In a few days I’ll be on a plane to Costa Rica but until then I’m getting psyched doing research and last minute packing. Did you know Costa Rica is ranked second in the world for its environmental sustainability by the World Energy Council! It has a few major sustainability initiatives that put it at the top.
First and foremost, Costa Rica is ranked so highly for its green energy. In 2016, almost 98% of the nation’s electrical energy was produced by renewable energy resources such as hydropower, wind power, and geothermal power. Costa Rica has a few advantages that allow it to maximize renewable energy: geography (the landscape is covered in rivers and volcanoes), large amounts of rainfall, smaller population, and lack of the military (which frees up millions of dollars).
Another reason why Costa Rica tops the sustainability list is the country does not permit recreational hunting. In 2012 Costa Rica became the first Central American nation to ban hunting for sport. Violators of the law face up to 4 months in prison or fines up to $3000.
Costa Rica is also working hard to reforest the country. This initiative is tied with the agricultural and coffee industry. The Rainforest Alliance works closely with coffee farmers, like Doka Estate Coffee, to develop green practices. They focus on phasing out pesticides, creating a habitat for wildlife, and planting and preserving trees. Many coffee farms are barren of trees, contrary to the fact that coffee actually grows best under the shade of trees. The government is also paying small landowners—with revenue from the gas tax—to reforest. The eventual goal is to have 60% of the country forested.
On the other hand, there is one initiative that may be out of reach. During the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, Costa Rica made an international commitment to become carbon neutral by 2021. It is, sadly, an unrealistic goal. The transportation sector in Costa Rica burns a lot of oil––60% of Costa Rica’s total energy––and the consumption of oil is increasing. The emission of greenhouse gases from fuel combustion puts the breaks on this project. Because of the lack of efficient public transportation and poor city planning, becoming carbon neutral would be very difficult, very expensive, and very time consuming to accomplish.
Learning about what Costa Rica is doing right now in sustainability is exciting. Their awareness of the world and what needs to be done to save natural resources is inspiring. Its especially cool to see such a small country, famous for tourism, also leading the world in initiatives that will be vital for the world’s future. As an outsider, knowing about what the country does really impresses me. I can’t wait to learn more about Costa Rica and their sustainability in country. Obviously, everything isn’t perfect. There’s still a long way with the transportation system. But any major change starts with awareness and effort. And hopefully, they’ll spread that awareness to me on the trip! Hasta luego!