In the Los Angeles Times, Marla Dickerson takes a look at Tokyo's efforts to become one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world:
In addition to reducing solid waste, Tokyo over the last few years has unveiled a slew of environmentally conscious initiatives. Those include toughened environmental building standards, cash incentives for residents to install solar panels, and a plan for greening the city, including planting half a million trees and converting a 217-acre landfill in Tokyo Bay into a wooded "sea forest" park.
The most ambitious effort yet kicked off this month, when Tokyo launched a mandatory program for 1,400 of the area's factories and office buildings to cut their carbon emissions 25% from 2000 levels by the end of 2020. The plan includes a carbon cap-and-trade system, the first ever attempted by a metropolitan area. The mechanism sets limits on emissions and requires those who exceed their quotas to buy pollution rights from those who are under their caps.
The Japanese government still hasn't been able to settle on a national plan for tackling carbon-dioxide emissions, so Tokyo is leaping ahead—similar to the way California is moving ahead of Congress here in the United States.
Meanwhile, I was going to mention that maybe Tokyo should take a second look at the five million vending machines plopped around the city—surely they're not all necessary (having to walk an extra block to get hot coffee from a can isn't the worst tragedy in the world). Except on closer inspection it seems like the vending machines account for a fairly small fraction of Japan's carbon-dioxide emissions—about 1 percent of the total. Still, that hasn't stopped manufacturers from stepping up their game. Here's a vending-machine model from Fuji Electric that powers up via solar power and then stays warm in the winter by growing moss on its side: