15th May 2019
Costa Rica is known for its sustainable methods and peaceful attitude. The small Central American nation is consistently making headlines for its ground-breaking movements to protect the environment, without forsaking its people’s happiness in the process. Hardly surprising when the country plays host to 6% of all the world biodiversity and its motto is ‘Pura Vida’ - ‘Pure Life’, used for anything from a thank you, a greeting or a toast.
Here are some of the reasons why Costa Rica is one of the most sustainable travel destinations you may ever have the privilege to visit.
In1948, President Jose Figueres decided to demilitarize Costa Rica, a radical move and something unheard of in Central America. The progressive president used the money otherwise spent on the military to improve the countries healthcare and education system.
He also set up free, universal healthcare for Costa Rican’s and gave women the right to vote. Since abolishing the army, the country has not had any conflict with its neighbouring countries or within its own borders. The lack of conflict has contributed to the high diversity of wildlife within the country. There is a saying in Costa Rica ‘better a bad deal than a good fight’, reflecting the peaceful attitude of Costa Ricans in general.
The country consistently comes top in the Happy Planet Index, making it the happiest place to live in the world. This is attributed to a high level of wellbeing; where the average life expectancy is 79 years.
Costa Rica has one of the worlds five Blue Zones, meaning it has some of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world. This is due to a mix of diet, natural movement, purpose and strong family ties.
In Costa Rica, family is a very important part of the culture and this brings an important sense of belonging, a contributor to a greater level of wellbeing. It isn’t just family that makes the people happy, the countries commitment to environmental protection ensures Costa Rican’s are surrounded by incredible biodiversity almost everywhere they go, reducing stress levels and providing a sense of environmental achievement.
Costa Rica was almost exclusively (99%) powered by renewable energy in 2018, a remarkable feat considering the country is still technically a developing nation.
Investing heavily into hydropower, solar power and wind power, alongside the assistance of six volcanoes for geothermal energy, has facilitated this milestone achievement. The country aims to be carbon neutral by 2025 and looks set to achieve this goal. Whilst travelling here, you are likely to see an example of sustainable energy, usually on a sustainable farm tour, where you can see how agricultural waste is converted into biofuel.
Costa Rica is abundant in hardwoods used for construction and fertile land yet has managed to increase forest cover by 30% over the last 30 years. Only South Korea and Costa Rica have been able to reverse the worldwide trend of deforestation, a remarkable achievement. This is largely due to a government scheme providing farmers with grants for every hectare of rainforest they preserve. This is particularly important for farmland that is between national parks, creating buffer zones for wildlife travelling between the parks.
Farmers are also rewarded for sustainable practices and for replanting forest. Costa Rica puts a price tag on environmental services provided by rainforests, not just tourism, and this has proven very successful.
Many travellers will know, reducing plastic whilst you travel is not always easy, whether its buying filtered water or using small, bottled toiletries in a hotel bathroom. Costa Rica is already a pioneer when it comes to reducing single-use plastic; only biodegradable straws can be used throughout the country, there are schemes where recyclable plastics can be exchanged to the government for fruit and vegetables in order to promote recycling, and you will be given a reusable water bottle when travelling, to be refilled at a water station.
The country also announced in 2017 that it would be the first country to ban single-use plastics in 2021, a ground-breaking and incredible movement to fight the global plastic pollution problem.