At a time in which the environment is of major global concern, more people are looking toward organizations, companies, and countries to take initiative and adopt greener practices. Costa Rica is a front-runner in this, and can serve as a model for other nations. The nation comes in at second, only behind Switzerland, in the World Energy Council’s ranking for environmental sustainability (Tico Times). Personally, I become more excited for the trip as I continue to learn about Costa Rica’s environmental sustainability efforts. I am definitely not the only one intrigued by their efforts, as ecotourism is now one of Costa Rica’s largest, if not the largest, industries in the country.
I believe that ecotourism is so successful in Costa Rica because travelers feel good about where their money is going. Supporting an organization that preserves rainforests and other natural attractions is personally more conscientiously sound than supporting an extravagant resort that left many animals without homes when it was built. This is similar to the success of B-Corporations; consumers want to buy from companies that give benefit to the community. Ecotourism is mutually beneficial for both the travelers, as well as the locals, as the country’s beauty is preserved, and also profited from.
To motivate locals to preserve their land, rather than cutting down trees or damaging it for profit, the government has levied a fuel tax; revenue generated by the tax rewards landowners who provide environmental services to others. For example, water service companies may be financially rewarded through this program, or even coffee farmers who preserve the integrity of their forests (Earth Share). The fuel tax also discourages use of conventional thermal emissions.
A major initiative, taken on by the government, aims for Costa Rica to be the first entirely carbon neutral country by the early 2020s. Currently, the annual use of fossil fuels accounts for n average of less than 10% of the country’s total energy usage. The country is attempting to reduce fossil fuel usage and run 100% on clean energy (UN Chronicle). This goal has caused conflict over what exactly green energy entails, but it is still exciting to see progress as time goes on.
Overall, Costa Rica has the right idea. Choosing the environment doesn’t always mean giving up profit. The U.S. can take a few tips from Costa Rica about sustainability.