A bigger driver for moving to the tropics is a better opportunity for sustainable living in Costa Rica. Find out why in this week’s article.
Standing at the edge of my shaded second story veranda, I feel the energy of the approaching rain as it cuts through the sky in gentle slopes and taps on the variously shaped leaves of the jungle below. The air feels heavy and thick with water droplets catching in the gentle wind. I feel as though I’m being held by a viscous medium. I watch as toucan after toucan glide from tree to tree; their starkly contrasting, glossy black feathers with bright yellow accentuating lines punctuating the verdant green backdrop. They bounce through the air – you will rarely see them flap – and feed on baby birds and fruit, looking resplendent all the while.
Many of us who reside in the South Pacific have chosen to live in Costa Rica because we love being amongst the vibrant nature of this ecological navel of the planet and coexisting with it in its many forms. Six and half percent of earth’s total biodiversity resides in this tiny strip of land that binds the two Americas. More than fifty percent of this country is forested. Twenty-five percent is protected by national reserves and parks and 23% is untouched, primary forest. We know this. We love this. And we choose to have nature in our daily lives.
We don’t have to be perfect beings to love nature and love living amongst it. People who move to Costa Rica love to live and let live – an ethic that merges seamlessly between how we feel about nature and our place in it. Feeling the ground while walking with our bare feet is an awakening of our inner connection with the earth and everything. It creates a sense of belonging that goes deeper than an address.
What sets Costa Rica apart ecologically?
People who come to Costa Rica feel like they have arrived and walked through a portal to a world where things are done differently. The way of life here is so fascinating and so different from what is happening in the modern world. It is so mind-blowing that we feel called to share it.
Tucked inside the tropical jungle, humans in Costa Rica’s South Pacific live and work together in a different dimension. Home to hundreds of varieties of plants, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, and herbs, those who inhabit this land are passionate about living in harmony with nature and indulging in its offerings wherever possible.
Costa Rica is an undisputed leader in climate action in Central America, having established a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The country has set targets for all newly built commercial, residential, and public buildings to be energy-efficient and climate-resilient.
Costa Rica is both small in landmass and population, but it is politically and economically stable with a relatively high standard of living. It has long been a leader in ecotourism, and its leadership and citizens have been bold in pursuing sustainable development across many sectors.
Costa Rica stands as a model of a country that has built its brand around its environmentalism. In 2020, the country met its 2030 goal of operating its electric grid with 100 percent renewable energy. Significant opportunities for energy efficiency still exist, but now renewables are often the cheapest and cleanest first approach to change.
What are the current strains on the environment in Costa Rica?
According to environmental protection group Tree Triage, in 1990, forests occupied 31.6% of Earth’s land area. By 2016, the proportion of land occupied by forests was about 1% lower at 30.7%. Tropical regions around the globe are losing an area of forest equivalent to the size of a football field every six seconds in 2019.
Five countries are home to more than 50% of the global forests, and 66% of the global forests are located in ten countries. Costa Rica is the thirty-fifth most forested country, at almost 54% forest cover, 24% of which is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. Costa Rica had 241,000 ha of planted forest.
Since the arrival of multi-national fruit farmers until 1990, Costa Rica was losing 0.08% of forest cover every year. However, this has changed significantly over the last 30 years with private and government intervention resulting in a doubling of forested area. Costa Rica has since become one of the most rapidly reforesting countries in the world.
What can we do to live more sustainably in Costa Rica?
As with anywhere in the world, sustainable living in Costa Rica requires a mindset shift. The remoteness of our region means that mass quantities of goods and services have not reached us yet. Impulse buying is easy to avoid and we can spend more time qualifying a product; to see if we need it, if it was made fairly and sustainably, and if the people selling it are earning an appropriate income. This is made easy in Costa Rica where there are ample options for alternatives to modern conveniences that are made locally, by locals, with local ingredients.
Practicing ego-minimalism in Costa Rica is an apt way to combat the habit of hyper-consumerism. America’s favorite past-time is shopping (it is often misquoted as baseball). People in the US and Canada go to stores to see if there is anything that they could buy, rather than going because they need or even want something specific. The stress of keeping up with a first-world lifestyle leaves people with a scarcity mindset, where their needs feel unmet and their brain sets out to hoard what it can.
In Costa Rica, we learn to replace our bad habits with better ones. We save energy by living outdoors more. We tend to eat less meat and eat more local fruits and vegetables, even growing some of our own food in this conducive climate. We use renewable resources, including a growing trend towards solar and taking advantage of the abundant natural sunlight. It’s easy to save water by collecting rainwater during the rainy season. And locally-produced, fair trade products are sold in every town in boutique stores and farmer’s markets.
Final Thoughts on Sustainable Living in Costa Rica
Sustainability and regenerative living are high aspirations for solutions to the modern ways of life that are destroying natural systems. So many people are experiencing stress, fear, tense, unhealthy, anxious and depressed, perpetuated by the digital dimension of living that our brains are having trouble handling. 2020 made us question if this is the way we are supposed to live.
Costa Rica’s Southern Zone is a perfect place to reconnect with yourself. Sometimes we have to lose ourselves in the forest to actually find ourselves there as well. Almost everyone comes here with a similar goal of bettering ourselves. 2020 was also a call to action and Costa Rica is committed to receiving people who are ready to be stewards of the earth.