by Shannon Farley
Being eco-friendly is trending as a billion-dollar business approach touching everything from appliances, cars, clothing, cosmetics and cleaning products to tourism. Eco-friendly travel and green tourism continue to be the fastest growing sectors in the tourism industry worldwide.
In ecotourism pioneer Costa Rica, being eco-friendly is extremely important. The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) founded the Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program in 1999 to regulate the Costa Rican tourism businesses that are truly sustainable and eco-friendly, differentiating them from those that are “greenwashed” (eco-friendly in advertising only).
Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure, a nature and adventure park in Costa Rica’s Caribbean mountains, is definitely not greenwashed. The ecotourism company last month was awarded its first Certificate for Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica.
The CST process is intense, rigorous and very detailed. The United Nations World Tourism Organization uses Costa Rica’s CST program as the model for sustainable tourism practices in Latin America. Tourism companies are graded on specific sustainability criteria such as proper waste management, environmental protection, use of resources, respect for local cultures and support of local communities. The CST ratings range from one to five “Leaves”, using the symbol of a green tree for its scale.
At the beginning of its CST process, Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure holds one leaf for now. The ecotourism company will work on improvements to raise its status before its next CST review in two years, said Erick Quirós, in charge of CST process at Veragua.
For instance, just recently after their first CST review, Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure installed a new solar energy power system and is now operating almost solely using clean energy. This is no small feat given the nature park’s location in the Costa Rica Caribbean mountains, many kilometers from the nearest public electrical poles or a main road.
“The CST program fits right in with the triple-bottom-line philosophy of people, planet and profit we’ve had at Veragua since inception,” said Veragua owner Marti Jimenez. “We are very proud since we worked on this for many months completely with only our staff, rather than the usual practice of hiring a consultant who guides you through it. We went through the learning curve ourselves. Going through this process gives all of our employees a sense of teamwork and belonging in a sustainable project,” Jimenez added.
Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure nature and adventure park and scientific research facility is located an hour from the Port of Limon on a private rainforest reserve, bordering the La Amistad International Park. Veragua offers half-day and full-day cruise ship shore excursions and regular tours Tuesday to Sunday.