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Pura Vida! 6 Things Costa Rica Taught Me About Sustainability

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Consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries on earth as well as one of the greenest, Costa Rica is a world leader in sustainability and conservation. Many richer nations could learn a thing or two from this innovative country; I certainly did. 

Pura Vida! Amongst the warbled grunts of black howler monkeys, the soothing sound of crashing ocean waves and the happy chortles of the toucan, all throughout the Central American country of Costa Rica you’ll hear one thing: Pura Vida!

How are you this morning? Pura Vida!

Thank you for the coffee! Pura Vida!

Hope you have a good night! Pura Vida!

A catchall phrase that means “great, good or okay” and translates into “Pure Life,” Pura Vida isn’t just a handy marketing slogan designed to draw tourists to the thick green forests, spectacular beaches and wild national parks of Costa Rica. Rather, it’s something that has been said for generations that is an apt reflection of the country’s stout devotion to the stewardship of the environment, protection of natural resources and creation of an eco-conscious culture.

This is what Costa Rica taught me about sustainability:

1. Gentle reminders help the cause. You’ll be hard pressed to find a light switch in a Costa Rican hotel room that does not have a sticker nearby, reminding you to turn off the lights whenever they are not in use. All too often, our intentions to save the planet are true – but then we leave behind the cloth grocery sacks in the car, leave the air conditioning on higher than we meant to, or just plain forget to turn off the lights. Gentle reminders help to keep our goal of the protecting the environment in our conscious minds.

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2. Pride comes before protection. Costa Ricans love their country and appreciate the vast collection of natural resources and biodiversity found across the land – so of course they want to protect it. They realize that what they have is very special, and over 1/3 of the country is protected habitat in some way, shape or form.

3. If you offer bins, people will recycle. All over Costa Rica, you’ll see separate bins for recycling plastic, paper, glass and metal alongside a trashcan for organic garbage. This makes it very easy to recycle, and therefore people are happy to comply. In many parts of the U.S. such as downtown Los Angeles, you only have one option: the trash. If we make it easier to recycle, more people will do so.

4. Eco-tourism pays. As more and more travelers become aware of the ecological footprints they leave behind, destinations like Costa Rica are increasing efforts to offer sustainable travel initiatives. This in turn lures more travelers who want to patronize a country that is treating its citizens and countryside with care, and thus the cycle continues. Plus, the Rainforest Alliance states that ecotourism in Costa Rica creates over 50,000 jobs – that is intelligent environment investing at its finest!

5. Learn before you act. Palm oil is much maligned in the natural living community, as people assume that its production destroys rainforest. While this is true in certain locations, in some areas of Costa Rica, palm oil plantations have brought the local economy back to life, and the tropical fat is farmed with minimal negative effect on the farmland where it is raised. Don’t rush to judge based on sound bites from the media; instead do your research and shop for products certified by international ecological organizations, such as the Sustainable Agricultural Network.

6. Knowledge is power! I learned more about animal species, global warming and plant life in Costa Rica than I ever have on any trip, anywhere. While the country is also known for active adventures, extreme sports and relaxing beaches, the tourist industry seems to be making a big effort to educate visitors about the unique natural life of Costa Rica. With great knowledge comes great responsibility – and we are all responsible for treating our environment with care and respect.

Pura Vida!


Image: Wha'ppen

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