South Korea promotes credit cards to go greener

Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:30am EST
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - 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 percent from projected levels by 2020.

"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.   Continued...