Ever since the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan this past March, the nation has been slowly getting back on its feet. As part of the process, everyone was asked to cut back their power usage — which applies to air conditioning during the scorching summer season. Companies started encouraging their employees to cut back on wearing jackets and ties, and even shortened the work-week, but that alone was not sufficient to keep cool. As a result, many people have bought self-ventilating jackets — two fans in the back of a wind-breaker-like garment take in air and circulate it throughout the jacket before it escapes through the cuffs and the collar.
Powered by lithium-ion batteries which can run for 11 hours, 20 liters of air are pumped in per second. The company — Kuchofuku Co Ltd., which literally means “air-conditioned clothing” — is obviously seeing quite a jump in profits; the president of the company and former Sony technician Hiroshi Ichigaya said the idea came to him when he realized that the room itself does not need to be cooled when the people inside it can feel cool. Kuchofuku sells air-conditioned cushions and mattresses, as well. Kuchofuku is now used by over 1,000 companies in numerous industries.
The realization which made this company focus on people instead of the room itself is quite significant: by using these lithium-ion batteries, a gang of employees can keep cool while using significantly less power than an equivalent air-conditioning unit. Perhaps this shift of perspective is exactly what we need to make environmental innovation easier on other fronts as well…
What other areas of our life could benefit from the same point of view? We are already told to wear a sweater indoors during winter instead of boosting the heat, so that season is covered. Is there something we can do to cut down on the energy used by the second fridge or freezer many households have? Innovations that challenge our perspectives no doubt provide healthy jolts to our stagnant ways of thinking, and can surely affect some serious change. Although wearing a puffed-up jacket to keep cool may seem a counter-intuitive fashion faux-pas, this is the exact type of simple solution that can and has affected real change. Can you think of other improvements this type of thought-shifting can have?
All images: AFP, via Care2