January 29, 2014
In Japan, August and September are the hottest months of the year, follow the rainy season in July. To cope with the heat, Kashiwara Education Center in Osaka prefecture, one of Japanese local government, has been growing "green sunshade" every year. It was introduced at the International Kaizen Convention held in Bangladesh in November 2013, as one of the best kaizen practices in Japan. It is not a prominent activity but an environment-friendly and an effective way to create cool and friendly working place.
This is Kashiwara Education Center. The balcony faces to the west and strong sunlight makes the office very hot in the afternoon. To create cool and comfortable workplace, they decided to make a "green sunshade" with "bitter gourd".
May 6: They started preparing the seeds by cutting off the tip of the seeds and placed them on wet tissue to let them absorb water. The seeds were the fruits of their activity in the year before.
May 10: In 2-3 days, the seeds sprouted. Now they were ready to be planted in small pots.
May 24: When the leaves became big, they were transplanted to the balcony.
June 10: The bitter gourds have vines so they prepared a big net to cover the balcony.
July 1: The vines grew and grew.
August 25: A big sunshade was completed. This curtain blocked sunlight and suppressed the temperature rise of the building. The transpiration from the leaves produced cool air and, of course, the bitter gourds could be eaten.
When they examined the result of their activity, the temperature outside this “green sunshade” was 43℃ where it was 33℃inside the sunshade. As the temperature lowered by 10℃, they used the air conditioner and fans less than usual and accordingly, they could save 15% of the electricity bill compared to that of the previous year. The investments they made to obtain this success were buying seeds, net for the bitter gourds to grow on and some fertilizer.
Not only did they save money and create a cool office environment, they also built a strong connection among the colleagues through taking care of the plant in turns; watering every day, checking the health condition of the plant and buying fertilizer, etc. As a result, the officers could work in a cool and comfortable environment with stronger bond and better efficiency.
The Kashiwara Education Centre started this activity in 2008 and they have been continuing this pursuit every year. This idea originally came from the staffs of Kashiwara Education Centre. The summers were becoming hotter every year and they needed to create a better working environment without big budget, as a part of the local government office. The point is "Continuous Effort". This success was achieved with everybody's small efforts. Based on their success, some schools in Japan have also started this activity. Students give water every day and they learn to cooperate and to grow plants.
This success story is only an example to make our living environment better and we hope it will spread together with other brilliant ideas waiting yet to be discovered.