Guest Writer

Envision Festival 2019

Envision Festival header

By Andres Vargas

The shorelines of Costa Rica are some of the most majestic in the world. Playa Hermosa and Uvita’s Marino Ballena have been home to my family, my friends and a variety of turtles, birds, fish and other wildlife that live here. Over the years I’ve watched the numbers of those who visit the beach grow, and with it came increased concerns about rubbish and swimmer safety. I remembered what it was like to have safe, clean beaches. I wanted that for my children too, so I asked a friend, Josh Wendel, who is a Costa Rican resident, owns a few businesses in the community and happens to run an event near Uvita called Envision Festival, to support a plan that educates both tourists and Ticos to all do our part to keep the divine beaches of Costa Rica trash-free and safe.

Beach clean-up annoincementWe agreed something should be done and within a few weeks a plan was formed.

We wanted to pick up all the trash left at local beaches. Since New Year’s, I’ve organized three Beach Clean Ups attracting Costa Ricans from all over, including Tamarindo, San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela – just for a few. Today, we have three more beach cleanups planned including one the weekend after Envision Festival. Each has been more successful than the one that came before it, with a bigger turnout of participants and more trash cleared. In our most recent Beach Clean Up, almost 100 people gathered with trash bags in-hand to pick up a record 335 kilos of trash from Playa Colonia, Playa Uvita, Playa Ballena and Dominical. Over the course of a few weeks I watched our volunteers become heroes, as a record 1 ton and 30 kilograms of waste collected over 55 kilometers of shoreline.

Lifeguard on crowded beachNot too long after, I was telling friends about our Beach Clean-up and I learned of the tragic passing of a surfer. Then, I remembered there had been others who passed, including one outside the gates of Envision Festival last year. Again, Wendel and I agreed that even though the beach isn’t officially part of the festival, doing nothing wasn’t an option either. This time we set out to rally funding and support for the Costa Ballena Lifeguard team in the area because, like our plans around educating tourists and Ticos about the duty we all share to keep our beaches clean, the responsibility to keep each other safe is something that benefits everyone whether they’re from San Isidro or San Francisco.

“I am very pleased to announce this new partnership” Perry Gladstone, the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism said a few weeks later. “In contracting the Costa Ballena Lifeguards for the whole month of February, Envision Festival is taking a safety-first approach that respects the needs of our guests, businesses and community.”

Group on beach with bags of trashThe contract resulted in a 5-week agreement, but the collaboration sets a tone for other tourist-centric businesses and events in the area. As a service to the environment and an engine for economic growth, the move marks clear strides for both tourists and Ticos where the outcome is not only positive. It’s something we can all enjoy.

“We have an obligation as a business in Costa Rica to put the benefit of the community and the environment before profits.” Josh Wendel said of the plan. “We want to know that this part of the world is cleaner and greener, and the community is happier, healthier and more inspired to follow their dreams as a result of us being here. We try to raise awareness in our audience with our onsite education, but we also practice what we preach through action and collaboration beyond the gates of our event too.”

Group collecting trash on the beachIf viewed as a method for attracting tourists to the area who already have an outlook ascribing with Tico-spirited environmentalism, then the approach to local beaches actually steers cultural and economic growth, by taking responsible to do what we can (even in areas beyond our control, as the beach is for Envision) and by prioritizing the natural beauty of Costa Rica. It makes me proud that we have a culture that prioritizes the environment and it excites me that as the beach cleanups I organize continue to grow more of my Tico brothers and sisters are showing up to participate. It’s an important reminder that we all have a part to play and it inspires me to look for other economic opportunities to help the Costa Rica I love to be a safer, cleaner, better home.