Costa Rica: Sustainability in Latin America


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 464 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.