February 28, 2007


Eco-Products Exhibition 2006 Innovates to Attract Record Turnout

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.54 (February 2007)

Here and there around the world events are held to display environmentally friendly products and services. Some are for electrical equipment makers to show their latest eco-friendly models to their customers. Some are for environmental experts and researchers to report on their latest findings. Some are for citizens and non-governmental organizations to share information and exchange opinions. Some are for children and students to have workshops and learning opportunities.

JFS has reported several times on the Eco-Products Exhibition, held in Odaiba (Tokyo waterfront) every December. It is a mixture of several of these types of events, and has grown dramatically from its early days to become an inspiration for many today.

Record Turnout in 2006

The eighth Eco-Products Exhibition, held from December 14 to 16, 2006, was a bustling event, with 572 exhibitors (companies and organizations) and a total of 152,966 visitors--the largest numbers to date. This year, the theme was "Smart Life, Sophisticated Technology." It came from the desire to make things simple, to enhance people's lives and to promote social change by utilizing advanced environmental technologies and services from Japan.

By now, there is nothing new about just having exhibitors set out display booths. So this time, the organizer of Eco-Products 2006 made an effort to create an exciting event using some novel ideas.

Idea 1: Collaboration with Media

Event organizers typically struggle to find ways to attract more people. Just displaying products and offering services at an exhibition site for a few days no longer attracts a lot of attention. So the organizers of Eco Products 2006 began to collaborate actively with the media before the exhibition, to attract greater interest.

An example is the collaboration with a magazine named "Lingkaran," published by Sony Magazines Inc. It is an "ecological lifestyle magazine" for women, started from the idea of making a connection between musicians and ecology. It conveys the image of ecological lifestyles for women who want a healthy lifestyle for mind and body, and today is very popular among young women in Japan. Working jointly with Lingkaran, the Eco-Products 2006 organizers arranged for three eco-conscious media personalities to post articles on their blogs about eco-products they were actually using. On the day of the exhibition, a session was arranged for them to talk about and show the products they used. This all turned out to be popular content on the website.

Another notable example is the collaboration with "," an environment-themed website established in 2006 to spread the word about enjoyable eco-friendly lifestyles. The website provides the latest information on various topics such as food, eco tours, eco villages, design and goods, and serves as a communication platform. Having the support of many key persons in eco-related fields, the website is getting a lot of attention for offering the image of living happily in an eco-friendly lifestyle. Information on Eco-Products 2006 was provided in real time via Internet, from an editorial desk "" set up on site.

Those are just two examples of how the organizers tried to attract public interest in the exhibition, by spreading information in cooperation with an eco magazine and website.

Idea 2: On-Site and Off-Site "Eco Tours"

At Eco-Products 2006, guided tours were available for those who could not decide which booth to visit first, or those who wanted to be efficient and have a quick look around the numerous exhibitors, based on their own interests. Theme tours to exhibit booths were guided by experts who offered in-depth explanations. Photos of these tours can be seen in the following web links.
Note: Web links are all in Japanese.

Farm and Garden Tour:
Ideas for getting back to the natural cycle that connects consumers and the good Earth. Get started by enjoying farming and gardening.

Healthy House Tour:
Introduces home construction that is good for people and the environment, including safe construction methods, materials for exterior walls, and room interior.

Zero Waste Tour:
Introduces how to use the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) to make good use of "waste" (read as "resources").

Natural Food Tour:
Live a healthy daily life by eating regularly and choosing the right ingredients. Have a look at environmentally friendly foods that change our minds and bodies from inside.

These guided tours were available for anyone; tour timetables were displayed at the information desk at the exhibition entrance. Besides these on-site tours, there was also an opportunity to test drive eco-friendly vehicles outside the exhibition site. As global warming continues, R&D into "green" cars powered by hydrogen fuel-cells, electricity and hybrid engines are attracting much attention. But most people don't have the opportunity to actually try driving these cars. The test-driving event was therefore held nearby as part of the Eco-Products Exhibition, using the latest models from six Japanese and foreign manufacturers. Some of the vehicles are still at the research phase, and some are already on the market.

One of the test vehicles was the Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE. This fuel-cell vehicle can be powered by either hydrogen or gasoline, which the driver can choose simply by pressing a button to switch from hydrogen to gasoline while driving. In addition, various types of electric vehicles, including the Subaru R1e minicar and an electric motor-assisted bicycle called Velotaxi, were available for test-driving. Photos and videos of the test drive at the exhibition (only in Japanese)

As these examples above show, the organizers created various ways to respond to the interests of visitors, with commentaries from experts and trials of the latest models of exhibitors' products.

Idea 3: School Excursions

Having young visitors can add energy to any event. Based on the notion that today's children will play a leading role in the future of society, the organizers provided support for school and community groups for educational purposes, by offering complimentary a shuttle service co-sponsored by the organizers and exhibitors. As a result, over 13,000 teachers and students visited the exhibition on field trips during the three-day event in 2006: 62 elementary schools (6,196 teachers and students), 32 junior high schools (4,209), 9 high schools (1,237) and 20 groups (1,690) including kindergarten, citizen groups and community centers. Those school excursions evolved into various field trips attracting more people. For example, parents and local residents joined field trips organized by local schools, visitors were attracted by announcements from local city halls to join tours of the exhibition hosted by local environmental groups, etc.

The organizers asked exhibitors to design their exhibits to be easy to understand for children and general public, and to include various techniques to attract and respond to visitors, like trial use, explanations, and quizzes. The exhibitors did their best to convey the challenges they faced and efforts to overcome them, through hands-on experiences if possible--such as showing how they deliver environmentally-friendly products and services using the latest technologies, what kind of new environmentally-conscious lifestyles they had in mind when developing the new products, etc.

Seeing even the children getting excited and asking many questions must have given new energy for exhibitors to continue their efforts.

Future Challenges

How will the Eco-Products Exhibition evolve in the future? "I would like to make this exhibition an inspiration for more and more people to shift their lifestyles toward a more sustainable future," says Kenji Hasegawa, chief producer of the exhibition, the Deputy Manager of the Cultural and Business Projects Department at Nikkei Inc. "How we can show people holistic and sustainable lifestyles based on Japanese technologies and customs, rather than simply displaying each product and service on its own. The future challenge for the Eco-Products Exhibition is to answer that question."

In the past eight years, the Eco-Products Exhibition has already motivated and inspired many exhibitors, the media, and visitors, including children. Many people are keeping an eye on this annual exhibition in Japan to see where it goes from here to lead us to a more sustainable society in the future.

(Written by Kazunori Kobayashi)