By: Carolyn Kovacs, M.S.

Posted: April 20, 2018
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Faculty Post

Sustainability Projects in Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Protecting, Processing, and Preserving through Sustainability Projects in Costa Rica

The Costa Rica Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) focuses on development by both studying responsible policy throughout the country and as it applies to our own community. While at CSDS, students can expect to conduct experiments in the field as well as experimenting with our values and relationships to nature. Many issues related to resource extraction, consumption and personal responsibility arise in the Environmental Ethics and Development class. These discussions have generated suggestions that serve as a springboard for improvements through Sustainable Solutions student projects conduct as part of the Environmental Ethics course. Through these projects students identify a practice that helps us meet our sustainability objectives then implement and evaluate the outcomes of those solutions.

Students’ fresh perspectives and experiences at other schools and organizations have sparked a wide variety of sustainable initiatives. In past semesters we have reduced energy use by installing movement sensor light bulbs, water waste with touch-release water faucets and a rain water shower. This semester students have continued to focus on water use issues, since the local area faces serious water shortages, by changing flushing mechanisms in the toilets and implement communal, instead of individual, dish washing in the dorms.

Other student projects center on many ways of re-purposing or reusing existing resources in creative ways. One pair of students introduced the group to turning non-recyclable bags into plastic yarn to knit carrier bags and rugs. Another project involves growing plants like aloe and citronella in a garden near the dorm and creating an instruction book for making natural products such as insect repellent and moisturizers. The Center has been made more inviting by a student-designed mural made of reclaimed tiles from stores in town. Another group has decorated pots with plant-dyed fabrics and brought succulents into the student living space. And a peer-to-peer guide on gender issues in modern culture addresses an aspect of social sustainability. An ongoing effort has been made to grow a wider selection of foods at the Center and incorporate them into our diet. In addition to creating a cookbook to share ideas with the cooks, we had our first harvesting and food processing activity in February. We used oranges from our orchard to make orange marmalade, mint orange juice and sorbet. We incorporated turmeric (curcuma in Spanish), an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, from a nearby organic farm in golden milk (see recipe below). We plan to expand the recipe book as future groups grow and make items from local ingredients.

As the semester progresses we will evaluate the amount of resources saved by each project and how well they function for our community. These projects enable us to break from our learned behaviors of over consumption and convenience in favor for simple, local and sustainable options. Through these projects we have incorporated Costa Rica’s botanical abundance and wealth of local knowledge into our daily lives.


CSDS during the harvesting and processing activity


Marmalade made of oranges from the Center’s orchard


Golden milk, made of spices from a local organic farm


Creamy, easy golden milk with dairy-free milk, ginger, turmeric, and coconut oil. Naturally sweetened, incredibly healthy, and so delicious. Note that some form of oil and pepper are necessary to enable the body to absorb the nutrients from the turmeric.

Beverage, vegan, gluten-free


  • 3 cups light coconut or almond milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp. ground fresh ginger
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • Sweetener of choice (e.g. maple syrup, coconut sugar, or stevia to taste)

    1. To a small saucepan, add coconut milk, ground turmeric, ground ginger, cinnamon stick, coconut oil, black pepper, and sweetener of choice.
    2. Whisk to combine and warm over medium heat. Heat until hot to the touch but not boiling – about 4 minutes – whisking frequently.
    3. Turn off heat and taste to adjust flavor. Add more sweetener to taste or more turmeric or ginger for intense spice + flavor.
    4. Serve immediately, dividing between two glasses and leaving the cinnamon stick behind. Leftovers can be stored covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Can also be served cold over ice.

→ Sustainable Development Studies in Costa Rica

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