With the ongoing worry about the environment and an increase in movements which promote an eco-friendly lifestyle, it is hard to not be informed about Global Warming. Now, there are many countries that are changing laws and encouraging new ways to live without harming the environment further, and reducing the carbon imprint. Although South Korea is not amongst the top countries—between 60 and 70 in the environmental performance index (EPI)—it has made many adjustments to contribute in protecting our environment.
Even if it is not on the top of the EPI, South Korea is the king of recycling. Between 52% and 56% of their municipal waste is recycled, making them the third best country in the world at recycling. They are also on the top of food waste recycling, and around 95% of their food waste is recycled (Twenty years ago, they only recycled 2%!)
This was made possible by the implementation of new laws. In 2005, the government made throwing food in bins illegal. To encourage citizens to not waste food in general and cook less, the Korean government raised the prices of biodegradable bags (which are the only bags accepted in food waste bins), making them approximately $6 a month. The price of the bags both makes up for 60% of the fees for running the scheme, and encourages composting.
Korea was a nation full of forests and wildlife, but eras of civilisation wiped out many species and forests. In the 1980s, reforestation programs were implemented and successful, resulting in over 65% of South Korea forested. On top of this, South Korea has many national parks which focus on the conservation of both flora and fauna.
South Korea currently has twenty-four nuclear reactors, which generate a third of the total energy consumed. Although nuclear power might not be the most eco-friendly alternative, it has drastically reduced carbon emissions. Nuclear power replaces the equivalent of an additional 27 million cars annually in South Korea alone. It also makes up 96% of South Korea’s clean energy, and to replace the amount of energy produced, you would need 26 wind turbines and 181 solar farms; and South Korea lacks the room to be able to do this.
South Korea might have a way to go to become more environmentally-friendly, but its current efforts have mostly been successful. However, the concern of Global Warming is not something the government can fix alone, and every individual’s efforts count too. So, here is a list of what you can do to help if you live in South Korea (or anywhere else in the world!).
Probably the easiest one to do, using public transport instead of your own vehicle is a good option. In South Korea, public transport is extensive, well-developed and affordable. Six major cities—Seoul, Busan, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju and Incheon—have subway systems, many of which are easily accessible and provide English labels.
T-money cards are the Korean equivalent of New York’s Metrocard, or London’s Oyster Cards, which provide easy payments of city buses, subways, taxis and train fares. It is such a straightforward system, where you simply top up the card and use it in any of the methods of transport mentioned.
The bus system has also been well developed. City buses are approximately $1 no matter where you are going within the city. Buses which travel in and out of the city are still cheap, although they are not as regular; most of them running every half hour or hourly.
Here is a little guide on how to take public transport in South Korea!
Going Plastic Free
In South Korea, it is quite hard to go fully plastic free. A lot of the food and snacks are wrapped up in plastic, and require little silicone packs to keep them dry. However, there are ways to reduce plastic consumption.
As much as a microwave meal from CU is convenient, cheap and delicious, shopping at local markets is the best bet. Not only will you enjoy a true taste of Korea, with better quality food, you will also use much less plastic. Even more so if you bring your own bag, and tubs in case you wish to buy street food. There are many markets in most of the major cities, and the largest traditional market in Korea is Namdaemun Market in Seoul. There is a wide range, from fresh vegetables to fish caught in the early hours of the same day, to food trucks selling all sorts of delicacies.
South Korea is seeing the rise of plastic-free cafes. These cafes sell edible straws (which don’t turn mushy like paper straws do), or offer to sell stainless steel straws (and they come with their own brushes so you can clean them efficiently!). On top of this, food is sold in wooden or glass dishes—unless you take away, of course, in which case bringing your own reusable coffee cup is the safest bet. Sometimes you even get a discount for bringing your own dishes and cups with you!
A fairly new place called The Picker has been introduced in South Korea, and it has become extremely popular. The restaurant-grocery store has dubbed itself a “zero waste lifestyle store,” and it promotes living a life without plastic. You can purchase anything from wooden bowls, to fresh fruit, to shampoo… and all of it is very eco-friendly and 100% plastic free.
Eating Less Meat
Although Korea has meat dishes which are to die for, there are many other meals which are completely vegetarian and equally as delicious. Meat consumption is currently higher than is natural for humans, and it is greatly impacting the environment. If everyone reduced their meat consumption slightly, there would be environmental, health and hunger issues resolved quickly.
It is clear that South Korea is doing what they can to reduce carbon emissions, and help the environment, but it has to come from every individual to actually make a difference. What do you do to help the environment? Do you think South Korea is on the right path to being eco-friendly? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Lucille Bamber