One of the many things I love about living in Costa Rica is how sustainability is on everyone’s mind, and the different ways we practice these concepts daily. Of course, we’re not perfect, but the mindset and progress toward sustainable living is high, perhaps because we all spend so much time outside, live in open-air houses, and see the impacts of climate change and human behavior all around us.
In the community I live in on the South Pacific Coast, we have several environmental initiatives that have been put in place by concerned local community members. They reach out to businesses and ask them to voluntarily help the eco-effort. Many businesses have replaced plastic straws with reusable metal or glass straws, or have gone back to paper straws. They have done away with plastic and Styrofoam take-out containers and gone back to paper boxes.
My friends and I often bring our own reusable glass containers with us to restaurants since we know portions tend to be generous and we pack away the extras, happy to have lunch for the next day.
In my work as a travel guide, I often add a beach cleanup to my eco-oriented travelers’ itinerary, so they can witness the efforts first-hand. I encourage visitors and friends to use refillable water bottles. We have local markets four days a week where people can buy their groceries from local vendors to help reduce the need for transportation of goods from long distances, which lowers carbon emissions, and the vendors are encouraged to present their products without plastic packaging.
In addition to the hard work the communities put in on the micro level, it is impressive to state that Costa Rica has produced 98.53% of its power over the last four years from renewable sources, such as hydropower, wind, geothermal and solar. As a country renowned for its abundant wildlife and nature, it is encouraging to see that approximately 28% of the country is protected as national parks, reserves or wildlife refuges.
It is fun to see visitors and expats get into the spirit of the Costa Rican pura vida way of life. Pura Vida means “pure life” and it can best be translated as enjoying the simple things that matter the most and taking life and its daily stresses in stride. It isn’t the big house, fancy car, or designer clothes that matter. It is spending time with friends and family, appreciating nature, finding a work/life balance that allows for less stress, and taking the time to do the things that feed your soul.
Living this philosophy helps everyone feel a bit more connected, and people start voluntarily making the shift toward more sustainable living, learning that they can live here happily with a lot less than they previously had. It’s about making conscious choices in everyday life because we care, and realize we’re all connected. Welcome to the land of Pura Vida!