Background to the creation of Eco-School Districts (Eco-Gakku)
Kyoto City is an inland city located in the center of Japan and has a population of approximately 1.42 million. Kyoto City was the ancient capital of Japan for over 1,200 years, and today, it has become a tourist city, attracting 50 million visitors a year.
The city is famous not only as a tourist destination but also as the birthplace of the Kyoto Protocol (COP3) in 1997. The ‘Miyako Ecology Center’ was established in 2002 to commemorate the 3rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP3) and offers residents opportunities for environmental learning and environmental conservation activities such as preventing global warming and reducing waste.
In Kyoto City, communication between residents has been very active and it mainly took place in primary schools. Therefore, the communities called ‘Eco-School Districts’, which is one of the community units in Kyoto City have developed, and in each Eco-School District, the residents organize festivals and activities. (e.g. cleaning parks)
Since 2013, Kyoto City has designated school districts that engage in community-wide eco-activities as ‘Eco-School Districts’ and has been supporting their efforts to shift to environmentally friendly lifestyles, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve community networks.
Role of Eco-School Districts
Currently, there are 222 school districts in Kyoto City and all of which have been designated as ‘Eco-School Districts’. In order to further promote the initiatives of Eco-School Districts, Kyoto City has set up the ‘Eco-School Districts Support Center’ at the Miyako Ecology Center to provide support and information on eco-activities.
Recent initiatives include an event hosted jointly by the Hoen School Districts Eco Promotion Committee and Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto, ‘Food Education Classes for Parents and Children’, on 7 January 2022. During this event, local children enjoyed cooking under the professional guidance of the chef from the Hotel and the staff of ‘Miyako Tofu Namikawa Shoten’ (Kyoto’s traditional Tofu Shop).
Children enjoyed cooking and learnt about food loss at the same time. Food loss is defined as food that can be eaten but is thrown away. In Japan, 6.43 million tons of food loss is occurring annually. Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto has achieved zero food waste incineration by using compost and biomass resources instead of disposing of food waste as industrial waste. As part of food education, the children learnt about the importance of food loss by cooking with ‘Okara’ (Soy pulp, the leftover “stuff” from producing soy products.)
Sweet Potato Cultivation Workshop in Fushimi Mukaijima
In recent years, Eco-School Districts have also started new initiatives in collaboration with NPOs, businesses and universities. An example is the ‘Sweet Potato Cultivation Workshop in Fushimi Mukaijima’, by thinking about the relationship between climate change and local food. This is a great opportunity to learn about locally grown and consumed, and resource recycling in cooperation with local farm, ‘Nakajima Farm’, where the Eco-School Districts is involved in suburban agriculture. The planting, digging and eating of sweet potatoes in a field sown with compost made from food waste is also an opportunity to think about sustainable food in harmony with the environment.
Such initiatives further broaden the scope of activities in Eco-School districts and contribute to a more sustainable approach. Kyoto City is committed to supporting the partnership between NPOs, private companies, universities and other stakeholders that want to engage in eco-activities, in order to transform the life cycles in harmony with the environment.
The way forward
Kyoto City has succeeded in dramatically increasing the environmental awareness of its residents by crossing the traditionally existing community with ecology. And the increased environmental awareness has led to a significant reduction in food losses. (It has the lowest waste output of any major city in Japan!)
In order to create a prosperous Kyoto where future generations can live in, the city has stated its commitment to a 46% reduction by 2030 and a 100% reduction by 2050. Kyoto City shares a sense of crisis with all actors and is prepared to confront the crisis of global warming and climate change.
“Even within Kyoto City, there are many different aspects, such as the mountainous areas in the north and the urban area in the south, the farmlands adjacent to the urban area and the watersheds of the ‘Katsura’, ‘Uji’ and ‘Kamo Rivers’. Eco-School District is a great mechanism to respect this diversity and support unique initiatives that are tailored to local characteristics. And, the support provided by the Eco-School Districts Support Center is an essential factor,” said Mr. Takashi Otsuka, the Advisor of ICLEI Japan.
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