Here in Costa Rica, we are lucky to call some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world home. There aren’t many places that are this beautiful while also being home to awesome surf breaks and an incredible amount of wildlife and plants. Costa Rica translates to “rich coast” in English, and anyone who visits will definitely see why. The beaches, the forests, and the surfing attract many tourists to the country, which is fantastic for the economy and local businesses. However, with more people come more problems as well, especially as far as the environment goes. More fossil fuel emissions from airplane and bus transportation, more cars driving around town and more trash left on the beach. It is always such a shame to see garbage in the water and on the beach – not only does it ruin the beautiful views, but it can be dangerous for the animals that call the ocean their home. Here are a few tips to stay environmentally conscious during your travels in order to leave the smallest mark possible on your Costa Rica Surf Trip
- Skip the straw!
Yes, they are fun. But single-use plastic like straws are one of the most wasteful things, and they can easily be eliminated. Over 500 million plastic straws are used every day, and if we all just said no thanks, that could be significantly lowered! Many places in Costa Rica offer paper straws, straws made out of biodegradable materials, or even better, reusable metal straws as an alternative. In these cases, sip away! But otherwise, try to get in the habit of taking your drink straw-less.
- Re-use plastic!
Recycling is a great way to avoid throwing things away. However, it still creates waste. If possible, re-use things whenever you can instead of buying more and recycling. For example, plastic grocery bags – you can use them a few times before they might start falling apart or keep them for when you need garbage bags in your house! Instead of buying a new plastic water bottle every day, just keep one and refill it whenever you need to. Or even better, buy a reusable metal water bottle to use. Re-use ziplock bags for your snacks you take to the beach by washing them in the sink. There are tons of ways to avoid using new plastic if you get a little creative!
- Do some beach clean-up!
With lots of visitors and surfers on the beach every day, even the most conscientious people sometimes leave things behind. If you are walking on the beach and see some trash, stop and pick it up! This is easy, free, and is benefits everyone who wants to enjoy the beach and the creatures that live there!
- Do your grocery shopping consciously!
It seems like for some reason, Costa Ricans enjoy wrapping things unnecessarily in plastic. Sometimes this is impossible to avoid – but if possible, try to buy things with the least amount of packaging. For example, buy bulk, fresh produce rather than packaged veggies. Buy a big bag of chips instead of lots of smaller, individually packaged bags. Buy cheese and bread wrapped in paper rather than plastic. Look for food in aluminum cans. The options are endless if you just try to keep your eyes open!
- Actually, do all your shopping consciously…
When shopping for other things like souvenirs or clothes, you can be just as conscious of plastic. Bring a reusable bag instead of taking a plastic one! Buy trinkets that aren’t packaged. Ask to see if anything you might want to buy was made in an eco-friendly way. Costa Rica is overall a fairly eco-conscious country, so there are often many shops with gifts that are sustainably made, things that are made to be used over and over again rather than just once and then thrown away, or made with local, organic ingredients to support local businesses.
- Eat less meat!
On average, 2,000 gallons of water are used for every pound of meat sold. From growing the food that the animals eat, giving them water, etc. it really adds up. Also, runoff from farms can enter the ocean and surf zones which can cause nasty water, weird bacteria, or potentially toxic algae. Additionally, meat is usually wrapped in single-use plastic and often on styrofoam trays. You don’t have to completely stop eating meat, but it is good to just be aware of how much you are consuming! And if possible, eating meat that was raised sustainably and not fed a bunch of chemicals is the best option. Especially for seafood – Tamarindo is known for incredible fresh fish, which is an awesome thing to take advantage of. Everything is locally caught and super fresh, so it is a must-have when you are here!
- Try to buy eco-friendly surf products whenever possible!
Sticky Bumps and Sex Wax, both great brands, now have their wax in paper boxes. This is much better than the plastic wrapping that just ends up in the landfill! Wave Tribe is an example of a company that makes leashes from recycled materials and they also have board bags that are made of help, which reduces the amount of plastic they need to use. They also have track top made from cork rather than plastic. There are also a number of companies that make swimsuits out of recycled or more natural materials! With a little research and a little extra effort, you could end up with a pretty sustainable and eco -friendly surf set up.
- Walk, bike, or carpool!
Getting around in Costa Rica is easy. The public transportation is good, so you can take a bus or shuttle to get around the country rather than renting a car and using extra gas. It is also easy to find taxis or cars that are already driving in the direction that you want to go! When going surfing, there are lots of planned trips that you can jump in on so that the transportation is shared by a few people and therefore more efficient. If you are going to be in one place for a little while, you could consider buying a bicycle to help get around slightly longer distances. But in places like Tamarindo, you don’t need really need any transportation at all. Everything is within walking distance, so it is super easy to get around without any sort of carbon footprint whatsoever!
- Be careful about products/activities that are bad for marine life.
Some products contribute to harming fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Items like coral jewelry, tortoiseshell accessories, shark products, etc. are all examples of things to avoid. They aren’t always bad, but it is just important to be aware and ask some questions before buying things made from ocean life. When boating, kayaking, or recreating in other ways in the water, make sure that you are not getting too close to marine life, don’t throw anything overboard, and be respectful of the water.
- Educate yourself!
All life on earth is connected to the ocean. The more you learn about the issues facing the sea and its inhabitants, the more you will want to do to help make sure it stays beautiful and clean for years to come! You can then share that knowledge with others, support organizations working to support the ocean, be an influencer of change in your community, and make sure to keep up with responsible choices.
The ocean is an incredibly unique ecosystem and we need to look after it! There is nothing quite like it, and no sport quite like surfing. Let’s work to keep our oceans clean so that we can continue to catch waves and enjoy clean water long into the future. Our beautiful beaches are waiting for you… we can’t wait to see you here in Costa Rica!