In our preparation to travel to Costa Rica we did a lot of research, and one of the most important things I learned was that Costa Rica has a major focus on being sustainable and environmentally friendly. Specifically, Costa Rica ranks second in the world in the World Energy Council’s global “environmental sustainability” ranking. There are many different initiatives that Costa Rica has in place that has earned it that title. These include Costa Rica’s use of renewable resources, banning hunting and mining, ecotourism and environmental volunteering, and of course, agriculture and the coffee industry. I think that Costa Rica’s focus on sustainability makes it seem very impressive and progressive. I can’t wait to experience the breathtaking ecosystems and learn how my cup of coffee is helping the environment. It’s crazy to think how my addictive habit could be helping the world.
Costa Rica has taken initiative so that most of their electricity generation comes from renewable sources. Statistics show that 75.9 percent comes from hydroelectric power, 17.7 percent is derived from other renewable sources like wind power, and only 6.4 percent comes from conventional thermal sources (Tico Times). Furthermore, “in 2013, President Laura Chinchilla signed a decree establishing the first voluntary carbon market in the developing world” (Tico Times). This is part of the country’s goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021. I think they are on the right track to achieve that goal, and if they could do it, it will be amazing. I am excited to experience this in person, and I believe that more countries should attempt to start following Costa Rica’s lead.
Sustainability also effects how Costa Rica approaches hunting and mining. Costa Rica was the first Latin American country to ban hunting as a sport (huffingtonpost.com). They are proud of the diverse and rare species that are native to their country, and they want to protect them. Also, in 2002 President Abel Pacheco banned open-pit mining because he wanted to stop the environmentally destructive results of this process. Open-pit mining creates a vast crater in the earth which strips it of vital ecosystems and causes acid drainage (earthjustice.org). In 2010 a unanimous vote of the Costa Rican Congress decided to additionally ban all gold mining in order to protect the rainforest. The use of cyanide to mine and run-offs of toxic metals into water is a real threat to wildlife and humans that the Ticos are standing up against (Guardian Liberty Voice).
Even the ecotourism industry in Costa Rica is getting on board with sustainability. Many tourists are drawn to Costa Rica because of its renowned national parks and breathtaking wildlife and ecosystems. The country’s ecolodge with the top green ranking, Villa Blanca, has on-site composting and gray water treatment. Additionally, the dining hall food comes from local farms, employees volunteer in the community, and visitors learn about green practices to take back to their own countries (earthshare.org). People visiting Costa Rica to volunteer often take part in environmental conservation projects to preserve the beautiful land, flora, fauna, and water resources. They could also work to save unique butterfly species or endangered sea turtle species (united planet.org). I am thrilled we are volunteering during one of the days on our trip, and I hope to one day return to do more work to help preserve the nature in this beautiful country.
Last but not least is the agricultural component of Costa Rica’s sustainability initiatives. In the 20th century, agricultural expansion led to widespread deforestation, but now Costa Rica is attempting to reforest the country with the goal of covering 60 percent of the country in forests (earthshare.org). One way it is approaching this goal is through its payment for ecosystem services (PES) program which uses revenue from a gas tax to pay small landowners to make sustainable contributions to the environment. The reforestation effort will actually benefit the coffee industry because coffee grows best under the shade of trees. One farm that is especially good at following green practices is Doka Estate Coffee, which is preserving its trees and phasing out its use of pesticides. The trees allow the coffee beans to grow better and provide new homes for diverse bird species. Using less pesticides protects the workers from dangerous health side effects and also means the coffee can sell for a better price (earthshare.org). I will get to visit this farm so I am thrilled I will get to see it in person and ask more questions about why they decided to implement this, how they are transitioning, and how successful it has been.
I hope I was able to enlighten you on some of the ways Costa Rica focuses on sustainability, and make you think a little bit more about what you are sipping in the morning. I am anxious to learn more about it when I get there, and I look forward to sharing about the many other things I learn and encounter.