Costa Rica is widely known as a prime destination for eco-tourism. Today, Costa Rica is a pioneer in reforestation, forest management and forest protection policies. But between 1950-1987, Costa Rica underwent rapid and widespread deforestation, with 21% coverage at its lowest point.
The custom in Costa Rica used to be to deforest flat, usable land for farming. Agriculture was the main export at the time and farmers did what they knew to do to maximize their profits. This was before locals knew the impact that this would create – on their nation and on the planet.
Deforestry interests still come to Costa Rica. Luckily, just as many private interests are purchasing rainforest land to protect it, and purchasing farm land for the purposes of reforestation.
About sustainable development
Adventure travel and sustainable development go well together because they give people something more to do than just adventure. Things like animal sanctuaries, serpentariums, orchid gardens, butterfly gardens, and more all serve to educate locals and tourists alike on conservation and the value of living sustainably.
90% of Costa Rica’s energy comes from sustainable resources and the nation strives to conserve energy. 25% of the land and marine territory is protected, and visitors help to support these efforts every time they pay for admission to these parks and reserves.
In Costa Rica, both government and private interests serve to educate communities about balancing financial success with an awareness of the impact of the business’s development and how the surrounding community and environment are affected. The new belief is that it is possible for businesses to change and evolve to meet market demands while also maintaining their original vision and the principles that the business were built on.
Businesses becoming more sustainable
Becoming increasingly tourism-dependent, or even expat-dependent, may mean that there are new demands being put on a local business. Businesses in this region are charged with the goal of creating a positive impact on the community and environment by an unwritten code of ethics of sustainability. The idea is to turn a profit because of sustainability, rather than in spite of it.
Tourism activities like yoga, surf and wellness, and cuisine are at the core of the the economy in Costa Rica, and all the more in the Southern Zone region, which is relatively new in the scale of settlements in Costa Rica. The healthy lifestyles being sold here are dependent on a healthy environment. The people who move here come to live longer and healthier lives, thanks to the climate, fresh air and water, locally-grown produce, and the relaxed pace of life.
The history of sustainable ethics in Costa Ballena
This land is remote and beautiful. It originally attracted a few adventure travelers who returned every year, eventually leading to the large expat communities that exist today. People loved it here so much they had to call it home. And after getting to know the other side of the vast, green beauty and seeing the mass deforestation and pollution that was happening on a grand scale, many expats and visitors have decided to contribute to wildlife preservation efforts – even if just to retain the image of the land with which they fell in love.
Over time, our interesting coastal towns instinctively cultivated culturally and environmentally-conscious communities. These towns were previously isolated with poor infrastructure. Terrible roads with no bridges were the norm even only 10 years ago in our South Pacific Costa Ballena communities.
Now, we have a slow but steadily growing local economy in which local and foreign entrepreneurs have a chance to succeed in their enterprise without the worry of being displaced by large competitors.
Smaller businesses in low-pace economies allow for locals to experience progress and be paid a good wage with the ability to grow within the company. Small grocery stores have grown into main supermarkets and nearly every building in the Costa Ballena has been constructed by local companies. Many locals are in fact successful business owners in industries ranging from landscaping, architecture, accounting, and law, to conservation jobs (both public and private), including environmental protection and management.
There is plenty of help offered in our dynamic communities, where competitors will meet to discuss their businesses and ask each other for advice. Or people use our many online messaging boards to ask each other questions on where to source something, or how to complete a task, rather than looking first to Amazon.com or the like.
Most businesses choose to remain simple and laid back so that they can focus on providing friendly service and being conscious of their impact on the environment and community – the things that make us special. It is a tremendous responsibility to live in a narrow strip of land that is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity and many Costa Ricans are recognizing that sustainability is no longer a choice but rather a commitment.
According to a recent UN report from this month, humanity must start to embrace water management techniques that mimic natural processes, similar to traditional and indigenous techniques. Global demand for water is expected to increase by nearly one-third by 2050, and forests and wetlands have reduced by two-thirds since 1900. Wet regions are getting wetter and dry regions are becoming drier.
As consumers, we have the power to change business models by purchasing with our values. And in Costa Rica, we are well on our way to changing the world through our everyday examples of sustainable development.
**Stay tuned for more articles on sustainable development in Costa Rica, including profiles and local, sustainable businesses and the government and private agencies that support their efforts.