March 19, 2013


Toward Realizing a Sustainable Society -- the Eco-Products Exhibition

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.126 (February 2013)

JFS/Toward Realizing a Sustainable Society -- the Eco-Products Exhibition

"The Greener, The Smarter - The Future We Will Choose." The greener the life style and the more environment-friendly technologies we promote, the smarter and more friendly our society will become, which will lead more people to live in a greener, smarter way. This theme for the Eco-Products 2012 Exhibition represents our mission to realize a cycling society and to pass a sustainable society to our future generations.

History of the Eco-Products Exhibition

The first Eco-Products Exhibition was held in 1999 and hosted 47,449 visitors. As its name suggests, its purpose is to make eco products more widely known. Its scale has grown over time, and the 14th Exhibition held for three days starting December 13, 2012, was crowded with 711 companies and organizations as exhibitors and hosted 178,501 visitors. The number of visitors has exceeded 170,000 for five consecutive years.

As the scale of the exhibition grows, its functions have been expanding as well. In the beginning it was simply a place to introduce eco products. However, the concept of Eco-Products 2012 defined it as a place to gather together various sectors and offer information for the realization of a sustainable society. It now functions as a place for all kinds of exhibitors to introduce new businesses using state-of-the-art environmental products, technology and services, as well as the wide variety of environmental activities they are pursuing. Exhibitors include government offices, municipalities, NPOs, NGOs and citizens' groups in addition to companies and research institutions.

Thus, the exhibition consists of a great variety of exhibitors providing information which visitors receive. These participants can create energy for realizing a sustainable society, just by being subjectively involved in the event. People feel inspired by the organizer's message - "We look forward to seeing everyone who would like to take their first steps toward a new future at the Eco-Products Exhibition."

An Opportunity for Environmental Education

What was noticeable at the 2012 Eco-Products Exhibition was the presence of a large number of children. It was wonderful to see them gaze at exhibits, earnestly put questions to booth staff, and enjoy quizzes prepared by exhibitors. They were visiting the exhibition as part of their environmental education, not just an ordinary field trip, but as part of an educational program jointly organized by the exhibition secretariat, exhibitors and schools. About 20,000 primary and junior high school children visited the Eco-Products 2012 Exhibition.

Many exhibitors, including businesses, organizations and administrative agencies, actively provide educational support to children, for example by handing out leaflets on their environmental initiatives as study materials, or explaining their product development in an easy-to-understand way.

The children, on the other hand, were well prepared for visiting the Exhibition. In advance of their visit, they were encouraged to think about what they wanted to see, ask and learn at the exhibition, and made notes in "eco-study notebooks" prepared by the secretariat, which they brought to the exhibition. To promote effective learning, teachers attended a briefing session beforehand, and submitted a report and questionnaire reply after the tour, to contribute to future improvements.

The secretariat set up a special office to provide various support services to children, such as preparing an "eco-study guide" as well as the "eco-study notebook," and arranging free shuttle services.

Seeing the excitement in children's eyes at the site made us realize that this was a valuable experience for them. Also, questionnaire replies from primary and junior high school children and teachers reveal that the exhibition had significant educational effects. The following is an excerpt from the results of questionnaires on the Eco-Products 2011 Exhibition:

Replies from Primary and Junior High School Children

  • I had a lot of things I wanted to learn at the Eco-Products Exhibition. I checked the exhibition's website as well as websites of individual exhibitors.
  • First we decided what we wanted to do, then selected the booths to visit and came up with questions.
  • I was impressed that booth staff gave us an easy-to-understand explanation using real samples.
  • I was surprised to see such a large number of companies and organizations participating in the exhibition. I felt the enthusiasm of the exhibitors.
  • I realized that there are various ways to be eco-conscious.
  • I will try to be eco-friendly as soon as I get back home.

Replies from Teachers

  • Products exhibited by various companies sparked the children's interest in environmental issues and enriched their experience. Children learned that each company works out its own measures to protect the environment. What they learned there will help children change their daily life in the future.
  • Knowing that many companies and organizations are making efforts to find the best way to protect the global environment, the children started thinking about what they can do for the environment as individuals.
  • Children learned that many companies are using their precious human resources and funds to cope with environmental issues. The exhibition offered a good opportunity for children to directly understand that adults are working together to protect the environment.
  • Children that participated in hands-on programs or programs where a supporter assigned to each small group to explain his or her company's products watched booth exhibitions and listened to explanations with intense concentration and raised many questions.
  • I was happy to see children who were motivated to actively ask questions to staff members and staff members who gave careful explanations to the children.

Nature Tours

Exhibition programs included nature tours for participants to learn about biodiversity at a nearby park while enjoying natural surroundings. Experienced nature guides led the participants and provided them with an opportunity to think about the biodiversity present in familiar environments. My tour guide explained biodiversity using plants in the park.

For example, there was an Oshima-yamazakura cherry tree planted in the park, and the guide taught us about the best-known breed of cherry trees in Japan, Somei-yoshino or Prunus yedoensis, is a hybrid with Oshima-yamazakura as the father plant, and Edo-higan as the mother. Somei-yoshino is propagated through grafting, and so all Somei-yoshino trees have the same genes. Therefore they react to changes in the weather in the same way, blossoming and, in some cases dying, all together.

As these nature tours suggest, the Eco-Products Exhibition has been growing from a mere exhibition of products into a base for transmitting information useful for realizing a sustainable society.

Future Eco-Products Exhibitions

The exhibition has been expanding its role over the course of 14 exhibitions since its start. What is the future of the exhibition? The secretariat gave me a clue that one keyword will be "internationalization." As realizing a sustainable society is a global issue, internationalization should be a must. I am looking forward to watching how the exhibition will be changing.

Written by Nobuhiro Tanabe