This week we teamed up with our friends, donation partners, and fellow B-Corp at Bodhi Surf School in beautiful Costa Rica.
Run by a crew of dedicated and loyal ocean, surf, and health advocates the Bodhi team likes to promote a responsible way of life and good ole fashioned Pura Vida.Enjoy the read!
Photo Credit: Emi Koch of Beyond the Surface International
Harnessing Consumerism to Solve Environmental Issues
While doing one of our regular Service & Surf beach cleanups last summer, one of the kids found a hermit crab which, instead of having a regular shell, had a plastic cap as its mobile home. This struck a note with all of us doing the cleanup, that our actions — even small — have profound consequences that we often forget to consider. There are many similar images and videos that circulate and even “go viral” due to the phenomenon of social media, so most of us have seen sea turtles needing to have plastic straws pulled out of their bodies, the surfer going through a tube full of trash, or a bird whose feathers are covered in oil after a spill. These images are graphic, heart-wrenching reminders about how we as humans need to collectively make better and more educated choices and consider the kind of planet we want to live in and leave after we are gone. That we are headed towards calamity, at present, seems like an unavoidable reality.
Photo Credit: Bodhi Surf
Here at Bodhi Surf School, (a surf and yoga camp in a small town called Bahia Ballena, in the Southern Pacific region of Costa Rica), we have a unique way of grappling with human impact and its wide-reaching effects. Most of our guests come from cities and more populated areas, places where seeing trash everywhere doesn’t seem surprising. In contrast, when you see garbage in such a pristine environment as our local Marino Ballena National Park (whether it’s washing up on shore or being left by beach-goers), it just seems out of place. Luckily, we don’t have very much of it in comparison to many beaches around the world — something we hope does not change. For that reason, since our inception in 2010, we have used the park (both our playground and classroom for surf lessons) as a stark and thought-provoking example for our students and guests to consider both their individual and our collective human impact on the planet. We also utilize this amazing experience of learning to catch and ride on one of nature’s most powerful entities — the ocean — as a catalyst to spark pro-environmental behavior change in our guests, further providing tools for this change to last long after their sun tans have faded.
Photo Credit: Bodhi Surf
Consumption is necessary
While it’s easy to get people to commit to placing garbage in the appropriate spots instead of littering, picking up trash when they see it, or recycling what can be recycled, many believe that those actions (while well-intentioned) are too little, too late. Arguments abound in the conservation world that the root cause of the environmental issues we face is human consumption. That we (in the developed world in particular) need to greatly reduce our consumption lest we burn through our planet’s resources and leave an insurmountable crisis in our wake. From this way of thinking come terms like “sustainable” and “leave no trace” — the ideas that in order to ensure the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants, humans should be leaving little or no impact on the planet. This notion seems unfeasible if you’re an optimist, and impossible if you’re a realist. The fact is, that stopping consumption altogether is not a productive way to try to live, nor will it ever be a paradigm that wins over a majority of supporters. None of us, as it turns out, want to stop consuming.
However, reducing our collective consumption (all that we buy, use, ingest, use, or destroy) is not only doable, it is also going to prove to be necessary in order to keep a harmonious balance in our natural world. After all, humans have an uncanny ability to live with very little when we are forced to. The simple task of asking ourselves, “do I really need this?” before purchasing any product can go a really long way. There is an argument — just as we need to ingest food and water, possess clothing and shoes, and have several other things to survive — that the ability to consume products and experiences is a driving force of inspiration and motivation for humans. One main reason that people work so hard is because they want to be able to possess things — and that is a universal truth that bears keeping in mind.
Using consumption as a tool for good
At Bodhi Surf School, we are proponents of “experiences rather than things”, and we like to encourage people to channel their desire to consume into have memorable experiences instead of purchasing more [often unnecessary] things. For example, to reduce their impact, a family could do an outdoor excursion or cook a big dinner together instead of exchanging gifts at Christmas. Travel is also a memorable experience, and even though international travel can be very impactful (consider the CO2 emissions from plane travel alone), we truly believe that the educational benefits of seeing places beyond your home and learning the cultures, traditions, and ways that other people live can be so life-changing that, often times, they mitigate the impact itself.
As for products, just as we need to reduce our consumption, we can also make very educated choices about the remaining products that we do need to consume. Instead of purchasing three pairs of jeans because they are on sale for a fraction of the price, we can choose to purchase one pair of nice jeans made by a business that is doing its part to reduce its environmental footprint and make a positive difference in the world. Or perhaps we can opt to buy sandals from a company that has come up with a creative solution for two “problems” — eliminating already-existing pollution and using it to create a necessary product, i.e. using repurposed tires as the soles of their shoes. Bodhi Surf School was drawn to Indosole for this very reason, just as we are a business looking for creative ways to reduce or mitigate our inevitable impact, we have deep respect and admiration for other companies who go above and beyond to do the same. Businesses of all sizes and in all industries can “opt in” to corporate and environmental responsibility, and in an effort to tackle these human-created issues that are becoming more and more difficult to ignore, we would argue that they have a duty to.
For all it’s drawbacks, consumerism could prove to be a solution for the environmental crises at hand. The winds of change are starting to blow, and if enough consumers choose to make educated choices about who they give their money to, more businesses would be forced to go where the market is calling, causing a spiral-upward effect. For all our imperfections, humans have proven to thrive under adverse conditions, and we have a long history of coming up with creative solutions to the problems in front of us. We call it capitalism when we spread these solutions far and wide, and profit when others people recognize their value. We sincerely hope that this time will be no different.
Thank you for reading,
The Bodhi Surf School in Costa Rica