South Korea promotes credit cards to go greener

Kim Yong-sook is an idealist who longs for a greener lifestyle, which means walking more and wasting less. But she never dreamed that her credit card could help save the planet.

The 59-year-old stay-at-home mother is one of many set to take advantage of a new program in South Korea that will offer “green credits” for consumers who embrace a low-carbon lifestyle. Credit cards have become more than a purchasing tool in South Korea, offering discounts on movies or food and freebies. Now a new government program will add energy consumption incentives to that list.

Indeed, according to a new 2011 policy plan announced by the Ministry of Environment, buying eco-friendly products or living green in ways such as taking public transit by using a so-called green credit card, will be good both for the environment and your wallet. The credits can be redeemed for cash or be used to lower utility bills.

“Accumulating green credits does not sound bothersome at all,” said Kim.

The combination of credit and green consumerism, the ministry said, is part of a drive to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from projected levels by 2020.

‘A chance to change’
“You can earn bonus points in daily life when you buy a carbon-less labeling detergent or collect used batteries,” said Hwang Suk-tae, a senior official at the Climate Change Cooperation division at the ministry.

Just saying no to a paper cup at coffee shops can add to carbon points, as the government terms them, which then can turn into cash rebates.

“We have a chance to change the current mantra that living green is tough to achieve,” said Hong Sung-pyo, head of the Korea Green Purchasing Network.

He added that the official government Ministry campaign to craft a new spending method for green living had high prospects for success, instead of private companies that may regard this as a marketing opportunity.

Others had mixed feelings about the plan.

Mixed feelings
“I am not sure how big this green credit card project will grown, and some can criticise this for encouraging spending,” said Choi Ye-yong, director at the Asian Citizen’s Centre for Environment and Health, Korea Federation for Environmental Movements.

“I also think that the more incentives become available, the more people will join. But it may provide momentum to induce us to take action.”

The national government is not the only one getting into the act.

Seoul is launching an eco-mileage credit card this month, allowing participants to get discount coupons towards the purchase of hybrid cars and eco-friendly appliances in return for conserving electricity and water, with both Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor also taking part.

Kim, the housewife, is planning to sign up for a green credit card when it is available, hoping to help make her pursuit of a greener life a reality.

“I hope this will not end up being just one of the government’s verbal campaigns, because it is hard to live green and spend at the same time,” she said, adding that she worried the card could actually damage the environment by encouraging consumption. — Reuters


Unfinished business: We need self-examination to heal from apartheid

Physical and psychological violence will continue unless we self-reflect on our apartheid scars

Coronavirus: South Africa will evacuate citizens from Wuhan

The government is expected to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated

Primedia CEO Essack leaves following internal battles

Omar Essack leaves the 702 and 94.7 owners after a protracted standoff with the board

‘We’re satisfied with SA’s land reform policy’— US Ambassador

Top US official is lobbying multinational firms to invest in South Africa

Press Releases

Over R400-m given to businesses since launch of three-minute overdraft

The 3-minute overdraft radically reduces the time it takes for businesses to have their working capital needs met

Tourism can push Africa onto a new path – minister

The continent is fast becoming a dynamic sought-after tourist destination

South Africa’s education system is broken and unequal, and must be fixed without further delay

The Amnesty International report found that the South African government continues to miss its own education upgrading targets

Business travel industry generates billions

Meetings Africa is ready to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity

Conferences connect people to ideas

The World Expo and Meetings Africa are all about stimulating innovation – and income

SAB Zenzele Kabili B-BBEE share scheme

New scheme to be launched following the biggest B-BBEE FMCG payout in South Africa’s history

Digging deep

Automation is unstoppable, but if we're strategic about its implementation, it presents major opportunities

TFSAs are the gymnasts of the retirement savings world

The idea is to get South Africans to save, but it's best to do your research first to find out if a TFSA is really suited to your needs