Athens, Ga. – The Certification for Sustainable Tourism program in Costa Rica recently recognized the University of Georgia’s satellite campus in Costa Rica as one of its “Four Leaves” level institutions operating in the country. Run by the Costa Rican Tourism Board, the CST awards excellence in natural, cultural, and social resource management. To receive level four recognition, UGA Costa Rica scored better than 80 percent in all four categories related to sustainability: impact on the biological/physical surroundings; building and materials management; external client relations and outreach; and socio-economic impact on the local community.
This latest award made special note of the program’s dedication to the social impact on the community. In the socio-economic component, UGA Costa Rica received a perfect score of 100 percent, indicating a high level of respect and responsibility for local employees, while it scored 97 percent in the external client outreach category and more than 90 percent in care for the biophysical environment. Thirty-eight of the campus staff members are from the surrounding community, and they are involved in an extensive program of outreach and education on important sustainability issues. The campus only barely missed qualifying for the top level of recognition, “Five Leaves”-representing a score of 90 percent or better in all categories. The program is well on its way to achieving the next level, with planned improvements in its renewable energy infrastructure in the works.
“Sustainability is at the heart of our mission,” said Quint Newcomer, director of UGA Costa Rica, “and our formal pursuit of these goals reflects our commitment to that mission.”
UGA Costa Rica has been involved in the CST program since 1998 and is consistently acknowledged as a high-level leader in the field. The institution produces a biennial sustainability report which tracks the initiatives and progress of the campus, the latest of which will be published in the December. Students interested in sustainability have the opportunity to participate in internships with UGA Costa Rica every summer. Interns help to perform an annual sustainability audit of the campus, which forms the basis of the published reports.
The message of sustainability resonates beyond Costa Rica. The dedication to the cause has extended all the way back to the Office of International Education itself. The OIE was one of the initial participants in the “Green Office” program through the UGA Office of Sustainability. The program seeks to promote positive energy and materials practices in university offices. “We try to practice what we teach,” says Newcomer.