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Costa Rica: Soon to be the First Plastic & Fossil Fuel Free Country

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Ellie Chivers reports on Costa Rica’s sustainability successes as they continue to take steps to protect their rich biodiversity.

Photo by Etienne Delorieux

Living in a world in which devastating climate news constantly makes headlines, we should be worrying about what will happen to some of the Earth’s most beautiful offerings a few years down the line.

However, Costa Rica’s leadership has shown the rest of the globe that the effects of climate change, global warming and plastic usage can be halted in their tracks, as it is set to become the first plastic and fossil fuel-free country as early as 2021.

In 2009, Costa Rica was hailed as the world’s happiest and greenest country, and since then it has come even further in its efforts to become a sustainable haven. In 2012, the country became the first Central American nation to put an end to sport and recreational hunting in order to protect the natural environment.

In 2015, the nation managed to run on solely renewable energy sources across the country for 299 days solidly, before achieving a similar feat again in 2017. Since 2014, almost 99% of Costa Rica’s energy has come from rivers, volcanoes, geothermal, wind and solar power.

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Effective Eco Leadership 

Carlos Alvarado Quesada was elected as Costa Rica’s president in 2018 at just 38 years old. From the get-go, he has promised a sustainable future for the country, with his inauguration speech addressing the reduction of carbonisation, and the aim to be rid of gasoline and diesel in transport by 2021.

Over 60% of the country’s population already relies solely on public transport for travel, but the government has lifted taxes on electric vehicles to ensure citizens using their car are doing so in the greenest way possible. All public transport systems are due to be running on renewable energy by next year, too. In his inauguration speech, the President said:

“When we reach 200 years of independent life we will take Costa Rica forward and celebrate…that we’ve removed gasoline and diesel from our transportation.” 

Additionally, it was in his first year of leadership that President Alvarado Quesada announced plans for his country to be plastic-free by 2021 – and it appears they may get there. Since the announcement on World Environment Day, the country has been working to implement 100% biodegradable, recyclable, non-petroleum-based alternatives to single-use plastics, backed by the United Nations Development Programme.

Looking After the Landscapes

Costa Rica is a country spanning 19.726 square miles, one third of which is made up of prestigious protected areas, home to 6% of the world’s biodiversity despite only covering 0.03% of the Earth’s surface. The country boasts 12 different life zones, nine forest reserves, eight biological reserves and seven wildlife sanctuaries. It is no wonder such luscious scenery attracts so many tourists, with 1.7 million visiting the country each year.

Due to its extensive protection of its natural landscapes, the country has become innovative in eco-tourism. The country offers an array of eco-friendly tourist activities, such as visiting green bars, exploring the hot springs and taking in the magnificence of their 20 national parks. Tourism accounts for more than $1.7 billion of Costa Rica’s income each year, with 80% of those visiting partaking in eco-friendly tourist adventures.

A beautiful area with a pioneering outlook – it is no wonder Costa Rica is such a celebrated country, and hopefully it can stay that way for years to come, as long as human interference continues to improve their sustainability rather than disrupt it.


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