(Photo from Taku Iida's website)
As much as I like cool government initiatives, I have to wonder how to tackle this news: Japan's government has named six "Eco Model Cities" as environmentally friendly model cities and will provide them with financial support. The government chose Yokohama, Kitakyushu, Toyama, Obihiro, Minamata and Shimokawa out of 82 applications for the designation. Applicants presented their ideas to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, the city of Obihiro, in a famous agricultural region called Tokachi in Hokkaido, plans to produce alternative fuel from compost and unused parts of bean plants, and to use waste cooking oil for automobile fuel. Obihiro has set a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the city by 50 percent by 2050.
We mentioned Yokohama here on Treehugger just the other day - it is a busy harbour city near Tokyo. Why did they make the cut? They plan to offer reduced real estate tax for houses that are more durable and produce less waste materials, so as to promote the building of such houses.
Japan fof Sustainability notes that NGOs have been crucial in setting the stage for Yokohama's environmental activities.
After a fireworks event at the Yokohama Port Festival in July 2005, some of the participants were shocked to see rubbish everywhere. Those who worked to clean up the mess started the volunteer campaign called, "Let's Beautify Our City by Ourselves." The number of volunteers has increased, and at a fireworks festivals in July 2007 as many as 1,000 people participated. The Port of Yokohama will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2009, a variety of events are being planned. On this occasion, the network has announced the slogan, "Less Waste, No Litter. That's Yokohama Culture."
I am actually more impressed that Minamata, a city in southern Japan, managed to make the list. Based on the experience of one of the worst pollution disasters in Japanese history, Minamata City has been working towards establishing itself as an environmental model city, and in 1999 received ISO certification for its environmental management policies.
The city has Japan's most rigorous garbage classification and recycling program - household waste is separated into more than twenty categories. They promote saving energy and reducing waste, support environmentally friendly farming and fishing, and protect natural resources.
Mr. Yoshii, the former mayor of Minamata City, has said, "Everyone has weak points. Take these weak points away from the strong points, and what remains will be manpower."
Minamata Environmental Travel has more details about tours and events.
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp