Category Archives: community projects

The creation of the Agro-Costarrican Museum

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It would work as a tool to teach the children of the community about how to preserve what it’s been so hard to get, our land.
The museum will expose the history and development of the area, through the eyes of those founders who worked hard to make sure that their families had a place to live and be part of. The founders had the opportunity to give the community a message which was mainly said in these words “Let’s value and preserve what we have now, and teach the rest of the world that our community has been built to give visitors the opportunity to learn about our culture and our identity, and pass this along for many generations to come.
The construction would take close to 5 years, and would be located in the town of Chachagua, just 20 minutes from the town of La Fortuna and the Arenal Volcano.

We hope to see you there!

Help Pumas and Jaguars and get a Free Night at Lapa Rios

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By playing a critical role in Lapa Rios’ Wildcat Research Experience 2010, we will reward you with a free night of accommodation and your meals for one day at Costa Rica’s award winning Lapa Rios, with a minimum of four night stay between May 2nd and May 15th, 2010.

Lapa Rios has been supporting a local team of wildcat researchers and conservationists for several years and we would like to further involve our guests in the Jaguar, Puma and Wildcat Conservation Efforts through this once in a lifetime experience. 

During your four night stay at Lapa Rios in May 2010, you will be able to enjoy all of the regular tours and activities at the lodge, and we will also involve you in a variety of special activities revolving around Wildcat Conservation, such as: 

  • Attending a briefing on the status of the wildcat research and conservation program on the Osa Peninsula with project directors Aida Bustamante and Ricardo Moreno. 
  • Setting up and checking the heat sensor triggered cameras in the Lapa Rios Wildlife Reserve. These cameras are used to monitor the movement of jaguar, puma and other wildlife in the reserve and the Osa Peninsula. 
  • Hiking into the rainforest and helping collect wildcat footprints in the rainforest.
  • Learning how to conduct an analysis of the wild cats’ diets in the rainforest. 
  • Working along side locals who might have been hunters before and now are active in the conservation of the wildlife, flora and fauna of the Osa Peninsula.
  • Participating in talks given at local schools, community groups and hotels about the wildlife conservation program.
  • Setting up and testing the program that monitors the movement of peccaries (medium sized, wild piglike mammals) with the help of GPS collars, in the reserve and Osa Peninsula. 

For further Information and reservations, please contact us at info@laparios.com. For more information on the Wildcat Research conducted on the Osa Peninsula, please visit here.

Stephen Brooks Sustainable Costa Rica Living

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A number of months ago, we welcomed Stephen Brooks to Nature Blog. Stephen is a very high energy guy, who is on a mission in Costa Rica. He is an environmental warrior, a proponent of eating healthy foods, and an advocate for sustainable living. Presently, he is very involved in launching the Machuca community, an eco-village project in San Mateo de Orotina, located in the north Pacific region of the country. This serves as the back drop for Stephen’s current contribution. He has a great perspective on where we are at and where we need to be going and I encourage you to read on.

“In 1995, while on vacation in Costa Rica, I witnessed a playground full of indigenous children getting sprayed by a crop duster while playing Soccer. I learned how in order to grow cheaper and cheaper bananas entire ecosystems and countless lives are being destroyed, and this realization changed my life forever and led to a series of business mostly focused in Costa Rica.  I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could a society that has achieved so much be so destructive? We can zip around the world on jets and video chat through our cell phones and yet most of the food we eat is grown with harmful chemicals, while the last remaining sustainable farmers are less and less able to stay in business. So those who should be teaching the whole world how to become sustainable are themselves being lost to unsustainable global trends. We have to turn this around. We can’t think of anything more important to do and so that is what we are devoting our lives to. Whether its through the development of sustainable communities (Kopali Communities) or through the marketing of products grown and produced by sustainable farmers (Kopali Organics).

 Kopali Club HouseIt is always hard to imagine just how much work it takes to go from a dream to a real project that actually works. But after we experienced what it was like to live in harmony on a sustainable farm, we realized there are few things more important than working to make this way of life possible for others. Also, there is a race against time. Every day thousands of acres of irreplaceable rainforest and other ecosystems are being destroyed forever, countless family farmers are being driven off of their lands, and invaluable knowledge of how to live sustainably is being lost forever. All the while all kinds of real estate developments and planned communities are being developed in countries all over the world, sometimes even claiming to be “eco-friendly”. Creating successful and viable alternatives, is work we are called to do, even when the going gets tough. What else are we going to do?

Many people have a strong desire and calling to live in a sustainable farm based community. Many people have even been dreaming and planning this for a long time. But finding and securing land with good weather, water, fertile soil and where it is legal to live and farm are obstacles that very few have overcome. Also setting up the basic physical infrastructure to start living on the land is much more difficult than most people can imagine. So for too many their dreams remain just that, dreams. With Kopali, even though we are just getting started with the actual community of people who will live on the land, what’s already in place is a farm that has eternal spring weather, countless varieties of tropical fruit trees dripping with fruit, a river that you can dive into and swim in crystal clear water, lots that each have a legal title, spectacular communal gardens, a greenhouse filled with hundreds of varieties of edible and beautiful plants, ponds stocked with tilapia and fresh water clams, and the list goes on

Working wherever you are doing whatever you can to live more sustainably is critical regardless of where you live. Costa Rica is a very important country because of its unparalleled biodiversity, eco friendly laws, absence of military, perfect weather, and a ‘good life’ loving culture. And foreign interests and investments are already affecting the country in not so good ways. So for us working in Costa Rica to create alternatives to the otherwise destructive development practices that are becoming more and more prevalent is critical. Kopali will be a community where people of many different nationalities, including of course the local Tico (Costa Rican) community will be able to practice and teach sustainable living at its best. But that does not mean that Costa Rica is the only place to practice and teach sustainable living. Wherever we are, we all have to learn how to live in harmony with our communities and with the planet we all share!

The first time we learned how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere when flying back and forth from Costa Rica, we started a project called the Sustainable Solutions Caravan that drove buses that we modified to run on recycled vegetable oil as fuel from California all the way down to Costa Rica. It was one of the most effective and fun projects we ever did. We had the opportunity to not only prove that we could travel the distance on renewable (free) fuel, but also, because of all the media attention we got, we had the honor to speak to millions of people about sustainable solutions. These days we are not running the bus tours, but we are very aware of the trade offs involved in traveling. All of our travel is pretty much devoted to promoting sustainable lifestyles, and also the products grown by the network of farmers around the world that we support through our organic and fair trade snack line, Kopali Organics. We do our best, we are looking into carbon offsetting as much as possible, and still we look forward to the day when we ourselves travel less.

We live in an interconnected and globalized world. This is not going to change, or at least its not going to change any time soon. We are huge fans of local living communities that support local businesses, local farmers, and lifestyles that promote smaller ecological footprints.  There is so much talk about eating “locally grown” food.  How local can it be?  Can the land we live on also provide the food that we eat.  Can a planned community be created that takes this into account and works this into the very design and make up of the land it sits on.  That is what we have done here.  I have yet to experience this anywhere in the world.  I have seen a family or a few families living on land where they are able to grow most of the food that they eat, but a whole community or village striving to do this together???  Kopali Communities is the first!”

Geotourism Challenge 2009

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Every now and then an organization comes along and does something to inspire great change in the world.

Ashoka’s Changemakers is one of those organizations. The Geotourism Challenge is all about mutual inspiration, encouragement and innovation among social innovators worldwide.

Geotourism Challenge Competition logo

GreenSpot.travel has entered the competition. How are we innovating for social change? We aspire to help communities in the destinations we visit, and have started with our clothing project in the rural town of Chachagua, near the Arenal Volcano. While the community-run clothing store gets up and running, new plans are on the go for a community recycling program. We’re also working with another rural community in the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor by helping to jumpstart their community ecotourism initiatives.

Santuario Filaverde in Biological Corridor-  Ureña family Kids at local school in Chachagua

Read our competition entry here. Comments and suggestions are welcome in this “open-source” style of competition – this is how it is mutually inspiring. We take suggestions to make our projects better and we can learn from the other creative initiatives as well as comment on the other projects.  And everyone’s motivation is the desire for positive change. Now that’s healthy competition!

Tierra Del Volcan ¡n Ecuador

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The more places like Tierra del Volcan I discover in this world, the more optimistic I am about the future. GreenSpot.travel continues to find and showcase projects such as Tierra del Volcan because without them, the world of travel would not have such a bright future.

Tierra del Volcan is doing so many great things in Ecuador, it’s hard to list them all. But I’d like to take the opportunity here to describe some of the services for the community, some of the creative and innovative green building technologies they are using, and just how well they are embodying the philosophy of ecotourism.

Tierra del Volcan

A little about Tierra del Volcan:

Tierra del Volcan (Volcano Land) High Adventure, operates three working haciendas or farms: Hacienda El Porvenir, Hacienda El Tambo Quilindana and Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve, in the region surrounding the Cotopaxi Volcano, each one with its charm, ecosystem and distinctive touch. This area is known as the land of the four corners due to the four surrounding volcanoes: A  Rumiahui 4,712 m (15,455 ft), Pasochoa 4200 m (13,776 ft), Sincholagua 4893 m (16049 ft) and Quilindana 4878 m (16000 ft), with snow capped Cotopaxi at it’s center.

A broad range of activities are available on the haciendas, from horseback riding while experiencing the culture of the Chagra (the Ecuadorian highland cowboy), dining in traditional straw-roofed farmhouses, camping in small valleys hidden between mountain folds, trekking around the premises taking in the magnificent scenery, climbing impressive peaks immersed in awe-inspiring landscapes. At the farmhouses they provide the chance to participate in the daily life of the haciendas or relax in front of a crackling fire.

Tierra Del Volcan views

Their philosophy “Mi casa es su casa” encompasses not only the service they provide, but their goals of protecting the surrounding natural environment and investing in social and educational development of their local communities.

Tierra del Volcan has been recognized for their initiatives by United Nations World Tourism Organization as a company committed to sustainable practices, they have partnered with the Nature Conservancy in the conservation of the Condor Bio Reserve- a conservation corridor that links several protected areas of the SNAP (Ecuadorian National Park and Preserved Areas System) and are certified for their ecotourism practices by the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism and Smart Voyager 2008.

Tierra del Volcan has been very active over the past decade in the conservation of the Paramos, native threatened vegetation, by commissioning studies, contributing volunteers, training local people, creating monitoring programs and conducting large scale reforestation.

Maybe most impressive are the construction and operations of their haciendas.

Tierra del Volcan Santa RitaHacienda El Porvenir is their main center of operation. It is a traditional hacienda house build 20 years ago in traditional constructive methods such as earth bricks (adobe), hay roof and wood. This house was initially built to lodge the family, but in 1999 was adapted for tourism needs. Since opening their doors to guests form all over the world, they have learned about sustainable development, better ecotourism practices and strong community relations and much more.

Carbon reduction

“We are a  forward- looking company committed to the preservation of Natural Resources, therefore we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and compensate them 100% by 2015. Some of the actions taken to fulfil this goal are:

•    Waste management (reduce, reuse and recycle, plus composting organic wate)
•    Reduce energy consumption ( by replacing light bulbs with saving bulbs, training staff and increasing awareness of tourists about energy consumption,  building strategies to save electricity by taking advantage of natural light, building strategies to isolate cold weather and minimize the heat loss, drying clothes and hotel implements with wind and sun.
•    House temperature and heating – chimneys are one of the heating mechanisms used for the house. Our commitment is that we only burn eucalyptus wood (an introduced tree specie that is highly efficient) that we bring from plantations of timber from the valleys. Also we have planted 200 hectares of native trees to give back to the land, something we are using.

•    Purchasing policies to buy less contaminating and more energy saving products.
•    Eradicate “slash and burn” traditional practices at the three haciendas we run.”

Community support and education  programs

Ecology club: The ecology club was founded to improve the scientific knowledge of the students from the Loreto and Pedregal schools nearby.

Tierra Del Volcan school programIn the Club children of different ages can discuss themes as geology, biology, ecology, chemistry and geography among others. The Club’s activities also focus on waste management, cleaning of natural environments and pollution. All those activities are backed with experiments, artistic expressions and field trips.

This program is funded by volunteers who come to the participate in the program for at least one month. 35 per cent of the total value that each volunteer contributes is used for the acquisition of materials.

Volunteers for the school program:  The volunteers’ project for the schools is an initiative that was deemed necessary by the schools and its teachers. The volunteers assist the classes and help the teachers with the school management and lesson preparation. They also teach English, arts, theatre and sports.

Informal meetings and motivating courses for sustainable development:
Various informal meetings with the Loreto and Pedregal communities about: The importance of a conservation policy for all of us and the future generations.

Adaptation of the schools and installations
:Volunteers paint the schools, update the installations, make sure that the hygienic services work well and assess the overall needs of the schools so that they can be provided. Programs have been worked out with the schools located in the central area of the National Park of Cotopaxi.

Reforestation
: With support from international volunteers more than 2000 species of native trees have been bought and planted; raised at the community’s green house in 2008. This program will help to recover eroded land on the wetlands of Pita River, one of the water reservoirs of Quito.

Cotopaxi: an active volcano:
The volcano “Cotopaxi” is considered a volcano with a moderate to high risk to explode. Therefore it is of significant importance to take certain measurements against the risks involved in case of an eruption. This program evaluated the present situation of the inhabitants of the Cotopaxi area regarding the knowledge they possess about the risks a volcano eruption can cause. It was found that the inhabitants of the area had little knowledge of such risks.

Tierra del Volcan

The project “Cotopaxi; An active volcano” has as first objective to find solutions to future risks regarding the activity of the Cotopaxi volcano. It works with the different actors who are in the risk zone, educating the people in order to prevent human disasters and to minimize loss of materials.

They try to achieve integration between the different actors; communities, haciendas, farmers, tour operators etc. in order to work together on themes like healthiness, evacuation, education and others.

The project has evolved since it was born (2003) and since 2006 Tierra del Volcan is promoting Semana del Volcan ( Week of the Volcano) working with local school and presenting this new knowledge to the community in Open Houses; working with the women and young members of the community in Volcanic Hand Crafts, as an economic solution and for people living in high risk areas.

For further information about these projects please contact:
mariajose@tierradelvolcan.com  or visit Tierra del Volcan at: http://www.tierradelvolcan.com/

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