August 2011

August 26, 2011 (Fri)Energy Use Depends on Temperature

Hi there or “Howdy!” as they say in Texas.  I just came back from a weeklong vacation in Texas where the heat is more unbearable than in Tokyo! We had temperatures of 38 degrees for nearly 40 days in a row. It was reported in the local news that it has not been this hot in a century and utility firms are scrambling to keep up with demand.

Speaking with locals, I found out it’s not only the heat and the cost of cooling buildings and cars, but a continued drought along with the intense sunshine has caused huge damage to agriculture and resulted in billions of dollars in loss for this year along. I was also surprised to see that some lakes in the area have completely dried up! Just goes to show that even a few degrees rise in temperature can be very costly in many aspects.

In Japan, we’re still experiencing high temperatures, but fortunately it has cooled off here during the last few weeks despite it’s still August, which is a great relief since we are still trying to cut back on electricity here in Japan.  I live in Shibuya, one of the bright, bustling districts in Tokyo, which is popular among young people. I find that although energy saving efforts are in place, the brightness of the city now is just about right. Actually it could probably stand to be a little calmer still. Shop lights are still lit, but the overpowering video billboards blasting music and commercials are tamed down and I don’t know if it’s just me, but no one seems to miss it! The only thing that gets me is there are still shop workers screaming at the top of their lungs in front of their stores, trying to lure customers in.  I want to tell them, “Hey, save your energy!”  

For a research project I am conducting on public awareness at Waseda University, I did a poll among 20 of my colleagues here at NHK, half of them Japanese and the other half from abroad. Here are some of the questions I asked them:

1)    Are you practicing energy saving efforts?
2)    What is different about your specific working/living environment since the cuts began?
3)    Do you consciously think about how much electricity you are using?
4)    How do you motivate yourself to save electricity?
5)    Is energy saving a burden?

Please stay tuned next week to find out more on the results of my survey!  This week’s video on “Factories Reduce Power Usage” (
is on how the firm Mori Seiki has been able to reduce its electricity usage significantly with the cooperation of its employees.  That’s all from me today.  Join me again next week!

Factories Reduce Power Use(NHK Eco-Mix)Factories Reduce Power Use(NHK Eco-Mix)(∗this video is no longer available)

Posted at:12:53  |  Category:Columns  |  Energy Use Depends on Temperature   |  Comments(0) | Trackbacks(0)

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August 15, 2011 (Mon)No need to wrap those peaches!!

Hi there!
Amazing, delicious, fruit is one of the things I love about Japan, but not the wrapping that comes along with it! This morning I went to my local grocery store, which isn't a fancy-pants grocer by any means, and was saddened to find that even there peaches are wrapped in waffle-textured foam and then placed in a hard-clear plastic shell. Come on, really? Is it necessary? At the register, I asked if I could buy peaches without the wrapping and of course the clerk was very confused, saying, "Ginger-san, why don't you want the wrapping? The peaches will get squashed in your bag. And you ride a bicycle, so it's better to have wrapping so you can put the groceries in your bike basket."

Okay, I have to admit; wrapping decreases the risk of smashed fruit, but seriously it's a bit ridiculous when the size of the bundle of wrapping is the same size as the fruit. In Japan, people take food quality seriously, which means the flavor is just as important as the appearance, but that means more trash, more waste. I am amazed to see how much wrapping that goes on here in order to ensure a product is aesthetically pleasing.

There has to be more consciousness in how much waste goes into wrapping. If we start making a fuss when someone tries to put a flyer along with our groceries, or tries to "protect" our fruit with near bulletproof casing, things will begin to change. I mean, now some stores will take off 5 cents when you bring your own tote bag, so going lighter on packaging is also possible.

I asked my grocer and he mentioned that I can leave the packaging at the store if I felt that strongly about it, or I could just go to the pile of discounted "imperfect fruit." I looked over at the so-called "imperfect fruit," and not only was it fine, (a tiny bruise here and there) it was 30% off. It was a no-brainer, I took the naked peaches and soon discovered that the wrapping made no difference in taste, but it was all the more sweet knowing that I wasn't bringing a pile of trash home. Satisfied!

Now for an entertaining animation about trash, check out this next video called, "Pied Piper,"

Episode 07 "Pied Piper"(The Animal Conference on the Environment)Episode 07

which is part of "The Animal Conference on the Environment" series. Also, this week, NHK World will be airing the latest episodes of "Green Style Japan." A new episode will be broadcasted every Thursday, 08:30 JST (Wednesday, 23:30 UTC) and will aired multiple times throughout the day on August, 11, 18, and 25. Thank you for watching. And see you next time!

Posted at:16:38  |  Category:Columns  |  No need to wrap those peaches!!   |  Comments(1) | Trackbacks(0)

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