Friday, June 25, 2010

Sustainable Living in Costa Rica

Costa Rican Home

Sustainable living is a lifestyle with the goal to reduce the usage of natural resources through a change in transportation, energy use, and food consumption. At this small farm in Costa Rica, sustainability starts in the home where free wind energy is used dry clothes. Another plus is the creation of a garden where food is harvested in the backyard. This lowers carbon emissions that come from food transport.


To begin my tour, I walked down the grass path that divided the gardens. Herbs and fruit trees including bananas were included in the gardens. Some of the different plants are Lemon grass, mint, bay, ginger, citronella, and yucca.

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Above is a Bay tree. Commonly used to flavor soups and other dishes.


This bushy lemon grass plant is used in flavoring teas and marinades. It promotes digestion, is used as a mild insect repellant, and is said to relieve coughing and nasal congestion. 


This solar dryer is used in drying herbs. It was very warm inside!


Bamboo poles are useful in creating raised beds for planting.


Professors at EARTH University oversee this project with different methods of container gardening.


This cool hanging container garden has holes for plants to grow out of and cups sticking out which act as a funnel in collecting water. The funnels are similar to an Aqua Globe with the way they slowly release water into the soil.


Animals on the property provide a local food source and income to keep things running. I chuckled as the duck jumped in an attempt to eat leaves growing on one of the trees. The ducks help reduce pests in the garden.


The Costa Rican woman who owns the property also has her own soap making business to provide income. Her property is a great example of sustainable living. Sustainable living can be modeled by a individual or even by a entire community. Sustainability is a way of life that can help make our planet cleaner and safer.

Check out some environmentally responsible changes you can make in your daily life at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bananas for Whole Foods & Banana Paper Production at EARTH in CR


EARTH University has 3,000 acres of bananas grown sustainably and traditionally. For more than fifteen years EARTH’s students and staff have been experimenting with organic techniques on the banana farm located on the EARTH campus. The banana farms are located on the campuses in Guacimo and Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

EARTH’s sustainable methods provide a positive model in the banana industry. EARTH does not use herbicides, but instead hand picks weeds. EARTH’s use of organic post-harvest fungicide and organic fertilizers lowers the impact on the environment. The organic waste from bananas is recycled into compost or to make banana paper.

banana transportation

Bananas start their journey by being loaded onto this transportation mechanism. The bananas really ride in style from the field to the processing plant! Its like a long suspended cable. At the front of the procession, is a man suspended in his control cart which also is connected to the conveyor system. When the bananas come to a road, the driver causes the metal track to lower for the bananas to float across.


Bananas are sorted and cleaned before being packaged. Trained staff do this job and students come to learn about the process.  The bananas from picking to eating last 22 days before they become too ripe. Experience and skill are necessary to ensure bananas arrive in time with the highest quality possible.


EARTH's organic bananas are sold at Whole Foods Market. It was a great honor for me to be allowed a tour in their banana production facility at EARTH.


EARTH recycles organic waste from the University’s banana production and Integrated Farm to create a mixture called Bokashi. Bokashi is similar to compost and is created with organic waste, sawdust, and effective microorganisms. These effective microorganisms help to break down the food waste to turn it into nutrient-rich organic compost. The compost is created in only a month and then can be used as an organic fertilizer for use in gardens and around the farm at EARTH.

Banana Paper Produced at EARTH


EARTH developed a system to recycle banana and paper waste into a valuable new product, banana paper. The banana paper is made out of banana stems and outdated textbooks. Each ton of banana paper made saves between 17 and 20 trees and saves over three cubit yards of landfill space.  The banana paper process also creates much less air and water pollution than with the virgin paper process.

The texture of the paper is very unique. I had a clear conscience when we purchased our banana paper at EARTH because I knew no trees had been cut to make the beautiful paper. The variety of products made with the paper included journals, notebooks, stationary, cards, and even business cards. The products sold support scholarships, research, and university operations at EARTH. I have recently seen banana paper sold at our local Target in Florida which had been made in Costa Rica. My family was excited when we saw it because we knew the inside story of where and how it had been produced!

To see a video of EARTH’s banana production and banana paper project visit

Father’s Day 2010 Video

In honor of Father’s day, I self choreographed this ballet to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Cinderella”.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Integrated Animal Production System at EARTH University, CR


The Integrated farm at EARTH University was established in 1993. Its purpose is to teach students about animal production as well as a learning center for local farmers and visitors. The Integrate farm is unique in that it practices sustainable farming methods. Not even animal manure is wasted. They are run through a biodigestor to great methane gas which is used in the production of energy for cooking and generating electricity on the campus. After the gas is extracted, the byproducts can be used as an organic fertilizer which reduces the need for harmful chemical fertilizers.


This is the corral where the cows are milked. This process is educational for the students and can be experienced hands on. The sows have access to pastures, and are given and adequate amount of feed, water, and minerals to increase their milk production. Through the sale of male calves, milk, organic fertilizers, and pigs raised at the farm, EARTH receives income which benefits the University.


Goats are another animal EARTH raises. Goats have free range of grass and provide lawn care services in return.


Pigs are fed scraps from the cafeteria which is better for the environment. The animal manure is then moved into the biodigester where decomposition and the removal of harmful bacteria takes place.

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The picture to the left shows the biodigester which starts the production of methane gas. As the manure level rises, it flows into the sedimentation canals pictured on the right.


Finally it flows into the decomposition pond. Algae growing on the water helps with decomposition. Tilapia live in the pond and alligators feed on the fish and algae. The methane gas created in the biodigestor can be used to create energy and the byproducts are used as organic fertilizer. The excess water can be reused in future processes.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Earth University in Guacimo, Costa Rica


The EARTH University campus I toured is located in Guacimo, Limon Province, Costa Rica. They also have another University in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. EARTH is a private, international, non-profit university dedicated to educating students in agricultural sciences and the sustainable use of our natural resources. EARTH’s goal is to empower emerging leaders throughout the region by providing them access to a quality education, equipping them with the skills, knowledge and strong values to improve the quality of life in their communities. EARTH’s students receive education that will help them solve the problems of deforestation, poverty, unsustainable agriculture, and loss of natural resources occurring in their communities. 


EARTH University hosts students from around the world. They come from Central and South America, Africa, and Asia to attend EARTH. The University’s student body currently includes 408 students from the 24 different countries! Students have to learn Spanish to take classes at the University.


During my stay, I did a presentation with my research on butterflies and I shared my search for one of the rarest Blue Morphos in Costa Rica with some of the students. 20 students heard me speak and watched my video.

To contact EARTH for a tour or visit:

To see my tour of EARTH University, watch the video below.