by Hannah Nevitt, Greenheart Travel Volunteer Abroad participant
In a country that already survives on fewer accommodations, it is incredible to me how much care people in Costa Rica place on conservation. The value they place on waning resources like water, electricity, and clean air, or their efforts to rescue endangered animals, and maintain sustainable lifestyles is of high importance. As a country, it seems, Costa Rica is doing its part.
In 2007, Costa Rica set a goal to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation by 2021. Hydro-electricity, wind power, and renewable resources have all become important initiatives. As a testament to their conservation efforts, everything is sparingly used or recycled if possible.
After living here for nearly a month, I have personally witnessed the continued respect they pay to conserving energy. Many of the houses have skylights so electricity is only needed in the evenings. All electronics and appliances are unplugged when not in use. Telephone and internet use is kept to a minimum, and to conserve water, they take quick showers and scrub their dishes before rinsing. Their hand-me-down clothes are hung out to dry behind their houses making sure only to iron once a week.
Everyone, it seems, is very cautious of energy use. For example, my Spanish teacher turns off all her lights and uses candles for one hour each evening, usually when they are eating dinner.
“It is not much,” she says, “but I am doing my part.”
It makes me think of what a global impact it could be if others all around the world would do the same. It doesn’t take much, one hour without lights, recycling your garbage, bringing re-usable bags to the grocery store, or simply remembering to unplug items when not in use – whatever you can do, it all adds up for good.
Recycling projects are also very important here; their glass, plastics, aluminum, and paper are all recycled or re-used in some fashion; while organic material is used for fertilizer. This emphasis on recycling reminds me of a story I once read about the, “floating mass” of garbage (primarily shredded plastic bags), two times bigger than the state of Texas, drifting somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
Apparently it is so large and eerie, that boats avoid wading through its debris and pollution in an attempt to somehow bypass their feelings of guilt. After researching the validity of this story I immediately purchased two re-usable fabric bags, and started to make an honest effort to recycle whenever possible. I know it’s not much, but if I can save one plastic bag from ending up in some wasteland out of the country, I’ll be doing my part as well.