Eco-Kpop: The New K-pop Movement

By Usraat Fahmidah

While the Hallyu wave has taken the world by storm, there’s another unexpected wave that’s also catching up with it. The green wave brought on by the K-pop industry

When I first joined the BTS fandom sometime back in late 2020, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was an unfamiliar territory. Two years later, I thoroughly enjoy being part of the fandom. But the last thing I expected to come out of this fandom was my desire to be more eco-conscious following the footsteps of my idol (Kim) Namjoon who’s known to be a nature lover.

Perhaps, the thing that inspired me to chase this goal more was their speech at the 76th United Nations General Assembly last year.

“We feel an encroaching sense of dread that our time on this earth is limited. We just talked about the things we mourn and I shudder to think about mourning for the earth. Everyone agrees that climate change is an important problem but talking about what the best solution might be, that’s not easy. It’s a topic that’s tough to make conclusions about”

J-hope of BTS

“We feel an encroaching sense of dread that our time on this earth is limited. We just talked about the things we mourn and I shudder to think about mourning for the earth. Everyone agrees that climate change is an important problem but talking about what the best solution might be, that’s not easy. It’s a topic that’s tough to make conclusions about”, said J-Hope in his speech.

Their message was bold and clear. And it spoke to millions of youths, ones like me who struggle with growing climate anxiety.

Not just BTS, popular girl group BLACKPINK has also advocated for climate change at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. “Climate change is an established fact. We have learned of the devastating changes to nature, to the global weather, and the air we breathe. And the changes that we feared are already beginning to transform our planet. We have learned that we must act now. Urgently, to prevent much, much, worse,” the group said.

These mega-groups advocacy has brought together fans for immediate action in support of the climate movement.

While the Hallyu wave has taken the world by storm, there’s another unexpected wave that’s also catching up with it. The green wave brought on by the K-pop industry.

We can’t be the last generation to love K-pop:

Inspired by their idols, k-pop fans are also coming together to push the climate agenda.
​​
Kpop4Planet is one such popular Instagram account that posts regularly on this issue. “No K-pop On a Dead Planet” is one of their primary campaigns to raise awareness. Their slogan is “We can’t be the last generation to love K-pop”. Their vision is simple— mobilize fandoms to take climate action.

This climate movement in K-pop is nothing new. K-pop fans are known to go all out for their idols’ birthday celebrations. And their efforts always include initiatives which are in tandem with protecting the environment.

In 2020, ARMYs (the BTS fanbase) planted a mini-forest in Ichon, Seoul to celebrate BTS’ leader Kim Namjoon’s birthday. The same year, Indonesian ARMYs planted 8,735 trees in Indonesia’s Bedono Village, to celebrate BTS’ Jimin’s birthday. The village had suffered from severe coastal erosion for the last 20 years, forcing nearly 250 families to move out.

These are just two instances from the countless examples.

The climate movement shaped by K-pop stans has undoubtedly become a global one, and it’s unlike any other.

K-pop Industry’s Green Wave:

There has been a swift shift in the industry to become more eco-friendly. The change is largely due to the fans’ and idols’ advocacy. The trends have changed. Fans are more eco-conscious than they were before. And the K-pop industry is adapting to it.

At the Gaon Chart Music Awards this year, the Korea Music Content Association (KMCA)— its organizer, ran an environmental campaign during the event by handing out eco-friendly paper water bottles to all performers and the audience in a bid to cut back on single-use plastics. According to a report by the Korea Times, the organizers plan to pursue eco-friendliness and promote sustainability in all their events from now onwards.

Some major steps towards sustainability by the industry have been the change in physical album packaging.

Popular boy group NCT has produced their latest albums Glitch Mode and BEATBOX with eco-friendly envelope covers, low carbon papers and recyclable materials instead of plastic. Multiple K-artists and K-pop groups have embraced this trend. Artists and groups like JAY B, CHUNG HA, BLACKPINK, TREASURE and MINO have done the same.

Most recently, world famous BTS group member J-Hope opted for a minimal packaging to reduce wastage and promote eco-friendliness with his solo album— “Jack in the Box”. The move by HYBE received a lot of positive response from fans.

There’s an industry wide shift to reduce waste and embrace eco-friendliness. This is a major step towards a sustainable future.

K-pop stans have compelled recording labels, governments and other organizations to take actions. They have proved to be a force to reckon with.

The Kpop4planet collective has also been lobbying for streaming platforms to reduce carbon emission, concerts without zero-emissions, record labels for eco-friendly album packaging and even governments to pick up on the “Eco-Kpop” trend.

Most recently, K-pop label JYP became the first to release an ESG report— a report that’s used to screen investments based on corporate policies and to encourage companies to act responsibly. The report reveals JYP reached their goal to reduce power use by 14% compared to 2020.

Another big move includes the introduction of the environment friendly “Clean Charts” by “Circle Chart”, formerly “Gaon Charts” — to encourage the production of K-pop albums with minimum environmental pollution by labels. They plan to establish their own “clean” production standards that will be reflected in the “Clean Charts” rankings.

Are you aware that digital streams are responsible for a large number of carbon emissions? More than physical albums?

It is responsible for a big number of carbon emissions because data centers rely on the usage of fossil fuels. Fans are now pushing for streaming giants to opt for renewable energy sources.

Mass streaming is a popular thing in K-pop for fans to support their idols. But now petitions are being signed for streaming platforms like Melon to ditch fossil fuel and use clean and renewable energy for energy consumption.

“Eco-Kpop” is becoming the new hot trend in K-pop, and for all the good reasons. K-pop’s bid to go green teaches us something very important— where institutions have failed us, community support is quick to mobilize movements for immediate climate action, and accountability from large institutions.

Usraat Fahmidah is a writer and pop-culture enthusiast based in Dhaka

+ posts

Preserving Heritage in a Modern World

Lost in Language

Q/A with Golam Sohrab Dodul

Monument to Sustainability