Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Living Green- Seoul Style

Inspired by Stacey's latest blog post , I started to think about our carbon footprint here in Korea. Seoul recycles almost everything and have other regulations in place to lower energy consumption, such as how they charge for heat and a/c.

I thought Switzerland was progressive when it came to recycling, but Seoul has it beat. Like parts of Switzerland, we have to buy special bags that must be used for our garbage. In addition, almost everything can be recycled: paper, plastic, aluminum, glass, batteries, and food. Until recently, they had a special bin for food and I really wanted to use it, but I couldn't figure out where I was going to hold our food scraps, peels, etc, in the apartment before I brought them down.
We need more recycling bins, this does not cover it!
Now, I have no choice. We can no longer throw any food, food products, seeds, peel, etc, in the regular garbage bags. Now, there is another separate bag for food.
Yellow bag for food, white bag for trash 
It is interesting, because, I have a 10 Liter neighborhood-issued bag that I use for our regular garbage, things that cannot be recycled and are not food. I currently use just less than one bag a week. 10 L = ~ 2.5 Gallons. That is nothing compared to how much waste I threw out in the US and Switzerland. I recycle almost everything. In addition, I now have these 2 L bags for food waste. This will be the first week I use it, so I have no idea how many of these bags I will use. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and this causes a great deal of food waste- think banana peels, egg shells, pepper seeds, avocado peel and seed, coffee grinds, yadda yadda. I imagine that our trash will now be half as much.

In addition to the recycling, they try to keep energy consumption low here. Now that we are entering the hot season, people will start using their AC units more and more. In Seoul, if you only use AC for a small amount of time, you are charged a low rate. After you pass a certain point, you are charged more and more. So, if you only use the AC at night when you arrive from work, your bill will remain reasonable. If you keep the AC on all day, in every room, they charge you a fortune. They try to cut you a deal if you use less and really make you suffer if you use more. They do this since there are so many people living in Seoul and they are trying to avoid blackouts. Especially with this update on the nuclear reactors from the WSJ.

For example (these are made up numbers), if you use the AC for 5 hrs a day, you are charged $1 for each hour. But if you use it for 10 hrs a day, you are charged $1 for the first 5 hrs and then $1.50 for the additional 5. If you use it for 15 hrs a day, you are charged the same as the previous example and the additional 5 hrs are charged at $2 each. If you used it for 20 + hours, they might charge everything above 15 hrs at $4 hour. So 5 hrs of use is $5, 10 hrs of use is $12.5, and 15 hrs is $22.5. 20+ hrs is at least $42.50.

All the office buildings must keep their offices at a certain temperature during the summer and winter months. According to Eco-Business.com's report: During the summer, June through September, the indoor temperature should be maintained at 26 degrees Celsius or above (78.8 degrees F!). It should be 20 degrees Celsius or lower (68 degrees F) during the winter season, from November to March. In the summer, the offices can feel quite warm and the winter, can feel a bit cool. So most companies have relaxed dress codes in the summer so men can be out of their hot suits and into polo shirts and khaki pants, for example. In the winter, you just wear more layers.

All of these measures make me more aware and conscious of my actions, although I am sure there are plenty more things that I can do!

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