On the land of sustainability center Fuji Eco-Park Village (once well known for its well-being and sustainable practices such as permaculture design, renewable energy workshop, electrical transport engineering, music festival, eco-conference, educational center, yoga and meditation class) is situated a new autonomous building project called Eden Grow Home, that I got a chance to attend as a volunteer.
Fuji Eco-Park (source: AirBnB)
Fuji Eco-Park permaculture design
Before talking about my volunteer experience, let me say that from all amazing initiatives of Fuji Eco-Park (see above), there is almost nothing left today. Nobody lives there permanently; the main house is rented out on AirBnB (that is a really great place to stay by the way with a fantastic view of Mount Fuji); some events are rarely organized by external people that would like to use this place, like yoga class; the farm is roughly maintained by one employee, not for food production but more to make the land look nice, because this is very important for Japanese people. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to meet the owner, Mr. Masa Imae, and talk to him. I heard that he is occupied in his engineering company in Tokyo, rarely come to Fuji Eco-Park and don’t think of it as his priority anymore. Probably the main reasons of sustainable spirit death are the absence of community or team locally presented to maintain and expand the original idea, then location and accessibility, and finally the owner’s priority, probably he considers to be more useful to society in his engineering firm developing alternative energy solutions.
Now about autonomous house. Earth Embassy, sustainable architectural design group, launched this project early 2015. Eden Grow Home aims energy and food self-sufficiency via green house farming and renewable energy source usage, such as solar panels and wind mills. Here are site and video explaining the concept in details.
Eden Grow Home plan (source: Indiegogo)
The idea on the paper seems very good: on the limited space you have a house with enough food and energy produced on site. In reality today it looks like container in a greenhouse, but it seems to move forward.
Eden Grow Home progress in early 2015 (source: Indiegogo)
Eden Grow Home progress in May 2016
Actually, I would challenge the idea itself by asking why we should live in a container, have limited space and artificial land? Maybe it’s better to think how to provide a piece of land for everyone to grow their own food: we can produce up to 3 tonnes of organic food on less than 400 m2 with 400 different types of vegetables, herbs, fruits, berries (for more information, check out Urban homestead). Instead of building a tiny box apartment in the dense city center, or provide a container why don’t we move closer to the nature and build a house using local recyclable materials, then develop locally something we consider necessary from a big city life. Another solution could be Garden sharing. I think we should rethink our urban planning. Good examples are England (Findhorn sustainable ecovillage, transition town Totnes, Transition network to rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions), France (Distributed natural parks network protected by government, widely spread city parks network, ecoquartier like Lyon and Grenoble to ensure the access to the nature for everyone) and Japan (traditional houses with local materials, 75% of the country covered with forest, properness and respect to people and environment, Konohana Family sustainable community and Permaculture center of Japan social and environmental mindset development).
What can you do as a volunteer at Earth Embassy?
When I arrived to Earth Embassy building frame was already there and at this stage what was important is to beautify everything:
- cleaning the container (before/after):
- preparing the soil and planting (before/after):
- weeding and mulching
What do you learn at Earth Embassy?
Unfortunately, I arrived at the time when the owner was too busy and didn’t have much time to spend together. By the way it’s not the owner of Earth Embassy, but another person who wasn’t there, Imae-san, the owner of the Fuji Eco Park, who made and knows about alternative energy installed on-site. Finally, I didn’t learn much about autonomous housing, but something about farming.
Donut mulching protects the soil, retains water, reduces competing vegetation and doesn’t let the roots rot.
Compost tea is a well-balanced organic liquid fertilizer for higher quality production.
What to do around?
First of all, the view you have, waking up every morning and while working is fantastic. Do some yoga facing Fuji-san is precious!
Furthermore, Fuji Eco-Park is situated in the famous area of Fuji mountain and its five lakes. If you have a car, you can enjoy many great places, presented below, but without a personal transport you will not be able enjoy any of them, there is no public transport around and anything is very-very far (minimum one hour walk).
Lake Kawaguchi (Fuji five lakes)
Shiba-sakura festival (only from mid-April to June)
Iconic Mount Fuji. From July to August you can climb to the top and watch the sunrise. Other months the top is still covered with snow and there are no huts opened.
Sunrise from Mt. Fuji (source: Simply Unbound)