Eco Profile: Costa Rica

A summary of all things environmental and Costa Rica – a pretty great amalgamation of things if you ask me…

The Facts

  • Costa Rica is one of the 20 most biodiverse countries in the world. 
  • It is home to 26 national parks, countless beaches, many volcanoes and high levels of biodiversity.
  • If you had the time and energy, you could find more than 500,000 species of animals in the country.
  • Amazingly, it represents 5% of the total species estimated worldwide, all in spite of the country being worth only 0.03% of the world’s landmass. Comparing it on a more manageable scale, Costa Rica is approximately 5 times smaller than the UK.
  • A huge (albeit approximate) 25% of the country is protected. 

Energy

  • Around 93% of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable resources.

Programs

Costa Rica has a ridiculous number of programs in place for the protection and development of its natural territories. Here are just a few…

  • The Certificate for Sustainable Tourism (https://www.turismo-sostenible.co.cr) aims to encourage Costa Rican businesses assess their long term effect on environment, culture and communities. It rates businesses according to how and to what extent they participate in sustainable practices.
  • The Bandera Azul (Eng: Blue Flag) encourages communities to maintain clean, healthy and environmentally friendly beaches, forests and towns. If a community meets the requirements, they are awarded a Bandera Azul.
  • The Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program incentivises private landowners to protect their forests. This could include management or regeneration in a sustainable manner of forests, among other things. PES also taxes polluters, directing the money collected into environment protecting services.

Goals

  • It hopes to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021 and to ban all angle use plastics by 2021.

A Traveller’s (very small, very unreliable) Snapshot:

So, how did it appear to me, as both a tourist and volunteer in the country for nearly 3 months?

+ Waste: I trekked over 300km through Costa Rica for a total of 18 days. During this time, I was taken aback by how waste was dealt with in incredibly rural areas. In even the most isolated and basic of communities, one would always be able to find a waste station with separate bins for food, plastic, paper and unrecylable waste. 

+ Hostels: every hostel I stayed in operated a waste system, with different bins for plastic, paper, food waste and metal. They also seemed to operate many eco friendly practices – light switch signs, water dispensers…

Yes, the government are wanting to ban all single use plastics by 2021. BUT the amount of plastic I saw in commercial areas and businesses was still enough to grate against me and make me think that such a goal may not be possible.

+ One of the happiest countries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting – it’s no wonder that they are regarded as one of the happiest nations in the world!

All information collated from the following sources, unless otherwise stated: 

  1. https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/general-information
  2. https://raleighinternational.org/volunteer-in-costa-rica/
  3. https://www.turismo-sostenible.co.cr
  4. https://www.ict.go.cr/es/sostenibilidad/bandera-azul.html
  5. https://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/case-studies/payments-ecosystem-services-costa-rica
  6. http://www.climateaction.org/news/costa_rica_pledges_carbon_neutrality_by_2021
  7. https://www.unenvironment.org/ru/node/21818

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