Costa Rica, Pura Vida in Practice
2nd of February 2022
Costa Rica is known for a lot, but what many don’t know is its approach to sustainable living. We hear that word thrown around a lot these days, but what does it actually mean?
Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present, without affecting future generations in meeting their needs. To be sustainable is more important than ever, especially now with the current climate crisis we’re living in. The things we do now will affect the planet for years to come, that is why everyone should look into becoming sustainable.
An example of a sustainable country that we could all learn a thing or two from, is Costa Rica in Central America. A place I recently visited and noticed the different things they do to combat climate change, a beautiful, sustainable country, that is highly recommended.
Costa Rica is known as a green travel destination. It is an environmentally friendly country, the lush green country sides, extraordinary biodiversity, and the diverse tropical ecosystems help with being green too. Tourism and ecotourism are a major industry in Costa Rica, it is one of the main driving forces that sustains a large proportion of the population. The upkeep of the country, and the sustainability of it is paramount if they want to keep tourism afloat.
Costa Rica is small, around the size of Ireland, with a similar population too. Our differences are that it’s warm in Costa Rica, their sea is warm, and Costa Rica has 5% of the world’s biodiversity living there. From the unusual racoon like creatures, Coatis, to the amazing jungle flora that may only be present in certain areas of the country. When traveling from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side, you see a completely change in landscape. The Caribbean side is more humid with a flatter landscape, compared to the Pacific side, which has a lot more mountains. When I was there, I looked out to a valley near Monteverde, it was like I could have been in Switzerland. The lush rolling green hills, the blue sky. What makes you realise you’re not in Switzerland are the birds flying past you. You do not get Macaws and Toucans in the wild in Switzerland.
There are over 250 species of mammals in Costa Rica, from monkeys and sloths to manatees and jaguars. It also has around 900 different species of birds, and of course a range of reptiles such as crocodiles and iguanas.
Due to the diverse wildlife and plants, Costa Rica has 5.25% of its territory protected. The environment and conservation are extremely important there. Conversation being a national priority, with around 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, various animal refuges, with over a quarter of the land being protected. From my experience of being there recently, one thing that stood out to me was the fact that you were not allowed to flush toilet paper. It had to be deposited in a bin next to it. Everywhere you went were signs in bathrooms reminding not to flush paper, do not leave taps running, do not flush too much, turn off lights when not in use. These are some of the measures in place to help with its sustainability. Some places that did this as the septic systems were not fully equipped to handle too much in them, without clogging. This is to help with sustainability, less waste going into the water and clogging pipes.
There are a total of 112 volcanoes in Costa Rica as it lays on the Ring of Fire. Additionally, Costa Rica has 12 microclimates from beaches, mountains, waterfalls, to volcanoes, earthquakes, tropical jungles, etc…
Nearly 93% of the electricity used there is from renewable resources, showing how truly sustainable the country is. Seeing the abundance of rainfall, and vast rivers, hydroelectric power is most commonly used with 78% of the population using it. 18% of the people use geothermal resources from volcanoes. Wind and solar energy are found to be used too.
In 2017 Costa Rica hit a milestone: for more than 300 days only renewable energy was used without any fossil fuels. This is an amazing feat. They planned to be completely carbon neutral in 2021. But that is still a work in progress, a goal of which I believe will be undertaken soon, especially with all sustainable resources already in place.
I truly believe we as a people could learn a lot from the way Costa Rica has challenged climate change, doing everything in its power to be sustainable and help the planet out. They have done a good job at it so far: we can see lush protected national parks, free-roaming animals, most of the country is protected, and recycling bins and signs up reminding people everywhere to live as suitably as possible.
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