Costa Rica’s Blue Flag Ecological Program (Bandera Azul Ecológica) helps protect both the environmental and social landscapes of Costa Rica. The program began in 1996 as an incentive for coastal communities to keep their beaches clean. Since then, it’s grown to encompass a wide variety of destinations and categories. The Blue Flag program is a driving force behind the healthy communities and vibrant ecosystems that make up Costa Rica.
The original aim of the Blue Flag program was to provide coastal communities sufficient motivation to keep their beaches clean. The idea was that the cleanest and most sanitary beaches would be awarded a Blue Flag—this would help travelers decide which beaches to visit and which to skip.
Coastal communities responded to the challenge and organized local cleanups. They had to meet many demands, including establishing a sanitary coastal area, having potable water, preventing organic waste or industrial pollutants from reaching the ocean, offering environmental education, and providing first aid and police security within the community. Each year more communities signed up and the program continued to grow.
By 2002, the Blue Flag Ecological Program was so successful that it extended to non-coastal communities and began to include other categories for certification. Towns across Costa Rica now work towards Blue Flag certification by keeping their community healthy, their people educated, and their surrounding environment clean. When they meet the requirements they are awarded a Blue Flag.
These awards are granted annually to communities that reach at least 90 percent of the required objectives. Communities that fail to meet these objectives may have their Blue Flag revoked.
Anywhere Costa Rica participates in activities to help La Fortuna secure its Blue Flag certification each year.
We helped organize the creation of the Z-13 Recycling Collection Center and the Fortuna Recycling Network, both of which help reduce the amount of recyclable materials that La Fortuna sends to landfills. We are also involved in community education—we organize workshops and distribute pamphlets that underscore the importance of recycling and proper waste management.
A key component of Blue Flag certification is environmental stewardship. Anywhere Costa Rica believes in keeping our outdoor areas healthy and actively volunteers for cleanup days and reforestation efforts. We have collected trash from the Balsa, Frío and Burío rivers, and have planted trees in the countryside surrounding La Fortuna.
In terms of safety, we work with the Local Emergency Commission to create earthquake emergency plans and identify the best places for fire hydrants in our community. We also collaborate with local agencies to raise awareness about dengue fever—we hold meetings, organize trainings, and pass out educational materials.
The Blue Flag Ecological Program is a powerful force for good in Costa Rica. Anywhere Costa Rica is proud to contribute to its efforts.