While most nations preach about sustainability but fail to follow through on the bulk of their promises, Costa Rica leads by example and has been doing so for decades. Long before sustainability was a trend, Costa Rica realized the importance of protecting its natural resources, in part because of their uniqueness. Costa Rica only takes up 0.03% of the Earth’s surface, but the small Latin American nation contains 5% of the world’s land-based biodiversity and 3.5% of its marine life. Since the 1980s, Costa Rica has taken the reigns and become a global leader in environmental protection and combating climate change. To find out how Costa Rica is Leading the Global Charge in Sustainability, continue reading below.
As surfers, we feel we must be as environmentally conscious as possible in all facets of life, including our business. Sustainability, however, goes beyond just one’s environmental impact. Sustainability in travel and tourism means not only being eco-conscious and reducing waste but ensuring our existence as a business doesn’t displace, diminish, or damage the local culture and economy. 2020 was a rocky year for travel, but we used that time to reflect on our core values as a business in Costa Rica and as surfers. This year, we aim to continue our sustainable mission through a commitment to preserving, protecting, and improving the natural environment of Nosara, its culture, and its people. To find out more about our sustainability goals for 2021, continue reading below.
Our Costa Rica surf school is perfectly positioned for our guests to have a complete Costa Rica experience, both in and out of the water. Located in Guanacaste on a remote stretch of the Nicoya Peninsula, travelers in Nosara can experience Costa Rica’s abundant wildlife on land and sea. If you’re surfed out for the day or need to give yourself a bit of a break, head to one of the nearby protected nature reserves and see Costa Rica’s exotic wildlife. Nearly one-third of Costa Rica’s land is protected as national parks, nature reserves, and wildlife refuges. Additionally, since the 1980s Costa Rica has successfully reversed its deforestation by 200%. To say that wildlife thrives in Costa Rica would be an understatement. Costa Rica is home to exotic and endangered wildlife that once dominated the entire Central America region but has since but poached out of existence in many other countries. Sloths, Scarlet Macaws, Spider Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Jaguars, and more all call Costa Rica home. If you want to find out how to experience Costa Rican wildlife on your visit to our Costa Rica surf school, continue reading below.
As surfers, we spend quite a lot of time close to nature. It could be argued that there is no single activity that is as in tune with nature as surfing. Riding waves in the ocean that are created by storm systems thousands of miles away is about as close to nature as you can get. It’s surfing’s proximity to nature that drives surfers to protect the environment. The ocean is our playground, and it is heartbreaking to see it filled with trash, single-use plastics, and discarded fishing gear. As a traveler, your movement already weighs heavily on the environment. The carbon emissions from one long flight exceed approximately 14% of your car’s annual fossil fuel emissions. Additionally, modern traveling is ripe with wasteful single-use products. So, what is a traveler to do? Without giving up travel altogether, there are a few steps travelers can take to help reduce their environmental impact while on the road. If you’re visiting our Nosara surf school and want to reduce waste during your journey, continue reading below for How to Travel Sustainably When You Visit Our Nosara Surf School.
In December of 2015, our partner hotel Olas Verdes opened its doors to the public. Touted as the world’s first L.E.E.D. Platinum rated surf hotel in the world, the project has received wide acclaim for its innovative design and management approach. I spoke recently with General Manager Luis Pardo, who has been at the helm of this noteworthy operation since its inception. What does ‘Sustainable’ mean? It’s the ability to run an operation than minimizes the ecological impact, while creating a positive effect to the community and its economy. “We kept 85% of the original trees, planted over 15 times the amount cut, and added near 3,000 native plants. We strive to furnish everything needed for the operation from local sources; supplies, food products, and employees. That’s not always possible, but it is the goal. We are very active with community organizations and invest a good deal of resources in training and development of our staff. We are proud of what we have achieved, but are conscious that it is a continual learning process and requires periodic reviews of our practices.”
Walking the Walk “I lived in the United States for 10 years and worked as a manager for a popular casual dining chain restaurant. It was there I had a huge “epiphany” regarding the throw-away crisis our world is facing – plastic drinking straws! I saw that these straws came in huge boxes, and they were each individually wrapped in paper. They are used one time and then discarded. When I thought it through I pondered the foot print to manufacture, market, and ship them, an incredible expenditure of energy and resources, all ultimately destined for the landfill. This realization had a profound impact on me and inspired me to study and implement sustainable practices in my daily life.”
Sustainable Tourism “Costa Rica endorses an ecological/environmental ethic in its developmental and operational policies. We protect our forests, wildlife, and natural resources. This instills pride and participation in our population. It’s cool to be green! The Costa Rica Tourism Boards states: The development of sustainable tourism must be seen as the balanced interaction between the use of our natural and cultural resources, the improvement of the quality of life among the local communities, and the economic success of the industry, which also contributes to national development.” Olas Verdes – Model of Sustainability “We are so fortunate to have owners who are dedicated to very high standards of ecology and environmentalism. From day one they insisted on building a state of the art sustainable hotel. It takes longer and costs more to do it right from the beginning, but it pays off! ” Sustaining Sustainability “It all comes down to a commitment on a personal level. My employees purchase and use the same biodegradable products the hotel uses for their homes. There is a sense of pride and personal responsibility in being a part of this special operation. They understand why we do not provide drinking straws, iron the bed sheets, or have hair driers in the bathrooms. They want to leave the world a better place for their children.” More details on how Olas Verdes is committing to sustainability.
As a business owner, I understand the importance of recognizing employees who “keep the lights on” with daily operations. Having a happy, healthy, reliable and productive team of operators, instructors, managers, staff, strategic partners and other stakeholders – year in and year out – are key to the success of our business. It would be impossible for Safari Surf School to maintain its success record without a team that feels valued, motivated and appreciated for their work. And while we live a charmed life surrounded by surf, we still take time to get together as a company and have a little fun. So, how do businesses recognize employees for their hard work and achievements? For a few, that answer is travel.
Many companies offer annual top producer recognition platforms, which may vary from extravagant holiday parties to exotic travel experiences. By way of “Circle of Excellence” programs, team-building experiences are oftentimes tied to destination travel, allowing businesses to reward excellent employee performance while strengthening relationships between leadership and contributors. If this sounds like your approach, my question to you is this: Have you ever considered Costa Rica as a destination of choice? From proximity to the United States and lower total costs of travel, to rich experiential travel choices, happy people and a blissful atmosphere, there are a number of factors that make this Central American landmass a great option.
That sounds great, you say, but why would I consider spending this time with a surf school? The answer is easy: Because we offer an irreplaceable experience built around a sense of achievement, centered in paradise, surrounded by beauty, customized to your liking, complemented with experiential options, and soaked in a charmed Pacific coast culture. Do you question the attractiveness of this as an option? Then I challenge you to mention it to a few employees and just watch their eyes light up.
Sure – on paper we’re a surf camp. Our daily office space is filled with beautiful sunsets, tropical landscapes teeming with abundant wildlife and surfboard-toting beachcombers. Yet while surf instruction and beach life are at the core of our operations, Safari Surf School offers so much more than instruction on surf. We are more than a patient, well-trained staff who delivers hands-on instruction, eco-friendly, top-notch equipment and the knowledge to help you catch your first wave. We’re actually providers of customized, experiential travel who can coordinate the memory of a lifetime for the health and well-being of your company’s most important assets – your people. And we do it in the midst of the ultimate in surf culture and latin culture, with ecotourism and sustainability principles front and center.
Wake up to the sounds of Howler Monkeys stretching their vocal cords off in the distance… time for a fresh cup of coffee or whatever moves you. Off to the Safari facility for a pre-surf snack of fresh fruits and banana bread and then meet up with your surf instructor.
So why should you head south with your team for some rest, relaxation and camaraderie? For starters, take a look at cost and proximity. Compare the cost of travel to Costa Rica with other popular, sunny destinations. We’ve witnessed incredible average price drops into the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport of Liberia, Costa Rica over the last year. All major carriers (Delta, United, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, jetBlue, Alaska Airlines and Sun Country Airlines) now make daily runs into this airport and the average direct flight into Liberia is 5 ½ hours from LA and 3 ½ hours from Houston. Upon arrival, your drive is less than two hours to our beach hamlet, or if you arrive into SJO (San Jose), we’re a short direct 50 minute flight away into Nosara where we pick you up.
Second, this country is quite simply filled with happy people down here. Who couldn’t enjoy themselves within a paradise of smiles and kindness? If this sounds like a bold statement, simply walk over to a post I made a few months ago and read all about The Search for Happiness. Discover how Nic Marks, founder of The Centre for Well-Being in London, created an equation to calculate what he calls the Happy Planet Index (HPI) and proving out Costa Rica as the happiest place on the planet.
When it comes to a relaxing atmosphere and charming facilities, we offer you access to Olas Verdes Hotel, where we serve as anchor tenants. This newly-launched hotel is the world’s first LEED-certified surf hotel and will soon be Central America’s first LEED-Platinum hotel. Olas Verdes occupies several hundred meters of ideal Pacific coastline of the ever-popular Playa Guiones and features seven independent structures, offering 40 accommodations, comprised of 14 standard guest rooms, 10 suites, and four private-entrance cottages. Amazing, right? This is an ultimate corporate playground. Just imagine business meetings where you know that you can play, meditate, relax and still foster a teamwork atmosphere, in an authentic environment.
We have the ability to configure team building opportunities, immersive travel and educational for corporate travel groups, rewarding your company with irreplaceable experiences within the densest region of biodiversity in the world. A short-list of experiential guest activities run the gamut, from deep-sea fishing, volcanic-fed hot springs and rainforest expeditions, to cultural immersion, local fútbol, yoga and massage.
My wish is that if you are evaluating options for business group travel, take into considering a most-unique and rewarding option of travel to Costa Rica, coupled with the great reward of catching your first wave (or dusting off those long-lost skills with some refreshing instruction along the beautiful Nosara beach of Playa Guiones. In a future installment, I am going to elaborate on the Costa Rican culture and atmosphere by elaborating ‘pura vida’ – a term which has been present in the Costa Rican dialect for over fifty years.
Higher Learning through Surfing at Safari Surf School
“Study Abroad” – the phrase conjures up images of earnest students absorbed in esoteric topics enhanced by their unique surrounds – English Lit studies at Oxford, Italian culture and language studies in Rome, Ancient Greek civilization studies in Athens – but surfing in Costa Rica?? In January Safari Surf hosted a group of students from Guilford College in North Carolina lured by the enticing title: Surfing Centuries: An interdisciplinary introduction to riding waves, past and present. In the intro syllabus Professor Maia Dery, an avid surfer, describes the course as follows: “You all “surf” almost every day. Surfing became the runaway metaphor to describe the freedom and possibilities of the internet. How did that metaphor come into being? How did surfing, a fully embodied indigenous pastime, become such a powerful cultural trope?”
I was hooked! “College courses have come a long way since my graduation from Cal Western University San Diego in 1973” I mused. Maia is a stoked and dedicated surfer of many years. Was this just a clever way to go on a surf trip? One glimpse at the 16 page syllabus would dispel that shallow notion. This was a bonafide heavy-duty full credit academic assignment fraught with multiple texts books and several evaluation criteria. The group spent 18 days with us and became like family. With the opening of Olas Verdes Sustainable Surfing resort this summer, we look forward to more study abroad groups, as we collectively expand our horizons together through surfing.
For emphasis on my “how times have changed” reflection, I draw your attention to the textbooks for this course. Five texts and several articles were required to pass this course. But wait a second, take a look at some of these titles: Surfer Girls in the New World Order, Waves of Resistance, Empire in Waves: A Political History of Surfing. These are deeply academic compendiums with complex concepts and big words!
Professor Dery was kind enough to share some of the student’s blogs with me which reveal the “seriousness” of how they viewed their assignment. There was no surfspeak “killer tasty tubes dude”, but rather acutely insightful and sensitive reflections on their Nosara experiences. Here are a few examples:
“Today our rowdy group of twelve returns to volunteer at La Escuelita de Verano, a summer school that offers a space of creative, artistic and physical engagement for children in elementary and middle school. The playful joy of the children is contagious, and rejuvenating in every essence of the word. These encounters complicate and deepen my process of distilling my time here; this presents for me questions of how personal relationships motivate us in our actions and aspirations. Our experience on earth is comprised of overlapping, unpredictable relationships with ourselves and the people and places that surround us. Relationship entails emotional awakeness; a mindfulness of your own needs and those that surround you. A willingness to give, receive, compromise, reciprocate. The quality of relationship determines the extent to which we defy the logic of self-preservation–it determines a turning point in which giving to others can be self-gratifying as well. I would propose from all of the love I have encountered the last couple of days, impassioned people offer parts of themselves for a greater need because they are emotionally guided towards something bigger. And the result is a form of gratification that expands and nourishes in all directions.”
Sandland “What if you were a piece of sand? The beach is your world. Ocean waves the only force, besides feet, controlling your life. A sand hierarchy exists in your world; those below you are not seen. Those above you get all the credit for the great beach you all have created. Without waves, your place in the social sand hierarchy is fixed. You cannot make your way to the top of the beach, or be brought deeper.”
“Moving into this experience I am finding myself most interested in the media canon of surf culture and the way it effects cultural inertia. The Endless Summer has undoubtedly had a profound impact on surfer culture, but how far reaching is it? How have the escapist fantasy ideals laid out in The Endless Summer impacted the activistic ambivalence that all of our readings have condemned. Does this have anything to do with how it’s the ‘outsider groups’ -the surfer girls and surfers of color- that are creating surfing spaces that are being held up as sustainable and culturally aware models of surf culture? My personal lexicon of surf media and culture is too small to even start ball-parking answers to questions like this, but they’re the sort of questions that I have been taught by my theater studies to ask about media: what does this piece of popular media say about the culture it comes from? What is this piece of media doing to the culture it comes from? I have said several times over the course of these last few days that all media is political, and it could even be argued that everything is political (or that everything is media), leading me to ask these questions of just about every text we’ve been introduced to.”
PROFESSOR MAIA DERY
“My goal in offering this study abroad experience was to inspire and facilitate an atmosphere we call informed engagement. Surfing has been a personal passion for me over the last 8 years. My vision is to construct creative ways to incorporate surfing into academic studies to invigorate students’ curiosity. Our experiences in Nosara were profound and life-changing. I most certainly will try to return next year! Does your professor surf this good? Maia Dery – doin’ her homework!
Having a group of energetic and motivated college students with us for nearly three weeks was nourishing for all of us. For one thing, college students eat a lot! Safari’s amazing kitchen duo Maritiza and Alycia created and served magnificent meals, incorporating local flavors of Tico ‘tipico’ cuisine. The kids helped with food prep and dishes. Their field trips to the local summer school fostered authentic culture interactions. We thank you all for coming and wish you the very best – Hasta Pronto!
Welcome, I am Safari Surf’s Sustainability Director, Carl Kish, and together with biodiesel expert, Ryan King, we will be posting updates on our progress every week during the 4 weeks that we are here in beautiful Nosara, Costa Rica. Follow our progress as we create the world’s first small-scale biodiesel production system that is closed-loop (zero waste), energy independent (off-grid), and carbon negative. Our project was successfully funded on Feb 6th on the crowdfunding website, Indiegogo – view our campaign page for more information: http://www.indiegogo.com/nosara-biodiesel. We are eternally grateful to the following people (and to those who wish to remain anonymous) who made this possible:
Jayne Kerry- Chandler
Prudence and Marianne Carter
Ryan and I landed in San Jose Tuesday morning, and our driver Miguel was there to shuttle us 250 km back to Nosara.
We stopped at a few places in Nicoya to pick up materials and get prices for the larger pieces of our system so we could budget our funds accordingly. Six hours later, we arrived at the Hotel Casa Tucan in Playa Guiones at four in the afternoon, hungry and jetlagged.
Exhausted from all the travelling, we dropped off our bags, and then went to relax on the beach. We walked to the north end of Guiones to see the defunct palace that has been empty for years… still a cool place with a nice view:
That night we calculated our expenses and laid out the entire project budget for the next four weeks… then we passed out.
Next day (Wednesday), Ryan woke up with some sort of bug and he still hasn’t shaken it off (its now Sunday). He’s been a trooper though – still working all day with a few breaks here and there, but hopefully he fully recovers before we begin construction tomorrow.
We placed an order for methanol and lye with Arvi Chemicals in Cartago, which was more difficult than I had expected because we needed to find our own transportation to bring it to Nosara (driving with flammable chemicals… most of our contacts weren’t willing), but we eventually found someone and they will be here Wednesday. Now some of you may be thinking “Wait, I thought you guys were using homemade ethanol instead of methanol?!” Well unfortunately, we have to use some methanol for the first batch of biodiesel because it is the control variable against which we test all other variables. This includes testing the purity of our homemade ethanol. Therefore, if we encounter any problems as we add our unique aspects to the traditional Appleseed Biodiesel System, we will be able to identify which variable caused the issue and fix it. Once all the testing is done, we will use our homemade ethanol for biodiesel production instead of methanol.
We are collecting fruit scraps from the Casa Tucan kitchen as well as a local restaurant/hotel, Kaya Sol, who have been generous enough to provide us with their fruit scraps daily! The sugar from the fruit, mixed with yeast and water, will produce ethanol in 2 to 3 weeks. We have a small test batch of ethanol in a 5 gallon bucket while Ryan and I are here, but we are collecting fruit scraps to fill our 120 gallon tank so that by the time we leave, we can begin the fermentation process on a larger scale. It is ideal to produce as much ethanol as possible because by the time we collect enough waste oil to make a batch of biodiesel, the ethanol fermentation tank will be full and will last for several batches (giving us enough time to fill the 120 gallon drum with fruit again). Just to give you an idea – the amount of ethanol used in each batch of biodiesel averages to about 30% of the volume of waste oil.
Ryan and I went to the landfill on Thursday to see if we could repurpose any of the trash, luckily we were able to find one plastic jug that was still clean and wasn’t cracked. This will be our methoxide tank (methanol and potassium hydroxide), which we mix with the grease to make biodiesel. We also were very lucky to find an old 50 gallon water heater behind the Hotel Casa Tucan, which is in working order (we just need to clean it up a bit). That will save us about $500!
I really wanted to see the new Recycling Center the town is building, which is part of the landfill. I have been following their progress on this blog: http://www.nosara.hollerarchitecture.com/ and I was stoked to see in person how large it is and how far they have come – its truly impressive:
Now, there has been a sudden development, and the Hotel Casa Tucan has been purchased. While unfortunate, this does not affect our program, it actually enhances it because we are designing the system to be portable – all the parts can be disassembled and reassembled at their new location. Just because the location changed, does not mean our goal is any different – we are still creating a sustainable method for small-scale fuel production and sharing the designs online for free. This was just a minor setback and Safari Surf School will be moving out of the Hotel Casa Tucan this September when their lease is up. As a result, Tyler Marsh (co-owner of Safari Surf), has been so kind as to let us build the system on his property temporarily, until we are ready to transfer the system to Safari Surf’s new headquarters (yet to be determined). We surveyed Tyler’s property on Friday and picked a perfect location for the time being. Tyler’s gardener is also going to help us construct the shelter, which is a huge bonus. We are going to the Ferreteria in Nosara (hardware store) Monday morning to purchase all the necessary supplies.
One of Safari Surf’s surf instructors, Enrique, had 5 gallons of methanol left over from when Ryan was in Nosara three years ago! Ryan tested the methanol to make sure it was still in tact – we bought some cooking oil from the market and made a small test batch of biodiesel in a Fanta bottle so I could be more familiar with the whole process (its really easy!):
Tomorrow is a big day – we will purchase all the construction materials for the shelter and then we will break ground. Tonight is Karaoke night at the Casa Tucan, should be fun! Thanks for reading! Pura vida! Jump to “Week 2.”
I launched our fundraising campaign for the Innovative Biodiesel Project on IndieGogo last week and we have already raised 56% of our $5,000 goal!
Please watch the video below and if you believe in the project, surf over to our campaign page to make a pledge and share it with your friends, family and coworkers using the sharing tools right below the video: http://igg.me/p/287334/x/1838244