Few are aware of Costa Rica’s reputation as one of the most sustainable countries in the world. Approximately 98 percent of the electricity in Costa Rica comes from renewable sources, it is attempting to become the first carbon-neutral country, and nearly 30 percent of the land is designated as protected forests. With close proximity and the Spanish language, the venue is ideal for a sustainability-themed winter break study abroad experience.
CIE 359 Sustainability in Latin America: A Case Study in Costa Rica exposes students to sustainability issues that are either underappreciated or irrelevant in the U.S. Students will examine eco-tourism, monoculture (coffee, bananas and pineapples), renewable energy (hydroelectric, wind and geothermal, and societal issues (healthcare and immigration). Students are tasked with considering the full life-cycle impacts of each component of the trip. Daily group reflections and personal journals will provide the wider context of the experiences and encourage students to approach sustainability with an open mind. The program is an opportunity for students to directly engage with real-world examples of sustainability, while teaching them to be comfortable in unfamiliar situations abroad. Students will participate in regionally specific tours, lectures, workshops, discussions, outdoor activities and reflections focused on sustainability. This trip is a chance for students to engage with science and engineering practitioners, and it allows students to develop a deeper understanding of the oft-discussed, but rarely understood concept of sustainability. Students will engage the local culture and economy, as they consider what it truly means to be sustainable.
UB students visit a Del Monte banana plantation as part of their trip to Costa Rica, where they learned about fruit management.
A worker cuts some bananas from a tree at the Del Monte banana plantation. The worker on the right is holding a pad that is placed between the bunches of bananas to prevent damage as they are transported back to the plant for processing.
A Del Monte worker inspects bunches of bananas for quality. Blemished fruit, such as the bunch seen here, is mashed and used for baby food.
UB students watch a presentation at the Miravalles geothermal plant in Guanacaste. Matt Dearstyne (seated at the table), a UB alum and communications coordinator for the Institute for Central American Development Studies, helped coordinate the activities for this study abroad trip and served as an interpreter.
The Miravalles volcano looms in the distance as the students walk to the geothermal plant where the electricity for the entire country is managed.
Members of John Atkinson's course, "Costa Rica: Sustainability in Latin America," pose for a picture with the Celsia wind project turbines in the background.
John Atkinson (foreground), assistant professor of civil, structural and environmental engineering, talks with one of his students during the tour of the Celsia wind farm in Guanacaste.
Students traversed some narrow — and wobbly — bridges to access the waterfalls at Las Hornillas mud pits and waterfalls.
The students took a day trip to the El Viejo sugar mill in Guanacaste Province, which is the largest sugar producer in Costa Rica and also generates 1.5 percent of the nation's electricity.
Students took a day trip to the Sol de Vida, a solar cooking project in Guanacaste Province. Here the students are learning about the non-GMO seeds that are utilized by the project.
Students visit the Quetzal Education Research Center, a biological field station operated by Southern Nazarene University in San Gerardo de Dota. Here they learned about the biodiversity of the cloud forest.