Keeping Costa Rica Green: How We Are Giving Back

If you have experienced a trip to Costa Rica, you already know that feeling. Nature surrounds you and wildlife enamors you, not to mention the exotic plants and flowers, scenic waterfalls, and pristine beaches. Costa Rica feels alive! It’s a feeling that you don’t want to let go of and one that we certainly don’t want to ever lose. Today we are announcing one way that our company, Two Weeks in Costa Rica, is giving back. We’ll also share how you can take part.  

The lush green landscape of Costa Rica

Our Initiative

It has always been our goal to give back to the place we love and now call home. With two little boys born and being raised here, we find it even more important.

We both have environmental backgrounds. Matt has a degree in environmental science and studied biology in college. Jenn studied environmental law and still is a lawyer in the United States. Though our paths have changed since our move to Costa Rica in 2013, we still try to do our part for the environment.  

With a growing website and travel agency, we feel lucky that we can do something to help keep Costa Rica green, thriving, and a special place for generations to come.

Today, we’re happy to announce a small partnership with Community Carbon Trees. We feel this organization is making a positive impact on the environment by planting trees and offsetting carbon. They do so while educating and enabling the local community to grow and maintain the trees. The model of Community Carbon Trees is unique and has proven to be very effective. You can read more about them below.

Costa Rica Tree Planting Program

Doing Our Part

To kick off our campaign, Two Weeks in Costa Rica is making an initial donation of $2,500 to Community Carbon Trees. This amount will help the organization plant and maintain an ecological corridor with about 100 trees. It also will help nurture relationships with local farmers and community groups.

How You Can Help

We hope our initial donation will make a small impact but are sure that our readers and clients can multiply the efforts.

Each $25 donation plants and cares for one tree until it is mature enough to grow on its own. That means planting, plus paying locals to perform 4-6 years of maintenance. Each tree will offset an impressive one ton of carbon over 25 years.

Here are three ways you can contribute.

1) Plant Trees with Your Shuttle Order – If you book shuttle transfers through our website, you will see the option to add a donation to your order. 100% of those donations will be passed on to Community Carbon Trees (Two Weeks in Costa Rica, Inc. will cover the credit card commissions that are charged).

2) Add Trees When Booking Tours – If you are using our Tour Booking Service, please notify us if you would like to make a donation to Community Carbon Trees. We will add it as a line item on your invoice. Again, 100% of those donations will be passed on to Community Carbon Trees, and we will cover the PayPal commissions that are charged.

3) Donate Directly to Community Carbon Trees – If you are not using any of our website services or just want to donate directly, you can do so through the Community Carbon Trees website. They even have an option for tax deductible donations. If you make a donation, please let us know in the comments below so we know that our outreach is working!

Community Carbon Trees Logo

More About Community Carbon Trees

Overview

Plenty of organizations plants trees these days, thousands or even millions of them. But what happens next? Within the first two years, unfortunately, a high percentage of these tiny saplings are suffocated by weeds, killed by drought, or mowed over by machinery. They are planted but not given a chance.  

Community Carbon Trees is different. This non-profit organization enlists local farmers (usually cattle farmers) to plant trees on parts of their vast, grassy properties. A section of land is chosen near an existing patch of jungle or along a stream. This develops wildlife corridors that allow animals to safely move from one area to another. It also creates natural buffer zones between farming and development, and the rainforest.

Using donation money and grants, Community Carbon Trees pays the farmers to plant, fence off, and maintain the saplings. They periodically chop the grasses around them and protect them from harm. If one dies, they are given another tree to replace it.

A patch of farm field surrounded by jungle

Incentivizing Farmers

As an incentive, the farmers are paid by Community Carbon Trees each year to maintain the trees for about 4-6 years. This provides an important incentive for the farmers to keep the reforested land intact and not use it for farming or ranching.

After 4-6 years, the trees are mature enough to survive alone but are also making an impact on the property. Hardwoods start to shade the soil and keep it from drying out. Wildlife begins to return. Fruit trees also start producing.

The farmers can then sell the fruits, seeds, nuts, and syrups locally. Often, they profit more from the tree-program efforts than they had from their traditional cattle farming.   

Ongoing Involvement

The process doesn’t end there, though. For a total of 25 years, the farmers are in contact with Community Carbon Trees’ passionate staff and volunteers. Each year, they gather to compare notes and see how things are progressing. At some farms, it may be agreed that mature hardwoods can be selectively harvested with new trees planted to replace them. And so, a sustainable cycle continues.

This model has been developed and tweaked since 2009. The program has planted and cared for over 22,000 trees and built relationships with dozens of farmers. Remember, those trees were not just plugged into the ground and left to die; those trees are still growing and thriving today.

We hope that our efforts can help Community Carbon Trees continue to expand, thrive, and plant many more trees.

Why Does Costa Rica Need Help?

While Costa Rica already has more than 25% of its territory in protected lands, there is still about 75% that is subject to clearcutting, development, and large-scale farming. The more popular Costa Rica gets as a tourist and live-abroad destination, the more we encroach on the natural environment. This is a problem that is happening right now in popular areas of the country.

These impacts are already felt in Costa Rica. Water is scarce in the dry months, temperatures are rising, oceans are affected, and wildlife is stressed by development. Of course, there has to be a balance. We need development, but we need to remember why we love this place—the spectacular environment around us.

Global Impact

Additionally, there is a global impact here. We have all learned about the impact of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere and have heard about how the planet is warming and changing. If you are interested in helping offset the CO2 emissions caused by your trip, planting trees through this program is an excellent solution.

For each tropical tree that is planted through Community Carbon Trees, approximately one ton of carbon is offset over 25 years.

To give you an idea, here is the carbon impact of some popular flights.

Carbon Emissions Flying to Costa Rica
Stats from Community Carbon Trees

*For more carbon-impact information, see this page on Community Carbon Trees’ website.

As you can see, the amount of carbon produced from airfare alone really adds up per person. Another reason to plant trees for your trip!

Conclusion

We hope that this alliance with Community Carbon Trees makes a positive impact in Costa Rica and for the world. But we can’t do it without your help. Please consider donating directly or adding trees to the services we offer on our website. When you gaze into the green canopy, splash into a clear waterfall pool, or have wildlife trot across your path, you will be happy that you did.

For much more about Community Carbon Trees and their passionate leader Jennifer Leigh Smith, visit their website.

Did you make a donation? Leave us a comment below!

Want to get more involved? Visit the farms and see the work being done: https://www.communitycarbontrees.org/events

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7 Comments

  1. No donation just yet but I will interact with my family in that regard. We did not know about your business when we visited for the first time and were so thrilled with CR in 2019. I’m a retired hobby photographer with good gear just dying to return after this cursed Covid.

    Jack

      1. I’m curious, probably this is not charitable relative to a tax receipt in Canada?? Not a big problem if it isn’t but something that maybe could be considered.

        We really want to return soon but one issue is that car rental seems to be almost mandatory but it is expensive. One thought is to try to focus on staying in one area and maybe paying for taxi if that’s feasible. I’m nuts about wildlife photography but am not loaded with $$ so we go “economy”. https://gurushots.com/JackDouglas/photos
        We’ve appreciated your excellent articles and thumbs up for making it a success. Our favourite areas so far: Monte Verde, Carara, San Gerardo de Dota for hiking and photos.

        Jack

        1. Hi Jack, I think Community Carbon Trees has an option for making your donation tax exempt if you do it directly through their website so you could check that out.

          There are some places to visit where you don’t need a rental car (see our article on Best Beach Towns to Visit Without a Car). Many of these aren’t the best for wildlife viewing/photography, though. It’s touristy, but Manuel Antonio is a good option since taxis are easy to get and things aren’t too spread out. It has a ton of easy to spot wildlife too. Uvita/Dominical would be worth checking out if you decide to get a car. Awesome wildlife and scenery!

  2. Thank you so much for doing this! I have already donated $100 for trees specifically in the Osa Peninsula and then recently discovered Community Carbon Trees through whom all my future donations will now go. I too am an American now living in Costa Rica for 7+ years and author the Blog “Retired In Costa Rica” featuring my nature photography. Starting now, 100% of the profits from my photos or photo books sold will go to Community Carbon Trees. That will include the ones sold at an Arts & Crafts “Just in Time for Christmas” Show in November here in Atenas, Alajuela Province. May your tribe increase and thousands more trees be planted! 🙂

  3. Just a comment here, no $ donations. Central America comprises of some 44 million inhabitants, Cost Rica 4.8 million. Where the current population growth within CR is exploding is in urban areas and adjacent urban areas, that comprises 85% of the entire countries population. Urban areas are not only paved and impermeable but have significantly reduced canopy cover. That is because of lessor trees that are found in cities compared to the outer forest and pasture hinterlands. With that it makes far more sense (and of course more challenging) to plant and grow trees in urban areas, where upon maturity those trees will directly reach more people for the range of human health and environmental benefits and services that trees are able to deliver. Urban Forestry may still be in its infancy in CR but the more of the public shows an interest, may drive government officials to pursue urban trees and urban forests and their management as a national policy.

  4. With 85% of the Costa Rican population residing in dense urban areas, typically devoid or denuded of many of its trees its seems that urban trees and the creation of a beneficial Urban Forest would be the call of the day. Reforestation efforts of once treed pastures can and will re-seed by self seeding from neighboring trees and forest stands in a matter few short years especially in the tropics. But not in urban areas that require active planting programs like this one. Urban areas has so many known urban ills- prone to stormwater flooding, air pollution and harmful particulate matter, the Heat Island Effect from over paving, urban noise etc can all be alleviated and ameliorated by growing trees and creating a urban tree canopy (UTC). Something to consider. Reach out to CATIE and see their tree experts that might be able to assist.

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