My local flower and plant store was marketing bitter melon plants as “super eco.” Claims include that it is fast growing, requires no pesticide, provides shade, the vegetable is full of Vitamin C and beta-carotine, and that it absorbs carbon dioxide. Most home vegetables and vines would offer the same benefits, no? I wonder if this eco marketing is helpful or misleading.
Green cities, where the urban forest replaces concrete slabs, are receiving new support from city governments and corporations. The Tokyo Municipal Government announced many exciting green city initiatives starting in 2006 in a ten year plan for transforming the city in its bid for the 2016 Olympics. Other motivations include climate change, heat island effect, energy efficiency, and tourism.
Japanese governments and corporations are begining to promote their leadership in green cities for a global audience. It is a pleasure to see Hitachi, a sponsor of Tokyo Green Space, promoting environmental diplomacy in China. Under Hitachi’s China Energy Conservation and Environment Commercialization Promotion, Hitachi activities include sharing water treatment technologies with Sichuan University and hosting an “eco-cities” conference with Chinese government organizations and corporations.
Hitachi CEO Kawamura Takashi is backing an unprecedented 2025 Environmental Vision in which Hitachi products will reduce global CO2 emissions by 100 million tons. This ambitious vision seeks a 50% reduction from 2000 levels. And to provide a concrete idea of the size of this committment, Hitachi explains that eliminating 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions would require a new cedar forest of 130,000 square kilometers, or one third the size of all of Japan.
Hitachi’s bold plans suggest that reversing climate change is not a charitable gesture but essential to its business success in a global marketplace. Rather than seeing trade-offs, Hitachi envisions “harmonious coexistence of environmental preservation and economic growth.”
Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide and promote the environment must of necessity focus on cities. According to the United Nations Population Fund, in 2008 more than half the world’s population, 3.3 billion, were living in cities. If the 20th century saw urban global populations rise from 220 million to 2.8 billion, the rate is now only increasing. By 2030, almost 5 billion people will be living in urban areas, with the largest growth rates in Africa and Asia. The UNPF estimates that in 2030, more than 80% of urban residents will be in the developing world.
If designed well, the city of the future promises to be most sustainable environment for the world’s population. It is exciting to see how Japan, with its 30+ years in energy efficiency and bold new ideas, is becoming a global leader in smart growth, technology and the environment.
Innovative government projects include Tokyo’s Suginami ward office building. In 2008 the municipal government in 2008 planted the world’s tallest “green curtain” to reduce carbon dioxide, lower energy costs, and demonstrate new green technology.
The green curtain covers the south wall of the main city offices, with support from a net nearly 29 meters in height, and a wall of vegetation consisting of fast-growing vines such as loofah, cucumber, gourd and morning glory. The vines are growing in small containers, with a moisture sensor that makes watering very efficient. During summer and fall, the offices are cooler by 4 degrees celsius.
This Tokyo ward-level project is an amazing demonstration of vertical urban gardening, but unfortunately little information is available online in English about this project.
UPDATE: There’s a fantastic 2010 blog about a Suginami resident creating a small green curtain. Wonderful photos document the progress, lots of information about plant types, and participation of 4 year old child. Very cool!