As a leading operator of nature and outdoor adventure tours, we at Costa Rica Sun Tours feel it is our responsibility to establish procedures in our office, our homes and on tours with our guests that help protect our natural environments, promote sustainable practices, and set an example that others should emulate. The following text illustrates some of our practices.
We believe tourism should be educational as well as entertaining, and needs to be sustainable. On each tour we try to impact the environment as little as possible, to recycle, and to support the local communities we visit. All guides follow strict “green ethics”. Waste materials are packed out of the forest and collection of any kind is forbidden. We prefer to use smaller hotels that share our environmental approach and beneficially involve the local people.
In our travel information given to all our guests, we establish guidelines for them to follow while on tour in Costa Rica. We make recommendations that they: respect local cultures, don’t buy souvenirs made from endangered trees, and avoid using disposable plastic water bottles, among others.
For the past three years Costa Rica Sun Tours has been planting trees to compensate for greenhouse gases emitted by our activities. We participated in a Climate Change Action program in conjunction with Control Union Certification to help determine what our business’s greenhouse emissions were, in order to be able to try to neutralize or at least reduce these by planting trees. Our office staff participated in the tree planting.
Our office personnel participated in a workshop given by Rainforest Alliance to learn how we can minimize our carbon footprint. The workshop topic was on Sustainable Practices that can and should be implemented at home, in the office, and in the field.
We try to reduce paper waste by minimizing printing and reusing the blank back sides of printed material for in-office use. For several years now we have been recycling our office papers and now have expanded this practice to include materials from our staff’s homes. As many communities in the country do not offer recycling, our office now has a program where employees can bring in items to be recycled from home. These items are picked up together with our recyclable office material and collected by the Municipality of San Jose (where our office is located) which does recycle.
To reduce our office water consumption, we recently installed a rainwater collection system and use this water to wash our company’s tour vehicles and to water grass and plants in the garden.
Because of our environmental commitment, our company was among the first in Costa Rica to receive the Certificate of Sustainable Tourism designation, awarded by the Costa Rican Tourism Board. This award is given to companies who consistently achieve or exceed their standards of environmental sustainability, business ethics and cultural sensitivity. Additionally, we support conservation projects in Costa Rica ranging from rural development programs to sea turtle nest protection and community education programs. Altogether, all these efforts have been recognized with an Ecotourism Excellence Award from Conservation International.
We are not content to end here. We will continue to search for other ways we can reduce negative impacts on our environment and promote sustainable practices and serve as an example we hope others will follow..
Guidelines for the Responsible Traveler
- Wildlife and natural habitats must not be needlessly disturbed.
- There must be no commerce in wildlife, wildlife products or native plants.
- Tourism should be a positive influence on local communities.
- Tourism should be culturally sensitive.
- Tourists should leave with a greater understanding of the local culture and appreciation of nature, conservation and the environment.
- Tourism should strengthen conservation efforts and enhance the natural integrity of places visited.
More responsible travel tips:
- Buy locally – buying locally made souvenirs and eating and drinking at local cafes and restaurants. Locally produced foods are a tastier and more sustainable option and also benefit the local community.
- Wildlife viewing: learn about wildlife viewing guidelines and appropriate behaviours before you go. Be sure to maintain a respectful distance when viewing and photographing wildlife. Your guide’s spotting scope and the use of zoom lenses minimize wildlife disturbance when taking pictures.
- Please do not have your photo taken with any ‘wild animals’ – these animals are often taken from the wild when young, and are often mistreated and killed when they get too large or difficult to handle.
- Book trips with a licensed and trained guide – so that you can enjoy your day out and the wild animals are not disturbed or threatened by your presence.
- Please don’t buy products made from endangered or wild animals and plants – Endangered plants and animals need our help to protect them!
- Please use water sparingly – take short showers rather than baths, and inform staff if you are happy to reuse towels and bed linen rather than having them replaced daily. Many hot countries suffer from periods of drought and this will help to conserve water.
- Turn down/off heating and air-conditioning when not required – and turn off the TV rather than leaving it on standby.
- Charge Your Trip Sustainably: Whenever possible, utilize options that do not require batteries. Buy rechargeable batteries for your essential travel items such as cameras, razors, and flash lights.
- Unplug Before You Leave: Turn off lights and unplug household appliances that can be left unplugged while you are away.
- Travel Light: Pack only what you need, and don’t bring things that will become waste. By reducing the weight of luggage travelers can significantly cut green house gas emissions.
- Portable water: Bring your own reusable water bottle to avoid buying bottled water.
- Offset the Unavoidable Footprint: Contribute to a credible carbon offsetting program to support conservation, renewable energy, and other energy saving projects.
- Be sensitive to where and when to take photos of people and places. Always ask first.
- Language: Learn a few words of the local language. Try saying basic phrases whenever you can.
- Respect the local culture and traditions – dress and act appropriately for the place that you are visiting- do a little background reading before you go away or ask your holiday rep for advice.
- Feedback: Let your hotels and local operators if you like what they are doing to operate responsibly. Make specific suggestions on what you would like to see changed.
- Behavior: Be respectful of local citizens’ privacy. Ask permission before entering homes or private land.
- We are part of the Paniamor program, in which we express our commitment not to participate in the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, and furthermore, we have the duty to report any such activity, weather it involves our guests or not.
- Make sure not leave trash behind your stay at natural areas. LEAVE ONLY YOUR GREEN FOOTPRINT.
- Be part of recycling programs whenever possible.
- Dispose your garbage properly and minimize your consumption of water and energy.
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