Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Here at Conversa we believe that organizations should spend a little time (actually, a lot of time), thinking about their social responsibility and how they can have a positive impact on their community. Because the environment plays such an important role in what our students experience on campus, we've selected this as the center of our social responsibility efforts.
Every year we plant between 250 and 450 new trees around campus. Many of these trees have been planted along the creek at the base of the property, but more recently, we've started to plant trees within the classroom/office areas as well. This has allowed the campus to look much greener throughout the dry season.
Over the past six years we've seen the prices of electricity spike in Costa Rica. However, we've managed to reduce our energy bill by over 20%, while the price of electricity has actually gone up well over 65%. We've done this by replacing light bulbs, incorporating timers for our water pumps and hot water heaters, upgrading refrigerators in the cafeteria, and adjusting schedules. While we're far from over, we feel we've come a long way!
While it's not quite feasible to buy 100% of what we use to offer our services locally, we do make an effort to buy from local vendors (and farmers) as often as possible. Favoring local businesses is not only a good initiative from an environmental standpoint (as long as they're using efficient farming methods), it helps us establish and maintain good relations with our neighbors. After all, you never know when that might come in handy :)
In addition to supporting our local economy through the food we serve, we've also taken on a few projects right here on campus that are helping to source our food in the cafeteria. Several years back we installed a hydroponics garden, followed by an organic garden. Right here on campus we produce most of the greens needed for our daily salads, served SUPER fresh in the cafeteria.
More recently, we added 40 laying hens to the operation, providing our kitchen with all the free-range eggs we'll ever need...
Just a few years ago, in 2010, we had the privilage of working with a couple of interns from SUNY Cobleskill, Danielle LaCavalla and Andrew Parker. Along with our grounds crew (Fabricio Estevanovich, Rudy Villafuerte and Rafa Sandí), we managed to set the groundwork for what would eventually become 'La Ensaladera' (Spanish for the salad bowl), our hydroponic garden. That was the first step as we began our journey down the road of healthy food...
We vary the products we grow in the hydroponics and organic gardens throughout the year. However, at any given time, you have a good chance of finding lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, basil, and culantro (or cilantro). Of course, once in a while we come across something new and/or different and we'll give it a try. You'll just have to visit yourself to find out what's growing down there!