Learning About Sustainability in Costa Rica

Without much knowledge about Costa Rica, I often assume that it is similar to the United States in most ways. This is not true, though, especially in terms of sustainability. In 2013, Costa Rica was number 2 regarding the World Energy Council’s environmental sustainability ranking, whereas the United States was 87th. It is hard for me to imagine what such a sustainable country looks like, and I am excited to see for myself. Costa Rica has impressive statistics in terms of environmental sustainability. Only 6.4 percent of the country’s electricity comes from nonrenewable sources, whereas 75.9 percent is from hydroelectric power and 17.7 percent is from wind power. This is shockingly impressive, as the United States only uses 12% renewable energy.

Sustainability is thought to be the ability to continue a behavior indefinitely. Often, sustainability is only thought about with an environmental lens; however, this is only a portion of what sustainability entails. Sustainability encompasses society, economy, and environment. With this, there are generally three goals for sustainability which are as follows: protect the environment and ecosystems, allow businesses to operate profitably, and support social improvement. From 1940 to 1987, the forest coverage in Costa Rica dropped from 75 percent to 21 percent. This was an act in favor of transforming unused land into used land. However, the soil started to become infertile and people were being put out of work. Because of this, the government employed new policies in support of national parks, ecotourism, and organic agriculture. This is just one example of the relationship between societal, economic, and environmental sustainability.

One of the most popular programs in Costa Rica is the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST). The program measures the effect that companies have on their surroundings. The companies are rated on a scale from 0 to 5, with 5 being the strongest score. This aids in defining sustainability and helps consumers make educated and environmentally friendly choices. Another initiative is the Bandera Azul Ecological Program. This program encourages communities to improve their living areas with awards given out annually. An addition program is the Payments for Environmental Services, which pays landowners who help to maintain clean water, lessen greenhouse gas emissions, preserve biodiversity, and deliver areas for ecotourism.

Costa Rica puts so much value into the preservation of the environment, and it is truly comforting and inspiring. I am so excited to be exposed to different surroundings, as every time I have been abroad before the destination was solely beaches and relaxation. I have always wanted to improve upon my Spanish, and there is no better way than to dive right in. Without much knowledge about coffee, I am a blank slate ready to learn everything there is to know.

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