Quirkiness aside though, what they have in common as they hum continuously along is all the energy they consume.
That's why Coca-Cola System (Coca-Cola Japan plus its domestic bottling partners) has come up with the "Ecoru/Solar," an eco-friendly vending machine with a solar panel on top that uses 40 percent less electricity than regular machines. From Hokkaido all the way down to Okinawa, the company has just installed 1,500 nationwide -- with five in Tokyo -- and plans to do the same next year. It has also joined our ranks of quirkiest vending machines across Asia.
And though it's more a symbolic gesture than a major reduction of CO2 emissions, its main impact for now will be on public awareness. "It's a step in the direction of increasing visibility of solar power as a fact of life for people in their everyday lives," says Dr. Terry Peterson, a California-based solar power consultant who has been in the business for 40 years.
Coca-Cola public relations manager Kanako Ogata explains that they took this step because Japanese care more about the environment nowadays. And their own market research found that people crave this kind of thing. "Most of our customers would like to do something for the environment," she says. "But they feel helpless. So we thought using an eco vending machine could give them the feeling that they are doing something."
They, by rolling out solar-powered, eco-friendly shops across the country, give reason to be optimistic about the future of renewable energy in Japan’s retail sector. With a few high profile examples set, other companies can more comfortably follow their lead toward cutting power costs, getting a PR boost, and in the long run, making the planet greener.