San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rican airline does right by going green

Costa Rican airline NatureAir celebrated the environmental conservation award it recently received at a press conference Tuesday, and called on other Costa Rican companies to join in the effort to reduce their carbon footprints.

Upon being given the 2009 Conservation Award from the World Travel and Tourism Council, NatureAir became the first airline to win salutations of that nature, said Carlo Sosto, the general manager of the airline.

“We are very proud of the award,” said Sosto. “It is an award also for the country, not just our company.”

Founded in 2000, NatureAir is the first airline in the world to become “carbon neutral.” By working with the governmental National Forestry Financing Fund, the company figures out how much land it needs to protect and reforest in order to offset its carbon emissions of the previous year.

“The amount of land we protect cleans or neutralizes the amount we consume,” said Sosto.

The company invests in primary forests in the Osa Peninsula, on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, and has protected close to 250 acres of forest so far.

The award was a call for other Costa Rican companies to follow suit, said Environment Minister Jorge Rodríguez.

“We have been looking for allies in tourism companies,” said Rodríguez, of an aim to increase the number of sustainable adventure and nature tourism operators participating in conservation programs. He called the award a message to the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), saying it shows they can “serve something greater” by supporting conservation.

In addition to their carbon neutrality, NatureAir started a program to teach rural children about the importance of conservation. NatureKids also teaches the children English, to help prepare them for a diversified world, said Sosto.

While the airline has felt the strain of lower tourist numbers, it recently released travel deals in partnership with local car rental agencies, that will ensure the viability of both industries, said Alexi Huntley Khajavi, NatureAir´s commercial director.

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