Last month our team member, Brett Callahan, joined the Board of Directors of our community organization, Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers. This month we sit down with Carolina Chavarría, a dedicated Waterkeeper & leader, to learn more about who they are & their goals for our lovely piece of paradise.
1) Who are the Nicoya Peninsula WaterKeepers?
The Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers (a.k.a. NPWK) is a group of committed people who work passionately to protect water from pollution. We have an amazing staff of 12 people: Carolina Chavarría, Kenneth Alfaro, Mariana Cassini, Cindy Murillo, Ariadna Sánchez, Alban Céspedes, Christian Morales, Henri Villegas, Jafet Villegas, Wilman Matarrita, Oscar Cárdenas, and Zachelyn Porras; and a dedicated Board of Directors with 6 people: Sergio Guido, Grey Hecht, Jen Harter, Brett Callahan, Gayle Glenn, and Roberto de la Ossa
2) What is the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers?
NPWK is a Costarican non-profit organization member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a network of over 350 Waterkeeper organizations working worldwide for drinkable, fishable, swimmable water. NPWK has been protecting water from pollution in the coastal area between Cabo Blanco and Caletas Ario for almost eight years now. Pollution in these touristic towns comes mainly from inappropriate solid waste and wastewater management, so we have structured our lines of action to address these issues to reduce pollution. We hold trainings and workshops that aim to educate and raise awareness on such things as: questioning consumption habits, recycling, composting and wastewater treatment. Together with our partner BIONIC, we run the recycling system which has weekly recyclables collection routes through town. We provide cost-free advice to households and businesses on water and solid waste management. We work together with local authorities to improve law enforcement capacities.
3) Since starting the NPWK program here in the peninsula have you seen change/improve/benefits?
Yes, we have! At the begining it was more difficult, but as the years go by, more and more people become aware and start understanding the negative impacts human activities have in nature. After years of holding workshops and spreading our message, more people have opened their eyes and have become involved in different ways: in beach clean-ups, recycling, composting, fixing their water treatment systems, and in supporting our work. People are now aware that we all have a role to play as part of the solution. If we want this town to keep on being beautiful, we all need to revise our habits and change towards behaviors and choices that have lesser impact on the natural resources we need to live. Every choice we make counts! There is still a lot of work to be done though, different people have different levels of understanding; some might need to hear a message many times before changing their short-term, nature-destroying habits.
4) What is the biggest focus you have moving forward this year? New projects or developments?
Just recently we launched the Ocean Friendly Business certification project which we believe is a great fit for this town where many tourists come attracted by its natural beauty and its surfable waters. We basically award businesses that have sustainable practices: no single-use plastics, recycle, compost, use biodegradable cleaning products and have appropriate wastewater treatment systems, aiming at them becoming role models for other businesses in town and proving that it is possible to do it right -if you want to. We work together with each business for a period of time until they adopt these practices; some businesses are already ready to be certified, some others, commit to the effort to change because they understand the importance of running their businesses in ways that take into consideration the very own reason tourists come here: nature! Seven restaurants have already been certified and a dozen others are in the process. We are aiming at creating a movement in town where most of the local businesses commit to respecting nature so that present and future generations can enjoy this place.
5) How can individuals (or companies) get involved either from a distance or while visiting our town on vacation?
There are several ways people can get involved: by becoming a member -there are several categories to chose from, buying our promotional material, volunteering, making a donation (Paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org), or registering your hotel/house rental on our “donation at check-out” option through which you give your guests the opportunity to give back to the community they just visited and enjoyed. For more info on getting involved, check out our website: http://www.nicoyawaterkeeper.org/en/get-involved