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Costa Rica Chronicles

By: Alena B.

My freshman year of high school I took an AP Environmental Science course - my first real introduction into the world of sustainability. I will always remember my teacher’s dwindling British accent and his somewhat haughty strolls between the long rows of desks. However, despite my humble 3 on the AP test, I will also always be incredibly grateful to that class for awakening within me a passion for our environment. Now I can go on and on about all that encompasses, and certainly plan to, but today I wrote this introduction as a segway into a discussion of my study abroad trip. It was this course that inspired me to apply, and then, thanks to earning a complete scholarship, go on a 3 week trip to study sustainability in Costa Rica. Now you mostly hear about Costa Rica as a tourist attraction for ziplining and insane hiking views, but it is also an incredible country in that it holds 6% of our planet’s ecological resources and is a global leader in sustainability. It derives nearly 93% of its energy from renewable resources and conserves around 30% of its national territory. As a comparison, only 11% of US energy is renewable and a meager 12% of its land is conserved. I had the opportunity to witness both of these pioneer sustainable actions in person.

We traveled to different regions of the country learning about various aspects of sustainability from both locals and experts. Three windy nights were spent in Guanacaste, visiting wind farms where you could barely stand and geothermal power plants where you could see the energy radiating from the ground. I learned that geothermal energy, which is derived from volcanoes, is actually the most sustainable form of energy - and not only can their heat produce electricity, but also natural hot springs and warm mud baths that we spent our free time in.

Other than this array of natural wonders, I think one of the most incredible things I got to experience was the sense of community in every place we visited. Each village had a deep and inspiring history, filled with people devoted both to each other and to the Earth. One island community had banned fishing for the majority of the year and pledged to continue manually collecting oysters and clams, which I can personally say is no easy task. The villagers prioritized their environment and were then able to work through any economic consequences together.

Discussion Questions:

  • How can the United States learn from Costa Rica’s sustainable initiatives and begin to adopt similar environmentally friendly practices?  

  • Have you visited any other countries that also have implemented many sustainable innovations?


Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. (2020, January 06). 5 ways Costa Rica leads in 



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