Its twin blade system is designed to circulate air more effectively around the room than traditional fans. While typical fans use around 30W, the energy consumption of the GreenFan2 can be as low as 3W and on its strongest setting, it doesn’t exceed 17W. That means your entire yearly electric bill for the fan can cost only ¥192, compared to ¥38,000 you might consume with an air-conditioning unit. However, considering the GreenFan will set you back ¥34,800, you’ll only really be making savings the next year.

Eco Cute hot water heaters: Toshiba’s ESTIA heat pump hit the market at the end of last month. The ESTIA is just one of a long line of energy-efficient Eco Cute heat pumps that have been released onto the Japanese market in recent years. The units extract heat from the air, which it then converts into energy for heating water with. For every unit of electrical energy it uses, it extracts two units of energy from the ambient air temperature, consuming 66 percent less energy than a conventional water heater. Best of all some Eco Cute units can store hot water during blackouts. Though, like the GreenFan2, they’re more expensive than conventional water heaters, users tend to make the money back in electricity bill savings.

Panasonic Vertical Loading Washer Dryer: On sale from May 15, this machine uses less water and energy than other models: For an 8 kg wash it uses 2 liters less water than its competitors and 5 percent less energy in drying. To do this it uses a new “eco wash system” which combines powerful water jets and rotating blades that more effectively distribute water than other models. The dryer contains sensors that allow it to distinguish the temperature within the drum, allowing it to adjust it accordingly for more effective energy use.

Deck the halls with bottles of plastic . . .

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

This Christmas light show is quite literally garbage. High-class department store Takashimaya has decided to deck out the southern terrace area surrounding their Shinjuku store with Christmas illuminations constructed entirely out of discarded PET bottles and LED lights. The results, which include a PET bottle Christmas tree, UFO and giant man, are actually quite impressive, transforming the space into a clear plastic paradise.

The theme for the exhibition, which was installed by light artist Hiroyuki Morikawa, is “ancient ruins and outer space,” hence the UFO. Though we weren’t quite sure where the ruins fit in to the display, we loved the “Pet Tron” PET bottle screen, which showed passersby a pixellated otherworldly image of their faces.

Morikawa constructed part of this PET bottle world with the help of a group of children. The children assembled pet bottle stars with the artist’s guidance that were then either placed on top of lamp posts or piled up to create a splendid Christmas tree. You can see footage of this workshop towards the end of the video above.

Morikawa, a professor of Information Design at Tama Art University, is well known in Japan for his work with LED lights, such as this playful interactive installation piece constructed at MOA in April this year. The Shinjuku display will be lit up until Dec. 25.

Eco batteries bring new meaning to the term “juiced”

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Anyone who’s had their laptop or cellphone run out of juice at a crucial moment can attest to the limitations that present power storage methods have on technology, but a product from Aqua Power Systems Japan may indicate an amazing new advancement: the water-powered battery.

At their present capability, NoPoPo (No Pollution Power) Eco batteries have enough power to save lives during a disaster since they can run on the smallest amount of fluid (drinkable or bodily), which means that someone lost in the woods or trapped under rubble could recharge their flashlight easily with a few drops of whatever is available.

But don’t start peeing on your laptop just yet: For the time being, NoPoPo batteries have significant limitations — just the double-A form is available and can only run low-powered items like flashlights and toy trains (see video above) but if they find a way to expand capacity, the NoPoPo could revolutionize how – and for how long – we work and communicate on electronic devices.

They may also represent an interesting twist in environmental policy, as the mercury, lead and other hazardous chemicals in today’s used batteries cause considerable harm when burned or left to rot in landfills.

In earthquake-prone places like Japan, however, practicality will sell more units than quixotic concerns. I mean, what’s going to power your Wii and Nintendo DS when the “big one” hits?

RSS

Recent Posts