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Go green, save the jaguars | © Marco Zanferrari/Flickr
Go green, save the jaguars | © Marco Zanferrari/Flickr

A Guide to Being Green While in Costa Rica

Picture of Jenn Parker
Updated: 2 November 2017

Costa Rica has had a long standing reputation as being an environmentally conscious country. Costa Rica is famous for its ecotourism, national parks and protected reserves, and continual efforts being made toward sustainable and Earth-friendly practices throughout the country. Doing what’s right for our planet and all living creatures that call Earth home is a worldwide effort. Here are some ways you can help Costa Rica stay green while you are visiting.

Say “no” to single-use plastics

Single-use plastics have had such a detrimental effect on the health of our planet. It is reported that 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year and 50 percent of it is single-use plastic. Around eight million tons of that ends up in our oceans each year. Costa Rica is working toward banning all single-use plastic by 2021. In the meantime, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to just say “no.” When ordering beverages, inform your server or bartender that you don’t want a straw. No pajita por favor. Or, you can request a reusable one. It is becoming more common to see eco-friendly bars and restaurants selling straws made from bamboo or metal. Bring your own reusable water bottle with you. The water is safe to drink in Costa Rica and quite a few hotels offer filtered water to guests. If you do want to buy water at the store, opt for a glass or aluminum bottle or boxed water; this is also something commonly seen in Costa Rica now.

Eat and buy locally-sourced produce

The carbon footprint of imported food and goods to Costa Rica can be quite heavy. When you are in Costa Rica, enjoy what is from Costa Rica. Costa Rican food is absolutely divine! Supporting local farmers and establishments also promotes the local economy. When shopping at a grocery store, look for Costa Rican brands. You can also shop at a local farmer’s market, which is a lovely cultural experience and a great opportunity to taste some of the native fruits and vegetables.

Drink organic coffee

Coffee is synonymous with Costa Rica. Costa Rican coffee has been ranked among some of the best in the world. One of the great things about coffee in Costa Rica is that you have so many different choices and there are quite a few boutique and family-owned coffee farms throughout the country. Since you have a variety of choices, why not choose an organic batch? Non-organic coffee operations are highly toxic to the environment, including the animals that make their home in the high and low land forests. Organic farming practices don’t use harmful pesticides.

Use reef-friendly sunscreen

Did you know that between 25 and 60 million bottles worth of sunscreen washes off our skin and into the ocean every year? Did you know that the active ingredients found in most chemical sunscreens, oxybenzone, butylparaban, octinoxate, and 4MBC, are damaging and killing our coral reefs at an alarming rate? Think about what these chemicals are also doing to our bodies. The good news is there are plenty of reef-friendly sunscreens on the market that don’t contain these harmful chemicals, but instead contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide, which is equally if not better at protecting our skin. Wearing sunscreen in Costa Rica is an absolute must at all times when you are outdoors.

Make sure you pack plenty of natural mineral sunscreen. There are also some amazing organic health and wellness companies in Costa Rica who are making some delicious products from locally-sourced ingredients, including sunscreen and bug repellent.

Stay at an eco-friendly accommodation

In line with Costa Rica’s drive to protect the environment, there are plenty of eco-friendly and sustainably-certified lodges and hotels. Hotels that are instilling sustainable and Earth-friendly practices in Costa Rica are proud to promote their efforts, as they should be. When choosing a place to stay, look for hotels or lodges that are LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, have their CST (Certification for Sustainable Tourism), or are Rainforest Alliance Certified.

Turn the motor off

Some of the best ways to explore Costa Rica are the most environmentally-friendly modes of transport. Walking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, and paddle boarding are all Earth-friendly means of transportation and offer you the best opportunity to observe wildlife and see the various ecosystems up close and personally. Costa Rica is a great place to just slow down and take in your surroundings.

Take nothing but photographs

As you explore the mystical forests, ancient volcanoes, lush valleys, and alluring beaches, leave nothing but your light footprint and take back with you nothing but photographs. Too often visitors collect bags full of shells that will only sit in a drawer once they are home or take flowers, fruits, and sometimes even animals back to their home country. This practice is not only illegal, but is very damaging to Costa Rica. Leave Costa Rica as you found it, if not better, so that future visitors can enjoy what you had enjoyed for a long time to come. Photos are truly the best keepsakes from an exquisite adventure in Costa Rica.