Written by Natalie Schoen (University of Iowa), Internship in Sustainability and the Environment
Throughout the last four weeks, I have had the opportunity to work with CORCLIMA, an organization whose ultimate goal is to achieve carbon negativity in the Monteverde region. An amazing team of people from CORCLIMA started the project "Ruta Eléctrica", which aims to shift energy use in the transportation sector, the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in Costa Rica, from fossil fuels to renewable sources by encouraging the use of electric vehicles.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of this project and, working alongside of Evelyn Obando and Luis Pérez, had the responsibility of developing a virtual map that depicts the electric vehicle charging points in the Monteverde region. This project directly benefits CORCLIMA by providing a tool to promote electric vehicles as a feasible alternative to traditional, fossil-fuel vehicles. Additionally, the hope is that the sustainable businesses on the map who provide a charging station will experience increased revenues.
My interest for this project stems from my hopes for a cleaner environment in the future, both for community health and for the longevity of my favorite places such as parks and hiking trails. I love to travel, but I am very aware that traveling comes with consequences such as greenhouse gas emissions. I would love to know that seeing different parts of the world does not mean I have to damage the places I had the opportunity to visit.
One way to minimize the impacts of my travels is to reduce transportation emissions, especially within the tourism industry. This is the central focus for Ruta Eléctrica project which is why I find it so important. Additionally, this specific project contained an element of GIS necessary for making the map. When I graduate from the University of Iowa, I hope to find a job that allows me to perform data collection and manipulation in a way that is easily digestible by the public. Having the ability to do this for CORCLIMA gave me confidence that I am on the right career path.
Through my involvement with this project and with the help of my supervisors, Evelyn and Luis, I have acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge. After this internship, I have not only conducted extensive research on electric vehicles, but I have also had the chance to ride in an electric vehicle and visit charging stations/nearby attractions for the map. The opportunity to interact with local business owners allowed me to better understand the feasibility of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable transportation. It also allowed me to build connections with like-minded people and improved my communication by creating opportunities to persuade locals to support the electric route.
The most significant part of this experience for me was not only about what I gained from the people of Costa Rica, but also knowing that I was able to contribute something positive back to the community in exchange for my time here. It was amazing to interact with local businesses owners who cared so much about the future of Monteverde and used sustainable practices. I was invited to take a look into their culture, and in return I was able to take part in a project that wilbe used to reduce negative impacts of tourism and improve the sustainability of ecotourism in the area.