September 17, 2013


Eco-Cooking - Tokyo Gas Co.

Keywords: Energy Conservation Food Newsletter Non-manufacturing industry 

JFS Newsletter No.132 (August 2013)
"Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work" (No. 104)

Food is indispensable for life. Tokyo Gas Co. is a provider of city gas, a form of environment-friendly energy. It also fosters life skills through the medium of food and cooking to help create a sustainable society.

A consideration of food is a good way to learn various lessons. When shopping for food, we can think about the environment in which it was produced and its safety. When cooking meals, we can learn about the right heat level to cook the food, how to save energy and how to judge whether the food is cooked by using our eyes, nose and ears. Enjoying food with our five senses is a delightful experience. When washing dishes, we can be aware that our kitchens lead to the sea. Through food and cooking, we can learn how to coexist with nature and how to develop our senses and life skills.

Efforts of National Government on Related Issues

Various problems regarding food, energy and the environment are occurring in Japan.

In relation to food, Japanese people are losing the traditional dietary habits that have supported our longevity. We are troubled with obesity and lifestyle-related diseases due to an excess intake of fat. As more people stay awake deep into the night, fewer eat breakfast. Another object of public concern is not only that many people take their meals alone, but that individualized diets can also mean that each family member eats a different menu even when the family dines together at home.

As for energy and the environment, we can enjoy more comfortable and convenient lives as civilization progresses, but at the same time we have various problems such as pollution of the air and water, as well a global warming and energy resource shortages due to civilization's excessive use of fossil fuels.

In view of these circumstances, the national government is making efforts to cope with food, energy and environmental problems. In accordance with Japan's Basic Law on Food Education, which came into force in July 2005, the government draws up a Basic Plan to Promote Food Education every five years. This plan has concrete target values for levels of public interest in food education and the proportion of people who skip breakfast, etc.

In the fields of energy and environment, the Ministry of the Environment is leading national campaigns to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The Team Minus 6% Campaign aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, as stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol. The Challenge 25 Campaign was launched in 2010 to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, the goal set by the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in 2009.

Efforts of Tokyo Gas

Tokyo Gas provides city gas made from natural gas to provide cleaner and more efficient energy. One feature of natural gas is that it emits less CO2, a global warming greenhouse gas, less nitrogen oxide (NOx) and less sulfur oxide (SOx), which causes acid rain. As measured against a value of 10 for emissions from burning coal, CO2 emissions from petrol and natural gas are 8 and 6, NOx emissions are 7 and 4 and SOx emissions are 7 and 0, respectively.

City gas is delivered to households with very little energy loss during transportation and heat transfer. When boiling water, for example, 56 percent of the energy from gas is converted into heat, the remainder being the exhaust heat from the gas range. Electricity from thermal power plants, however, loses a great deal more energy during transportation. The result is that only 29 percent of electric energy is converted into heat even when using an induction cooker that reduces heat loss.

In addition to supplying environment-friendly energy to customers, Tokyo Gas is involved in food education as one of its initiatives to encourage people to practice environmental friendly behavior and protect the global environment.

Tokyo Gas held cooking classes for the first time 100 years ago, in 1913, in order to show people how to use gas-fired cooking appliances at a time when gas was replacing firewood as cooking fuel. People's lives have changed with the times, but the company continues to provide useful dietary information by offering recipes and tips on cooking skills.

In promoting awareness of food issues, as with energy and environmental issues, hands-on learning experience involving a familiar topic is an effective way to introduce a better understanding of these issues and ways to resolve them. The company has been coping with these issues through its long years of experience in holding cooking classes, and using the familiar themes of cooking and kitchens to teach people how food, energy and environmental issues are closely connected with each other.

Prior to the enactment of the Basic Law on Food Education, which came into force in 2005, Tokyo Gas launched a series of children's cooking classes in 1992, called "Kids in the Kitchen," based on the concept that the key to a healthy diet is the ability to cook meals for oneself. Enjoying good-tasting food cooked using the flames of a gas range can help children take more interest in food and contribute to the solution of food issues. To cook delicious dishes, we need all our five senses. So, cooking provides a chance not only to improve cooking skills but also develop the acuity of our five senses.

In 1995, Tokyo Gas also launched an "eco-cooking" program based on the concept of considering the environment in a fun way through the familiar topic of food. This program is designed to give people an opportunity to learn about environment-conscious lifestyles by considering how we approach food in terms of energy, during the entire process from shopping to washing-up.

A healthy awareness of the progression of daily food-related experiences - selecting foodstuffs, cooking, eating, and washing-up - can promote an environment-conscious, self-sustaining diet and develop the five senses in enjoying food, leading to rich and environment-friendly dietary habits. This process can help increase each person's energy for life, while constituting a force for change that can result in the development of a sustainable society. That's what Tokyo Gas is aiming for.


We would like to tell you a little more about eco-cooking. Eco-cooking's four steps include the selection of food, cooking, eating and cleaning.

The first step is the selection of food ingredients. From an environmental perspective, it is important to choose what is in season and what is locally produced. This involves thinking about energy consumption during the cultivation and transportation of the food before it arrives in stores. To choose fresh, delicious food, we need to perceive its colors and glow, as well as its fragrance and elasticity by using our five senses.

The next step is cooking. The important point in cooking is to reduce energy consumption by using remnant heat. By using only one pot or frying pan, we can save preheating energy and save water while washing up cooking utensils. We can also reduce energy by cooking more than one dish at a time.

When we cook, we can smell the food cooking, hear it simmer, see its color change, touch to perceive its softness, and taste it for flavor. By making full use of the senses of smell, hearing, vision, touch and taste, we can discover the best timing for cooking each dish. We can use a mechanical timer, but our five senses are what we rely on in the end.

The next step is eating. What is important about eating is to finish everything. The basic idea is to serve what we can eat and eat it all. However, if the food is not very delicious, we cannot eat much. It is important to cook delicious food, and if we feel and describe in words the delights of the food perceived by our five senses, it will taste much better. Our five senses are also important when we eat.

The final step is cleaning up and washing the dishes. What is important here is to save water and keep the waste water as clean as possible; for instance, we can reuse the water used during preparation to wash rice or the hot water or broth left over from boiling something to help pre-clean dishes, pots and pans. It is best to use a washing basin and avoid stacking oily dishes. We can reduce our impact on the environment by throwing out our food garbage after letting it drain thoroughly in order to save energy for burning wastes.

To promote eco-cooking, Tokyo Gas has been holding regular cooking classes, giving lectures at elementary and junior high schools, offering leadership training classes, and posting recipes on its website.

Eco-cooking recipes (in Japanese only)

As a new service, JFS plans to help translate eco-cooking recipes into English to share them with the world once a month. Why not learn about Japanese food and try eco-cooking!

Written by Nobuhiro Tanabe

See also: Tokyo Gas - Developing Next-Generation Natural Gas Energy to Create a Sustainable Social System