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Ecotourism students practice IUPUI’s green travel tips on trip to Costa Rica

Jul 26, 2023

View of Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest during sunrise. Photo courtesy of Belen Alvarado View of Costa Rica's Monteverde Cloud Forest during sunrise. Photo courtesy of Belen AlvaradoIUPUI students were able to practice the lessons they learned in an ecotourism class when they visited Costa Rica this summer, traveling through various towns and learning more about the Central American country’s sustainable practices and progressive environmental policies.

Instructors designed the trip using IUPUI’s Green Travel Guide so the students could demonstrate how they practiced sustainability on their journey. The guide was created by the IUPUI Office of Sustainability to inform travelers about ways to minimize their environmental impact while exploring new places. Costa Rica was selected as the class’s destination because it is well known for its ecotourism and sustainable practices.

“Everything about the course was about traveling sustainably: staying in eco-lodges, eating and shopping locally, only going on tours with local residents to ensure money stayed within the community,” said Amanda Cecil, professor of tourism, event and sport management in the Indiana University School of Health & Human Sciences at IUPUI.

Students visited with a local family to learn more about farming in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Natalie Walters Students visited with a local family to learn more about farming in Costa Rica. Photo courtesy of Natalie WaltersThe trip started off in the capital, San Jose, where students took a day trip to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and visited a family farm. There, they fished for trout for that night’s dinner and learned more about sustainable farming. Next, they stopped in La Fortuna and visited the Fortuna River waterfall, which is managed sustainably by a local nonprofit. They also visited the local co-op to better understand how tourists’ money is used.

One of the main focuses of this trip was learning to reduce waste, beginning by ditching plastic water bottles for reusable ones. They also made sure to not print items and ensure they turned off any lights that weren’t in use to reduce their carbon footprint.

“When we visited La Fortuna, we went to the recycling plant,” said School of Health & Human Sciences Dean Rafael Bahamonde, who accompanied the class on the trip. “They try to recycle everything and give the profits back to the town.”

Many of the students’ activities were planned to truly engage with the community, including cultural dance classes and cooking dinner with a family on a local farm. Students spent a day at the National University of Costa Rica, working through sustainability issues with students there.

The Topiary Gardens in Zarcero, Costa Rica, were among the students' stops on their green journey. Photo courtesy of Samuel... The Topiary Gardens in Zarcero, Costa Rica, were among the students' stops on their green journey. Photo courtesy of Samuel McCarley

Other outings on the trip included hiking, visiting national parks, swimming in hot springs, taking a chocolate tour and other unique activities with locals.

Here are some tips Cecil and Bahamonde have for anyone wanting to travel more sustainably:

  • Plan ahead: Look for airlines and hotels that focus on reducing emissions. Many booking websites show which airlines and hotels are the most emissions friendly.
  • Only the essentials: Pack only what you need, and carry a reusable water bottle. Be thoughtful, from the time you leave home to your arrival, about what resources you are using.
  • Limit printing: Airline tickets can be saved digitally, and maps and other tourist information can be saved on your phone as well.
  • Give back to the community: Only eat at local restaurants and shop from local vendors. Ensure you are buying responsibly; only buy locally made items that you truly need. The best way to give back is by injecting money into the same community.
  • Respect the local communities: Learn about the culture and learn from the residents. Take every opportunity you get to immerse yourself into the local culture, such as taking cooking or dancing classes.
  • Minimize waste: Try to hand wash clothes if necessary. Pack a reusable water bottle and reusable straw if needed. Recycle what you can, and ensure you turn off lights when not in use. When packing, use refillable toiletry bottles to avoid using store-bought travel-size products.

Author

University Communications and Marketing

Jocelyn Aguilar

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