packaging

Can stylish seed bombs make better neighbors?

clintonpark_seedbomb

種爆弾を使って、お隣がよくなるでしょうか? カリフォルニア・ススキと野草の種の入った種爆弾を隣の庭に投げ入れました。何も生えていなくて、さびしいので。パッケージと成分表がなかなか素敵でしょう?

My San Francisco neighbor is an absentee landlady, who grows nothing but weeds in her back yard. After some pre-watering, i threw two seed bombs over our fence. I wonder if these wildflowers and grasses will sprout?

I love the packaging and the ingredient list.

clintonpark_seedbomb_ingredients

Recreating Edo style in Tokyo Station food shop

eki_bento_salesstaff_tokyo_station

駅弁の店は、江戸時代の感じを作っています。

From shop staff uniform to packaging, this “ekiben” shop in Tokyo Station does a great job of evoking Edo history for today’s train travelers.

eki_bento_tokyo_station

Mountain dairy farm (森林の牧場)

On the trip to Nasu in Tochigi two weekends ago, we visited a unique mountain cow dairy called Shinrin no bokujo (森林の牧場) that produces delicious milk and ice cream while addressing a crisis in Japanese forestry. The recycling company Amita created this dairy and another in Tango, northern Kyoto on the Japan Sea, as an ecological experiment.

With the collapse of Japan’s timber industry, many mountains are covered with single species trees that have not been maintained and are now dying. The mountain dairy idea is to allow the cows to maintain and improve the forests. The concept ties dairy farming with healthy food production, watershed conservation, and rice farming.

The milk is currently sold at Isetan department store Queen Isetan grocery stores, as well as onsite. Lots of families came with young children to see this unique dairy. The milk was extremely rich and delicious, with a hard cream top, packaged in a glass bottle with attractive graphics.

One of the TEDxSeeds members will be starting work there, and we met the farm manager, who is a graduate of Tokyo University of Agriculture. It was exciting to see this ecological experiment run as a business. The Japanese president of Qualcomm is also interested in new farming techniques that address food quality and ecological revitalization. Since rural abandonment has become a major national issue, these experiments are very timely and needed.

Visiting the cows was fun. They were extremely friendly. They allowed some heavy petting, and in return offered a very slobbery welcome. I had no idea their mouths are so full of saliva! Some of the young calves are lent out as natural lawn mowers, much as goats are now providing fossil fuel free mowing and complementary fertilizer in Silicon Valley. The grown cows are too heavy to transport easily.

The buildings on site, both for visitors and for milking, are simple and very attractive.

City people connecting with the people growing their food

The last post about Big Globe reminded me of two recent dinners I attended in Tokyo and Kanagawa which featured food with visible and interactive connections to the farmers who produced them.

The first was a mochi party at the ceramic studio where I am a student. Their annual mochi party used special rice grown by Niigata farmers. The teachers found them online last year, and this year along with the huge bag of rice, they included the above image showing the family that creates the rice. I like how they also include a QR code.

The other event was a lavish dinner hosted by a Japanese architect friend that featured Kyushu pork fed a persimmon diet. The dinner included seven courses all of which included pork and persimmon, including an amazing sweet-and-sour and a tonkatsu with cream cheese and persimmon inside the batter. Both at the party and in the email invitation, we learned about the River Wild Ham store, and how it used fallen organic persimmons from Kakinoya farm as feed. The taste was astounding.

Given the discussion of technology in the previous post, it is interesting how these rural farmers are connecting with city people with online stores, blogs, QR codes, and Flickr accounts. I do not fully understand the “21st century rock and roll heart” branding, but clearly the pork store wants to be contemporary and relevant to today’s buyers.

Lastly, I realize that more and more vegetables in Tokyo now include images of the farmer. Well, given how industrial most farming is, I wonder how accurate some of these images are. Still, I think it is part of a broader interest by city people to know where their food comes from, how it is made, and who is making it.

Zero waste

Zero waste vs landfill

Interesting New York Times article about how zero waste is moving from fringe to mainstream, including Yellowstone National Park (plant-based cups and utensils), an Atlanta restaurant (composting on premises), and Honda North America (no packaging means no dumpster at factories).

Food waste, 13% of United States trash, releases methane– a climate warming, greenhouse gas– when sealed in landfills without oxygen. Composting provides non-petroleum fertilizers. Other initiatives include bio-degradable packaging, recycling, and re-using.

Environmental Management and Biodiversity at Hitachi

Hitachi 2009 Environmental Sustainability Report 2009

It was exciting to meet several leaders of Hitachi’s Environmental Strategy Office, who explained Hitachi’s leadership in corporate environmental management and in worldwide environmental standards through the IEC TC 111 ( International Electrotechnical Commission’s environmental standards). Across seven fields of business and products– including ICT, power, and high functional materials and components–Hitachi has developed its own IT system for tracking sustainability progress along eight criteria: resource reduction, longevity, recyclability, disassembly and disposal, enviornmental protection, energy efficiency, information provision, and packaging.

Hitachi Product Life Cycle

Beginning in 2009, Hitachi produces an annual Environmental Sustainability Report (2.05 MB download) separate from its Corporate Social Responsibility Report to provide greater transparency and details about its long-range goals and annual performance in preventing global warming, conserving resources, and preservation of ecoystem.

The complexity of Hitachi and its environmental goals are both staggering. As Hitachi and Japan seek to contribute to global environmental progress, they have identified a need to not only monitor the environmental impact of manufacturing and distribution, but to also create new global standards measuring indirect carbon emissions, or the environmental benefits achieved by their customers using new eco-products. As international governments move toward strong carbon emission agreements, knowledge and standards must continue to improve.

Hitachi direct and indirect emissions

In addition to environmental management, Hitachi is also weighing the effects of energy change on its core businesses. One central research and strategy group shared with me a summary document exploring future scenarios and their implications. Without discussing the content, I am impressed by Hitachi’s mastery of this important strategic planning method, originally developed by Royal Shell. The scenarios guide immediate senior executive and business group decisions, with detailed metrics for continuous monitoring.

Several things struck me as particularly forward-looking in Hitachi’s Environmental Strategy Office: a vision of sustainability as a critical business opportunity, an appreciation of eco-diplomacy, an eagerness to measure the global impacts of corporate products and national technologies, the support from Hitachi’s most senior executives for comprehensive environmental change, and the emergence of cross-product focus on “social infrastructure” that include power, transportation, and information and communication technologies. One of the themes of Tokyo Green Space is global urbanization, and new, integrated approaches are essential for making sustainable both mature and emerging cities.

I was also very encouraged to hear that Hitachi is focusing on biodiversity as a new mid-term goal for the next 5 to 10 years. This movement from reducing negative effects to creating positive impacts strikes me as particularly visionary and capable of creating tremendous change. I can only imagine the challenge of promoting new visions of sustainability in a corporation with 1,100 companies, 10 trillion yen in revenue, and over 400,000 employees. My meeting convinced me that Hitachi has some of the smartest leaders working on environmental management.

2025 Emission reduction target