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  • Writer's pictureThe Citypreneurs Team


Image by Florencia Soto

Theme at a Glance

Plastic bottles, straws and grocery bags that wash up on beaches or fly around the sides of highways are some of the most visible signs that plastic is taking a toll on the environment. Even most clothing nowadays contains synthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon – essentially thin plastic fibers – that shed tiny bits of plastic and ultimately end up in oceans where they can be ingested by fish and other seafood we eat.

All of these are symptoms of a deeper problem: our reliance on cheap, single-use products that we discard once we are done using them.


Each year, the world generates over 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste, of which ¼ is generated in East Asia. In fact, a new UN report states that Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12) is currently the worst performing SDG in the Asia-Pacific region, and the region has made little or no progress in Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11). Trends in South Korea reflect the report's findings: the country is one of the biggest consumers of disposable products worldwide, accounting for 132 kilograms of plastic products per person a year. But that’s not all; the country hit record high levels of air pollution this past March, and a 2017 NASA study found that over half of the air pollution in South Korea consists of local emissions from industrial sites, power plants and vehicles.

If we do not take action, rapid urbanization, population growth and economic development will push global waste generation to increase by 70 percent over the next 30 years. Poor waste management endangers ecosystems by polluting the air, water and soil. It also puts a strain on the health of urban dwellers and the environment (find out if you live within our planet's means here).

But our efforts cannot end at recycling; given the current levels of global consumption and our overreliance on plastic, waste and pollution are currently the inevitable outcomes of product lifecycles. To save our planet, we need to fundamentally change our consumption and production practices, from the very first stage of product design all the way to the end of its lifecycle. This will allow us to create a system that meets our needs within our planetary boundaries and help cement sustainable urban habits.

House of Marley has incorporated sustainability into its business model by responsibly sourcing its materials and being the first FSC® certified consumer electronics company in the United States. Image "House of Marley" by Scott Wilson, Matteo Iavicoli, Pascal Ruelle, Ishmael Adams, Dave Seal from Creative Commons.

Against this backdrop, the third theme for Citypreneurs Seoul 2019 is “Green Consumption & Production.” Under the framework of the Global Goals (UN SDGs), this theme calls for solutions to engage with the global supply chain from producers to consumers, so that they can adopt sustainable consumption choices and reduce their ecological footprints (SDG12). This includes mitigating the harm our current consumption and production habits place on marine environments (SDG14) and on ecosystems (SDG15) which will allow for the regeneration of natural resources on which human life and biodiversity depend.

Green Consumption & Production in Seoul

Sustainability by design offers opportunities to reshape the ways that we make and use things, changing the concept of waste to build capital instead of reducing it. Start-ups and businesses can play a crucial role in finding cost-effective solutions to quicken the sustainable transition of current consumption and production habits to ensure a circular economy.

Waste management is a pressing environmental issue for South Korea. The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) and the Ministry of Environment are both aiming to reduce the country’s ecological footprint and turn the capital city into a plastic-free zone with its zero-plastic initiative. Alternative and more sustainable product designs, labelling and packaging options will have a chance to fill the market gap. Making use of unavoidable waste is also a part of efficient waste management. This includes reusing as much plastic as possible and reducing or eliminating the creation of new plastic. Knowledge sharing platforms and tools to monitor the use of products, packaging and food waste would bring about changes in consumer culture at the same time better informing citizens of sustainable consumption.

People who visit Seoul for the first time may be surprised to see its residents wearing air pollution masks, but air quality is a topic of much concern for the city, largely due to vehicle emissions. It is estimated that there are 23 million registered personal vehicles in South Korea, and as the country’s largest city, Seoul, is greatly affected by both commercial and personal vehicle emissions. But eliminating air pollution and lowering carbon emissions require more concrete action than merely taking the subway to work every so often. Simply put, behavioral change towards sustainability is crucial and can be achieved by pursuing practices of using alternative energy sources, green production and sustainable infrastructure. With the help of Big Data technology for instance, it is feasible to not only monitor sources of air pollution but also to evaluate alternative solutions and track the lifecycles of products and materials.

Such information can then help us assess the impact of our consumption and production habits to promote responsible behavior. In the long term, we would also need to look at responsible sourcing and investment in natural resources, as well as responsible forest management to preserve and restore the supply of natural resources and raw materials.

Citypreneurs Seoul 2019 encourages you to apply your innovative ideas to improve Seoul’s consumption and production habits. Solutions for the future will come from social protection initiatives spearheaded by young people like you who will inherit our cities with scores of at-risk populations. Your business model should take into consideration the interlinked nature of the UN SDGs.


Apply by JUNE 27 for our early bird deadline and get a chance to be among 10 of the 30 finalist teams (remaining early bird submissions will be reviewed again at the final applications deadline). For more information, visit our website.

Feel free to get in touch with us via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Youtube), we’re glad to assist you with any questions or enquiries you may have. We look forward to your application!

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