John Harris on how Coca Cola could help Japan save a nuclear power plant’s worth of power: Switch off their 5.5 million vending machines


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John R. Harris of Chiba, Japan writes (sources at bottom):

March 16, 2011:

Friends, people around the world are emailing us in Japan, asking how they can help us cope with the disaster here. Here’s how YOU can help:

We need to unleash a tsunami of social media on Coca-Cola asking them to unplug their vending machines across Japan — NOW!

Across eastern Japan we are experiencing rolling power cuts and train service cuts to compensate for the nuclear plant outages. This interruption of normal life hugely ramps up public anxiety.

In the midst of all this, the 5,510,000 vending machines across Japan* are still operating. According to a report I read years ago, these machines require electricity equivalent to the output of an entire nuclear power plant.

The most power-hungry are the soft-drink machines that have both refrigeration and heating (for hot canned coffee). Coca-Cola has perhaps the largest network of beverage machines across Japan. Unlike domestic rivals, as a global company Coca-Cola must listen to consumers around the world. So if concerned Americans, Canadians, Europeans and everyone else speak up forcefully, Coke must act. And Japanese domestic operators will be forced to follow suit.

So, please, spread this message via email, Twitter and Facebook to everyone you know. And please email Coca-Cola’s CEO asking him to pull the plug on his vending machines in Japan.

Coca-Cola knows they have a problem, as you can tell by the message on their corporate website: “As challenges with power outages continue in many parts of the country, Coca-Cola Japan is supporting the government’s request to conserve energy by converting television and radio advertising to public service announcements to encourage energy conservation.”

We think that’s just not good enough. If you agree, please email:

Muhtar Kent, Chairman & CEO, The Coca-Cola Company

Or contact Coke on Twitter: @CocaCola

See sources below
Statement on the Japan Disaster

March 14, 2011
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The Coca-Cola system has pledged 600 million Japanese yen (US $7.3 million) in cash and product donations to the relief effort. That contribution includes more than 7 million bottles of needed beverages, such as water, tea and sports drinks. Coca-Cola Japan and its 12 bottling partners will provide the beverages to national and local government authorities and other community groups for distribution. The system has also activated free dispensing of products from selected vending machines.

As challenges with power outages continue in many parts of the country, Coca-Cola Japan is supporting the government’s request to conserve energy by converting television and radio advertising to public service announcements to encourage energy conservation.

The Coca-Cola system in Japan continues to focus on the safety and well-being of our employees, and we continue to assess the conditions of our facilities in the hardest hit regions.

Coca-Cola Japan has sent its deepest condolences to those people impacted by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.”

* “According to the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers Association (JVMA), there are about 5.51 million vending machines in Japan.” (source: article by Anne Carter on

14 comments on “John Harris on how Coca Cola could help Japan save a nuclear power plant’s worth of power: Switch off their 5.5 million vending machines

  • But wait… for many people vending machines may be the only liquid or even food (soup) they can access. What about the idea that people will need these machines more than ever.

  • Its amazing how badly everything is being handled. Common sense would have turned off those machines the day after the quake.

    Common sense would also have fixed all the problems with the plants before the quake hit…

  • Some Asshole says:

    Your correspondent is wrong.

    今日の自動販売機は、全国を結ぶ情報通信網としての役割を担う存在として認識され始めています。たとえば大地震などの緊急時には、コカ・コーラの自動販売機は「災害情報」や「避難場所」を人々に伝達する情報拠点となります。自然災害発生時には被害状況の情報や避難情報などをいち早く自動販売機上の電光掲示板に表示したり、遠隔操作で製品の無料提供をするなど、災害支援型自動販売機の設置を自治体と協力して積極的に進めています。2008年1月時点で 4,000台の災害自動販売機が稼働しており、また2008年7月時点で、私たちは全国295の自治体と協定を結び、こうした災害情報の提供、およびオンライン操作による無償での飲料提供など、社会貢献に向けた試みを進めています。

  • >5,510,000 vending machines across Japan

    Shutting down vending machines outside of Kanto will not help. We have extra electric power outside of Kanto even after sending power to Kanto through high voltage lines at their full capacity.
    ・新信濃変換所からの応援受電 60万kW
    ・佐久間変換所からの応援受電 30万kW
    ・東清水変換所からの応援受電 10万kW
    ・北本連系設備からの応援受電 60万kW

    — I don’t see how taking any energy conservation measures “will not help”.

  • In my Setagaya-ku neighborhood of Tokyo, yesterday, I saw vending machines that were *not* operating. In a group of two beverage vending machines, one was off. In a group of three beverage vending machines, two were off. A group of three tobacco machines were all functioning.
    Also, some specially-designated vending machines are multi-purpose emergency supplies dispensers and are supposed to be kept running.

    — I guess one needs tobacco in times of emergency.

  • Michael Weidner says:

    There’s another problem that this person is unaware of. The new generation of vending machines in Japan have a new built-in feature. Once they lose power, they go into emergency mode with back-up batteries. The batteries keep the machines running, but all of the items within the machines become free so that people can have access to water and other beverages in times of need. While killing the power to these machines is a good idea, it would mean massive losses nation wide for the company, among other things. Now this info is only about the newest generation of machines and does not apply to older machines so….

    Anyway, the point being that they have mechanisms built in that help affected areas.

  • Japan Times writes on vending machines (excerpt):

    The Japan Times Friday, March 18, 2011
    Vending machines drawing fire

    OSAKA — Lifeline or a waste of electricity?

    That’s the question causing controversy in the Kanto region, as those suffering rolling blackouts outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards grow angry at the fact that hot and cold drink vending machines operated by Coca-Cola, Suntory, Kirin and others have not all been turned off.

    With more than 5.5 million vending machines in operation nationwide, Japan has a reputation for being an automated heaven, where anything from beer to toothbrushes is sold in vending machines.

    But corporations, government offices and individuals in Tokyo and elsewhere have been urged by their local governments to conserve electricity, and many have turned off not only their lights but also vending machines inside their buildings.

    But street corner vending machines selling Coca-Cola, Suntory and Kirin products 24 hours a day have come under fire from those outside the capital who have mounted an international campaign to try to get Coca-Cola in particular to turn off its machines.

    “Across eastern Japan, we are experiencing rolling power cuts and train service cuts to compensate for the nuclear plant outages. The most electric power-hungry products are soft-drinks machines that have both refrigeration and heating (for hot canned coffee) and Coca-Cola has perhaps the largest network of beverage machines across Japan,” said Chiba Prefecture-based Canadian speechwriter John Harris, who launched a campaign Wednesday to get Coke to turn off its machines.

    Coca-Cola says that while its machines are still on, they have taken a number of measures to reduce electrical consumption.

    “We’ve reduced energy consumption of existing machines by turning off the lights of machines in all indoor locations for 24 hours. We’ve been turning off the lights of machines in outdoor locations even during the night time, excluding some machines at specific locations where the lighting should remain on for public safety,” said Kanako Ogata, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman.

    Rest at:

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    How much energy is a cold-drink vending machine consuming when the outdoor temperature is similar to that of a refrigerator, such as the 5-10 degrees C that we’re having at night in Kanto these days?

    I like the idea of turning the lights off, though; just leave the little “hanbai”/”for sale” buttons lit up so that the customers know they can still buy things.

    A sngle outdoor vending machine in the middle of nowhere can be a godsend; one machine in a bank of a dozen, in the middle of an already-well-lit building, could be wasteful. Maybe the drink companies could turn off the extraneous machines and keep the useful ones.

  • Let’s not forget that the machines in parts of Kyoto (sure different area, but interesting precedent) were only permitted because they provided “essential services” in case of emergencies. I presume they have some sort of philanthropy mode or something. I can’t find the source, but I recall reading it in the Mainichi approximately one year ago for those up for an archival dig.

    I’d think the logical compromise here between essentials and power conservation would be to put all machines on summer menus. Y’know, cut the heating.

  • Judging “worthy” businesses

    On the day after the earthquake and at the first notice of the electricity problem, my initial thoughts went to the vending machines. Someone ought to turn them all off for a massive power saving in one fell swoop. But then it occurred to me that they are mostly full of drinks and with people stranded all over town and shelves emptying rapidly, it might be a good idea for people to have access to the vending machines.

    A day later I was walking past a pachinko place and thought, “Now there’s a giant waste of electricity that the city could do without for a while. Several friends had also mentioned vending machines and pachinko parlors. Then there was the outcry against baseball and pressure on other events. And what about bars and isakaya’s. Even my own business had received one e-mail message saying that we shouldn’t be holding an event during such energy crisis.

    After giving it some more thought I realized that all businesses consume electricity. And all businesses employ people whose salaries need to be paid from which rents can be paid and livelihoods maintained, and so on.

    Who has been ordained to dictate which businesses are more worthy than others? If I were Coca Cola I could hit every single individual casting stones at Big Red with a “Why doesn’t your business shut down for a month or two and you stay home with no salary?” and so on. What about all the elevators in all these high-rise buildings where so many people work? And all those office lights and computers? And the trains required to move people there and back?

    As much as I may think pachinko a total waste, these places are full of people, often with customers lined up in front of the doors in the morning. For some people this is a favorite entertainment and a way to relieve stress as are other outlets like baseball or bars.

    Then we come to another point that George Bush made after 911. He told people to go out and spend money. The economy going into a tail spin and prolonged slump is not only not going to help anyone, it is going to greatly add to the line of people who need help. With all the work and spending that needs to be done up north the government needs the economy doing as well as it can, as many people employed as possible and as much tax revenue coming in as possible, including jobs and taxes related to vending machines, pachinko et. al.

    The main message from the government should be for all businesses to “conserve” and use less but certainly not for some businesses to shut down operations. If everyone and all businesses use 25-30% less electricity then Japan can get through this crisis working together. The vending machine companies employ tens of thousands of people if not over a hundred thousand. They should certainly continue their business operations albeit conserving what electricity they can with their lights down as so many other businesses are also doing.

    In addition, who does everyone think it is that is providing all the bottled water and other drinks that everyone is drinking. It’s Coca Cola and other vending machine companies. How are they supposed to do that if they suddenly have one-third of their sales shut off and one-third of their employees laid off? They would still be providing drinks but probably not as quick and not as well. If a case can be made for a “worthy” business it could me made for the company that is protecting us from the tap water that the government says babies should not be drinking.

    Anyone who wishes to cast stones at the vending machine companies should take a good close look at how much electricity is used by their own company and their own job, and think twice before hurling that stone.


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