At the end of April and in recognition of Earth Month, The Travel Project teamed up with Seth Maxwell, CEO and founder of The Thirst Project, and a Forbes 30 under 30 social entrepreneur, to discover how Costa Rica, a destination smaller than Lake Michigan and yet the most sustainable country in the world, is leveraging tourism to further its sustainability journey. Here's what he had to say...
I'm not sure if anything quite captures the last week as well as this little guy. 🐦 So sad to leave Costa Rica. This trip has been amazing. Costa Rica is an absolutely unbelievable global leader in sustainability and I've LOVED being immersed in all of the wildlife and nature the last week. If you missed my stories, I'm working on putting together a video and article that will be live in a couple of days. Until then, check out our friends at @Contiki's community program #TheTravelProject: http://contiki.com/thetravelproject . . . . #travel #CostaRica #nature #wilderness #WildSam #hummingbird #nature #sustainability #WildernessMakesYouBetter #vacation #philanthropy #outside #green #EcoTourism #wildlife #contikisixtwo #contiki #explore #adventure
What did you know of Costa Rica before travelling there?
Honestly, I really didn’t know very much about Costa Rica at all before I traveled there! All that I knew was that it was was a beautiful, tropical country with beaches and forests, but I really didn’t know much.
What struck you the most about the country?
Without question, the stunning natural beauty of the country combined with the people’s extreme commitment to preserving it is what struck me most. Anyone who visits can’t help but be overwhelmed by how beautiful the nature and wildlife of the country is. That’s obvious. Whether the sunkissed beaches or the thriving cloud forests, the nature is rich and lush and pristine. Lots of places in the world have beautiful nature and wildlife.
What’s most amazing is that the manager at literally every hotel I checked into gave a verbal briefing on the hotel’s green sustainability practices, from sorting through trash and recycling, to using biodegradable soap and paper products, to asking us to do our part and turn off the air conditioning and lights when we weren’t in the room.
I’ve never experienced anything like it. The commitment to preserving the natural world isn’t just something that looks good on paper; it’s lived out by everyone in the country.
How is the country’s tourist trade geared towards sustainability?
Much of the sights and activities and tours that the country offers center around nature. This strategy takes travelers out of hotels and into natural environments where they get to come face-to-face with the animals and spaces the country works so hard to sustain and protect.
How did it feel to travel in a country where everything is about respecting and protecting the environment?
It was SO great! Everyone’s approach to sustainability was positive and enthusiastic. Because it was so sincere and authentic, being asked to JOIN the people in doing our part never felt like a chore, but rather felt like we were part of something bigger than ourselves- something that felt great.
How does this compare to America?
Almost always, in America, we choose convenience over sustainability or preservation. Rather than keep the air conditioner off while we are away and wait five minutes for our room to cool down when we return, we opt to keep the air running all the time. Etc.
Do you think the sustainability practices in place in Costa Rica could be replicated in other countries?
Absolutely! As with anything, the hardest part is simply starting.
If we can shift the mentality and show that it is not much more difficult to take steps to reduce our environmental footprint, use and create demand for products that minimize their negative impact on the world, and prioritize spending time in nature, we can make a HUGE impact.
Costa Ricans are regularly cited as some of the happiest people in the world. Do you think their relationship to and treatment of the natural world contributes to this?
Definitely. It’s no revelation that people who spend more time outside score happier than those who don’t by virtually every psychological measure we have.
How does Costa Rica use tourism to further its sustainability efforts?
Costa Rica centers much of their tours, sights and activities around the natural world, wildlife and activities that bring people out into nature, building a relationship between travelers and the world that Costa Rica strives to protect.
Biggest thing you learnt on the trip?
I learned that in just a few short decades, Costa Rica has made immense progress towards integrating green, sustainability efforts and carbon neutrality into almost every aspect of life, AND, not only have these efforts worked, but the people have benefitted economically, psychologically and in virtually every measurable way possible.
Costa Rica in 3 words…
Nature is life!