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Living Sustainably in Korea

Ok, so, here’s the disclaimer – I do not live a sustainable life. Far from it. I order takeout in packaging. I eat meat, although less of it. And the big one, I fly in an airplane at least once a year.

Still, I am trying to make lifestyle changes that help us to live more sustainably in Korea. It’s a work in progress and every little bit counts.

There is so much plastic in Korea! I mean, there is so much plastic in the world but, in Korea, you get a bag of cookies all individually wrapped in plastic. It’s so convenient to have everything delivered, but it all comes in excessive packaging!

recyclables from our apartment complex

Koreas’s recycling program is superior to many, but reducing is always better than recycling. Korea is a difficult place to live a zero or even low-waste life!

Avoid the excess packaging

Carry your reusable bags, drink bottles, and coffee cups. Always. Also, ask the take-out guys not to give you chopsticks, napkins, and all the sauce and seasoning sachets if you’re taking it home.

Buying in-season produce from your local mart will support local businesses. Your food will be less likely to have traveled so far to your table, but they plastic wrap everything. Open markets are better if you bring your own bags. If you pass old ladies selling vegetables on the footpath, they are usually wonderfully fresh and seem to be straight from the farm.

If a trip to the market is too far or time-consuming, consider a vegetable box delivered straight to your door. Slowbox is fantastic. They have partnered with local, organic farmers to get you fresh, healthy produce in minimal, eco-friendly packaging. Wasteupso is a community based, zero-waste grocery store in Seoul, but they ship all over Korea.

Stop Buying Stuff (or stop buying new stuff)

The amount of clothing that ends up in landfills is horrifying. Stop contributing to this by not buying new clothes! Tokyo Juice is my favourite vintage store in Gwangju. They always have beautiful preloved handbags.

We got our TV from my sister-in-law, bedding from my mother-in-law, kids clothes from our neighbours, second-hand camping gear from the internet, two second-hand bikes and a kid’s bike trailer from the internet, a piano form my husband’s aunt, a pile of kids books from a friend, … try to find existing things before buying new! Save money while you’re at it. Then, when you’re done with something, see if anyone else can use it before throwing away. Make use of buy, sell, swap sites.

Consider your transport choices

Walk, ride a bike, or take the bus. Appa and I both got second-hand bikes when we got here and we also found a second-hand bike trailer for carrying kids (or heavy shopping!). Although we have a car for visiting the in-laws, we use it very rarely for everyday life.

All the small changes help, but the best thing anyone can do to help our planet and our future is to use your voice and your vote.

3 Comments

    • ibisjane

      Well, yes and no, not at all for people in small apartment buildings or villas. Ours is pretty easy because they have very clear containers for different things and it’s very clearly labeled, cans/hard plastics/soft plastics/paper/cardboard/glass/food rubbish/general rubbish. The difficulty remains, what is general rubbish?? Are corn cobs food rubbish or general rubbish? Is a used napkin paper or general rubbish? I don’t know, my Korean husband doesn’t know… who knows these things? At least I’m not getting in any trouble over such mistakes like we did in Ssangmun, right mum?

  • Deborah Tedge

    I remember slipping past the security guard/doorman with things hidden under my coat to discreetly dispose of them in public bins!

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