Have you ever wondered what it means to be green? Costa Rica has the reputation of being among the top-ranking eco-conscious countries in the world. Is it true or just effective marketing? 


Well as someone who has been here a while, I would have to say it’s really both: great marketing and actions taken to protect the environment. As the world has evolved and overuse of plastics in particular has caused an environmental crisis, local eco groups have really dug in and made a difference. 


Ecotarcoles in Puntarenas province, Tamarindo’s ADI group, Flamingo Beach Association, Playa Grande’s community and participating businesses, along with many other individuals, are very active with cleanups and recycling around the country. (John getting the other links)  Each one of these groups has many caring people putting forth great effort to make our surroundings and experiences better in Costa Rica. 


Commenting on one of my recent Facebook posts, a lady said she carries a bag with her while walking on the beach every day and picks up as she goes along. My reply to her was, isn’t it a shame that instead of enjoying the beauty surrounding us here, we spend time picking up so that it is beautiful? I want to thank those who do this and care enough to do this. It’s a shame that our time of enjoyment might be encumbered by the trash washed up on shore or the mess left behind by beachgoers. 


We are in for a change here: new people, new businesses and more.


The past year has been difficult for all of us. We have seen many people decide that living here is not the best option now and are moving back to their home countries. Living here has many challenges, and when an economic downturn happens, it amplifies the difficulties.


As many have left or are leaving, we need to be prepared for new arrivals. This year’s situation worldwide has also opened up the possibility of an influx of investors to Costa Rica — pursuing the dream of wanting to escape and live a “less” encumbered life. 


Caution: with this possible upswing of people moving here comes the issue of trusted sources, assuming pre-departure research has been done. Even those who feel well informed can succumb to the crazy thing that takes hold of people when they step off the plane and catch their first glimpse of the ocean or a palm tree. Something happens to their sense of groundedness in reality … out the window it goes. 


Having a happy experience here requires digging in, and that includes deeper layers with your so-called trusted sources. Don’t take the word of that guy you meet at a bar. Don’t just take the word of the realtor or the sales brochure either. Do your own homework. It can save you from falling into the pura vida trap as so many have done.


I’ve learned this the hard way. Only by digging in deep — to sift out the facts from the falsehoods — has it become possible for wrongs to gradually be made right. I sunk my teeth in and have relentlessly fought. It has been difficult, but well worth it.


I’m optimistic that it could be increasingly more difficult for the perpetrators of deceptive marketing tactics and other serious legal violations to get away with such wrongdoing. Things are changing in Costa Rica. This is no longer a wild west expat frontier where anything goes —   bribes, building without permits or with fraudulent permits, shrugging it off as easier to apologize than ask for permission … “that’s just how it is here.” These fringe ways of doing business are no longer acceptable. 


Why not, exactly, and why not now? Perhaps a pivotal turning point has been the ever-deepening concern for the environment and the need for Costa Rica to measure up to its green reputation. Turning a blind eye to dishonest, unethical and illegal conduct for the sake of business growth and development is not sustainable. It’s not sustainable economically because it’s not sustainable environmentally. 


In one instance I am personally familiar with, what’s at stake is not just in the wallets of condo owners who were conned by a colorful infographic depicting a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant that was supposedly on their property, but in fact, never existed. What’s at stake is the protected land and waterway adjacent to their property that was compromised by the builder’s shortcut measures to compensate. Reckless disregard for environmental law, as well as building code and health regulations, has been costly in more ways than one.


As this same developer proclaimed to prospective condo buyers when boasting about the treatment plant that existed on paper only, we all have a duty to the environment. This was a compelling inducement of trust in the integrity of the condominium project. 


While it was appallingly wrong to mislead clients that way, it is absolutely true that we all do have a duty to the environment. I believe it’s also our duty to expose those who are abusing that green pledge and exploiting Costa Rica’s reputation, especially when actually harming the environment in reality. 


We have chosen Costa Rica to call home. Our priority must be to keep it clean and green. We can also make a difference in protecting the country’s image by ensuring the reality is true green, not faux green. 


What shade of green are you?

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