Costa Rica is one of the leading countries seriously planning and investing in environmental sustainability in the Western region. Why?
RESPECT FOR NATURE AND PEOPLE
Because of the country’s respect for nature and its people. Rather than investing in the military and war, they invest in their land and their people. 35% of the national territory is protected and that number is expected to increase over the years. The conservation of land includes national parks, biological reserves, national refuge of flora and fauna, forests, and indigenous reserves. Because of this protection the conservation of several species of animals, and plants is possible.
In addition, there is a strong commitment in the community to preserve the natural habitat. There are several thousands of species registered but there are also new discoveries being made every year. Did I mention that there are several active volcanos in Costa Rica? The active volcanos are more likely to spew steam or a combination of steam and ash than lava on a daily basis. The rain season ensures the cooling of the land.
Some people argue that that combination of steam and ash is even more dangerous than the pollution from refineries but there is a difference. That “natural pollution” or CO2 is absorbed in a natural way by the forests that surround the volcano. In the case of the refinery, there is nothing that prevents further inflict more damage. There are also inactive volcanos, these are part of several national parks, so you’ll be able to visit the flora and fauna near the volcano and visit its crater. We visited Irazu and it was perfect.
Costa Rica is fighting the plastic problem by promoting the recycling of plastic and the use of reusable products. They have categorized recycling bins in public places. Businesses are stimulated to recycle and prevent waste because it will have a negative impact on the environment one way or the other. It’s not perfect yet but by consuming responsibly each and everyone on the island is contributing to a sustainable economy. People are so into it that they loudly complain when the trash truck doesn’t collect the recyclables responsibly.
Costa Rica manages to monetize its love for the environment by creating work opportunities for its people in the eco-tourism industry and as well as promoting and educating the recycling process.
At this moment there is a reward program for recycling called E-Colones or “E-Coins” that is being promoted in Costa Rica. Through this program, consumers are able to save points that can be turned into discounts, free passes, and many other benefits. On the other side, the proceeds from this program help to sustain the recycling centers and their employees. Now, the program has gone internationally already without having been fully deployed in Costa Rica. Countries Like Colombia and Panama have their own version of E-Coins.
Having rules and regulations to support the eco-tourism is an important reason for the success of a Green Costa Rica. The locals understand it, foreigners on the other hand, unfortunately, have a problem with following rules. Therefore, tour guides do their best to educate tourists to keep the island clean. But it is difficult when in their own land they have little to no respect for the environment.
A GLOBAL EFFORT
The evidence is in the lack of policies in this regard in many countries and the unfortunate state of natural parks, forests, rivers, beaches, etc. that are polluted. Even recycling was never a priority on the agenda for any government except Costa Rica, Holland, and a few others. The consequence is that now we are dealing with an alarming amount of plastic litter that only using recycling as a method won’t be enough. But how can people change?.
The most effective way is making it illegal to pollute and those who are caught in the act will receive a fine. There are already some nature vigilantes watching out and posting the evidence on Facebook and Instagram. It’s just a matter of making it official and establish a company that will generate employment. The fine should be a substantial amount that can be used to support recycling centers. People will then avoid acting inappropriately because it will cost them money. But regulation must be set by the government to work efficiently. I personally think this could work but unfortunately, politicians don’t have the necessary skills to make this work, their attention is somewhere else.
Another way is to incentivize people to recycle with a monetary reward program supported by the government. For every plastic bottle or can that you bring to the recycling center you will receive a few cents. If you bring them clean, you’ll receive a little more. Even though it is a good idea and has had great results in Holland, for example, it is not suitable for countries facing financial issues because they wouldn’t be able to support such a program in the long run.
On the other hand, you could also have a monetary recycling reward program that is supported by the people for the people. Like having an electronic version of a recycling reward program. People pay a certain initial amount to participate and can start collecting points which can be exchanged for attractive items for the people like discounts at supermarkets when buying certain eco-friendly products, recycling courses, and much more.
Everywhere you go you will find some kind of reward program, when you’re on vacation every airline has its own program, at home I’m sure local companies having their reward program related to customer satisfaction. Rarely you will find a try recycling reward program like E-Colones because such programs don’t generate profits but have a non-monetary value to the community.
DISRESPECTING THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE
The diverse climate in Costa Rica supports its biodiversity. It’s a circle of life where nature provides the elements for flora and fauna to be born, grow, and die. A sequence that is very normal in the circle of life. Nature offers us the elements to survive, food, resources to create tools, and medicine.
In Costa Rica, you will find a wide range of various medicinal plants in the local markets that helps with cholesterol, headache, stress, high blood pressure, and so on. Many of the drugs we use today, that have many aftereffects, by the way, can be replaced with natural medicine. In the same way, you have natural medicine to improve your health you can also find poisonous plants and fruit seeds that could kill you.
The flora and fauna are beautiful to see but unfortunately, there are tourists who don’t respect the policies of the places they visit. As a result, many of these places have been altered, and will temporarily close in order for it to recover the altered/destroyed area. Eco-tourism is an important pillar of the Costa Rican Economy. It is still difficult for me to understand why people pollute natural parks in a foreign country. “Why is respecting mother nature so difficult?”
Another issue that happens a lot is that tourists feed wild animals. I understood that they may look cute and you want to pet them and feed them, but they are still wild animals. Don’t feed them!
Some species have a special diet and anything outside their normal diet will upset their digestion. Even a piece of apple can cause damage. It can cause abortion if a pregnant white-faced capuchin monkey eats it according to our local tour guide. In addition, apples are a domesticated fruit which means that monkeys in the wild did not evolve to consume this fruit in their natural habitat.
Costa Rica is a great place to visit if you like to explore nature. The Eco-Tourism Industry is well built and you will find something to do for everyone. From peaceful walks to exciting hikes and even air jumps Tarzan style, well not exactly, you will be properly harnessed, but you get the idea. Adventurous people will also enjoy it, that’s what I’m trying to say.
But before you start planning please respect the rules and help them keep Costa Rica Green. Go with the proper mindset: respect the environment and keep it clean. You will be inspired by their spirit and may take some ideas to your home country to make it green as well.
Last but not least who would like to give a shout out to our tour guides Eric and Max coordinated by Swiss Travel Costa Rica along with their drivers which made our tours just awesome by taking care of everything and by learning us the local slang “Pura Vida!” which means pure life and is used to say hello, goodbye and everything is great all the time. They offer tours in small groups which makes them even cozier. Even if you go there by yourself and you still wish to participate in a tour, they will just add you to an existing group with no problem. The company works with most travel agents, hotels, and hostels on the island. This way you’ll meet people from different countries and backgrounds during your stay.