Costa Rica is working on implementing an environmental plan by 2050. The overall goal of this plan is to replace the nations use of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. One focus within this goal is transportation. Transportation amounts to 40% of Costa Rica’s carbon emissions. CR wants to transfer the public transportation buses from gas to electric, as well as civilian cars. Currently, CR relies on hydropower and geothermal power from the many rivers that flow through the country. The heavy rain flow provides an abundant flow of water which runs seven geothermal plants that generate 410 gigawatts of energy per hour. More than 98% of the domestic electricity comes from renewable sources. Another abundant natural resource is wind energy, and wind turbines are a sustainable option. The plan is to implement two big wind farms that can help generate energy alongside the hydropower, in hopes to create 100% renewable energy year-round.
Costa Rica is pretty advanced when it comes to sustainability. They have a system set up where the number at the end of your license plate corresponds with a day of the week and on that day of the week you can’t use your car to drive into town. Also, at Earth University, the students use bikes to travel around campus. Earth has specialized trash bins set up to help separate waste, and then they have a recycling plant where they further the organization and so that the recycling ends up where it’s supposed to. My cohort went to help out there, and let me tell you, the extra ten seconds that you spend rinsing out a used bottle or recyclable containers are appreciated. Otherwise, you end up with an entire bag that smells like rancid yogurt because someone couldn’t be bothered to pour out what they didn’t want. (Yes, I am speaking from experience, and yes, strawberry yogurt was everywhere). In addition to their university, they also have NGO’s (non-profit organizations) scattered through the country that practice sustainable measures. One NGO farm that we visited makes their own compost and pesticides using natural ingredients from Costa Rica. Another NGO, called El Pulmón Verde (The Green Lung), is in the middle of the country’s capital of San Jose. They are a community garden with plans to make an amphitheater and a butterfly garden, a green space within the city where locals can come and be surrounded by nature.
While all of this is great, there are still some areas where Costa Rica is lacking. Their big plans for electrifying transportation seem great and easy until you think about how expensive electric cars are. They aren’t available to a lot of the people here because they don’t have enough money. When you go to the store, you only have the choice of plastic bags, and no one brings reusable bags to the store with them. In addition to that, when you are walking around the store, you will notice that the cookies are wrapped in plastic in small packs of four, and then about ten of those tiny packs are wrapped in more plastic. That’s a lot of plastic. Now, this particular issue is larger than the Costa Rican (Ticos) citizens. This is the fault of the food manufacturing companies. But maybe, if the Ticos stopped buying the over packaged goods, the companies would find another way to wrap their cookies.
The reason that sustainability is so important is because we are trying to protect the health of our world. Costa Rica happens to have about 4% of the world’s diversity (crazy, right?). It is super important that all the flora and fauna within CR is conserved. CR has a lot of conserved forest land as well which is extremely important for the protection of species such as the Tapier and the Quetzal. My cohort was lucky enough to get to spend a week at Punta Mala; a turtle refuge that houses one ranger and two staff to cook and clean. They also get volunteer groups (like us) that come and help. I got to go out on a night walk to collect turtle eggs, see mama turtles in a trance while giving birth, and I got to liberate new born baby turtles. It was a surreal experience watching the tiny turtles flop their way down to the ocean and tumble around in the waves… I think my heart grew a little that day.