What I have learned about Sustainability While Living in Costa Rica

Everything is smaller, so there is less waste.

From houses to cars, everything is smaller and more modest in Costa Rica as well as most other countries compared to the U.S. Many cars here are smaller based on my Uber experiences here. These cars are not electric, but less gas is used for them. The smaller houses also use less electricity compared to much larger houses in the U.S. 

Costa Rican Neighborhood

Costa Rica is known for having many natural ingredients in their meals that take less energy to produce. This includes rice, beans and many fruits and veggies. Some of their most popular dishes are Casado (bottom right), Gallo pinto (left) and Arroz con pollo (upper right). They also have amazing coffee where the beans are grown on plantations here in Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica is also very sustainable when it comes to clothes.

Costa Rica has many thrift stores as well called Americana’s. I came here to teach English and get my certification and my teachers told me that I could buy work apparel in these stores at an affordable price. These stores also allow clothing to be recycled and not go to waste. Additionally, many Costa Rican homes have a washer, but not a dryer, so they are using less energy and electricity by putting wet clothes on a clothes dryer. 

Thrift Store in Costa Rica

In terms of transportation, Costa Rica doesn’t have the best infrastructure. Although it’s a small country, it takes a long time to get to different places. There’s also a lot of traffic in the central valley as most people live there. Taking a car around the country can be the quickest way to get from point A to point B around the country, however this can be more expensive (especially if you are under 25) and you use up a lot of gas. Taking a bus can be the most sustainable and affordable way to get around the country since it helps less cars be on the road. 

Most people live in the central valley (San Jose area). 

This could be seen as a bad thing as there’s lots of traffic. However, Costa Rica is an extremely biodiverse country. Outside of the central valley area lies many species of plants and animals which make up large green and natural landscapes throughout the rest of the country. These landscapes can stay this way by not being teared down for commercial or residential property. 

The country has made a lot of effort to reduce plastic waste.

I’ve noticed while going to coffee shops and grocery stores that many of them have reduced their plastic consumption. I have been given paper straws in coffee shops. Many grocery stores have gotten rid of their plastic bags, so customers are expected to buy or bring reusable bags at the grocery store. In fact, on November 26th of 2019, Costa Rica implemented Law No 9786 also called the “Law to Combat Plastic Pollution and Protect the Environment (elaw.org).” This law prohibits plastic bags from being used in grocery stores and other retail establishments. This law encourages biodegradable and reusable bags to be used in stores. 

Plumbing in Costa Rica.

One last thing you should know, especially if you are considering visiting Costa Rica is the the plumbing system here is not great. Also if you are eating or can’t handle gross things, you might want to skip this part. In Costa Rica, you don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet, but rather you throw toilet paper out in the trash can next to you. The country’s septic system was never built to handle excessive amounts of toilet paper, so people dispose of their toilet paper in the trash can next to them.

This is all I have learned so far about sustainability in Costa Rica. I’m looking to explore more about sustainability and Costa Rican culture. Come back soon for more information!

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