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ECOsta Rica?

Costa Rica offers a range of eco-friendly holidays. Tom Barber takes a tour.

Several destinations around the world have jumped on the eco-tourism bandwagon purely because they feel it’s a canny marketing hook. But not Costa Rica – a country that has been walking the environmentally-friendly walk for decades.

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Costa Rica offers a range of eco-friendly holidays. Tom Barber takes a tour.

Several destinations around the world have jumped on the eco-tourism bandwagon purely because they feel it’s a canny marketing hook. But not Costa Rica – a country that has been walking the environmentally-friendly walk for decades.

The country has hundreds of accredited eco-lodges. At 25 percent, its national parks represent the highest proportion of any nation’s land mass on the planet, and even the tourist board’s slogan is ‘No artificial ingredients’. For a pocket-sized country, there’s an extraordinary diversity of ecosystems, from the wetlands and turtle sanctuaries of the Caribbean coast through the upland cloudforests of its central mountainous spine to the tropical rainforests on its Pacific coast.

The capital, San José, is the starting point for inbound visitors and, while pleasant enough, probably doesn’t warrant more than a night or two’s stay after the flight from Miami. Then it’s best to head east to the Caribbean and work your way west to the Pacific.

Caribbean

The key destination on the Caribbean coast is the Tortuguero National Park, one of the last large areas of tropical rainforest in Central America. These forests are bisected by a latticework of slow-moving tropical rivers that’s home to river otters, caimans, monkeys and birds such as toucans and eight species of parrot. The best way to explore is in flat-bottomed and open-topped boats in the company of an – invariably excellent – guide. Visitors are given full-length ponchos on board because, this being rainforest, it can and very often does chuck it down for about five intense minutes. The park’s beaches are also a prime nesting ground for endangered green turtles, which come ashore to lay their eggs between June and October. You can even enrol as a conservation volunteer to patrol the nesting areas in these months.

Cloudforests

Next stop: the cloudforests of Monteverde and the smoking presence of volcanic Mount Arenal and surrounding hot springs in Costa Rica’s mountainous interior. The thermal waters here extend to the pool at the Arenal Nayara Hotel, the best place to stay near the volcano. The Monteverde cloudforest itself is also something of a statistician’s dream – think eight different ecological zones, 100 species of mammal, 400 species of bird and 1,500 plant varieties. Do keep your eyes peeled, especially for the resplendent quetzal, the emerald tucanet, white-faced and howler monkeys and the endangered jaguar.

Pacific

eco-lodge On the Pacific coast, the Osa Peninsulais “the most biologically intense place on earth”, according to National Geographic. On arrival at the wonderful Lapa Rios eco-lodge, the walk to the guest rooms might as well be a safari, thanks to the number of animals spotted en route, including monkeys, coatimundis and cane toads the size of large cannonballs. It is an incredibly comfortable place to stay. The lodge sits in 1,000 acres of pristine primary rainforest and is almost entirely self-sustainable, with palms planted to replace old thatch for the roofs and solar panels to heat the water. Guests pre-order meals to cut down on food waste and the local community benefits hugely from the lodge, which paid for a village school.

Lapa Rios could also be your base to explore the 43,000-hectare Corcovado National Park, with its ecosystems of rainforests, swamps, rivers, lagoons, marshes and beaches. It is home to endangered species such as Baird’s tapir, the white-lipped peccary, jaguars, ocelots, crocodiles, giant anteaters, scarlet macaws and the harpy eagle. In fact, the catwalk show of creatures continues beneath the waves at Cano Island, a biological reserve that offers superb snorkelling and, for experienced divers, excellent deep dives with large schools of jacks, barracudas, manta rays and sharks, as well as migrating humpback whales in December and January.

By now you will also have adapted to a different daily rhythm and become a bit wild yourself. When staying in these remote lodges, it’s impossible to sleep once the dawn chorus, led by the howler monkey (the loudest of all land animals), kicks off. However, come the evening there’s very little to do after dinner, so most guests retire to bed early. It all feels rather natural and completely in keeping with the place.

Original Travel (020 7978 7333, www.originaltravel.co.uk) offers trips to Costa Rica from £3,500 per person, which includes international flights via Miami, domestic flights, transfers and 14 nights’ accommodation in Central Valley, Tortuguero National Park, Osa Peninsula, Arenal, Monteverde and Nicoya Peninsula (for some well-earned beach time). All breakfasts are included and you get full board at the lodges in Tortuguero National Park and Osa Peninsula.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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