2017 has been deemed the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development”, as declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Elected as the ambassador for this initiative was Costa Rica’s President, Luis Guillermo Solis, which is clearly fitting as Costa Rica continues to lead the pack in sustainable tourism and renewable energy. The Costa Rica Star reported that “Solis said he was deeply honored by the recognition, saying ‘it reflects the excellent work carried out in the country to promote tourism as an engine of social and economic development’.”
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) website sites that the International Year will promote tourism’s role in five key areas:
- Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
- Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
- Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
- Cultural values, diversity and heritage
- Mutual understanding, peace and security
These key areas are in collaboration with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 25 countries in September 2015 (Sustainable Goals List).
Costa Rica has already set the bar for sustainable tourism, having instituted the successful program behind the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) implemented by the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT); which has “the main purpose to turn the concept of sustainability into something real, practical and necessary, trying to improve the way in which natural and social resources are used, promote an active participation of local communities, and provide a new support for the competitiveness of the entrepreneurial sector” as stated on their website (www.ict.go.cr). Businesses baring the mark of CST accreditation must prove that they:
- Avoid gas emissions, and environmental pollution
- Have environmental management and conservation initiatives
- Implement environmentally friendly waste management programs
- Use natural, biodegradable and recyclable products
- Have programs which limit water and electrical consumption
- Educate clients on these environmental programs and the role they play
- Comply with specific environmental, archaeological and safety standards
- Employ and train locals from the community
- Have an accurate knowledge of the local area, flora and fauna
- Integrate the local traditions and customs of Costa Rica
Truly honoring the International Year, Costa Rica launched an exciting program in June, that of ZonaLibredePlastico.org. Zona Libre is a collaboration between public and private sectors, as well as the general public, to reduce single use plastics and replace them with recyclable and compostable alternatives. An exciting aspect of the strategy is the section aimed at growth of the alternatives industry, promoting “economic activity associated with the production and trade of products made from renewable sources, from recycling processes and that are compostable”. Business owners within the alternatives industry can register their product on the site and upon approval, be listed along side other businesses offering alternative products.
As we see sustainability initiatives growing on a global scale, it is encouraging to see Costa Rica continue to charge ahead with programs on both governmental and community levels. Most importantly, this is resulting in younger generations being educated on the importance of protecting the environment and thus the future of this beautiful country.
If you have recently relocated to Costa Rica, I encourage you to look into what programs your local community is implementing, perhaps there is a need not yet filled, ways that programs can be improved, or even solely a need for more support? Whether young or old, could you volunteer time for a role in a local initiative? Are you an investor or local business owner who could strive to obtain the standards of the CST?
Everyday we make conscious decisions and one of the most enriching things you can do when enjoying this beautiful country is work together with the local community to protect that what which we all enjoy on a daily basis, the stunning nature which surrounds us.
By Z. Wright, part of the Properties in Costa Rica Team