The Green Side of Costa Rican Car Rental
How environmentally-friendly car rental is becoming reality
Costa Rica made international headlines in 2015 for its achievement of running the country’s energy supplies on renewable sources for a record 285 days of the year. The Central American nation is known for its incredible nature and eco-tourism, but this was a further step towards its ambitious goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral country in the world by 2021.
The car rental industry as a growing branch of the country’s thriving tourism industry is in line with this trend towards greener living. It may seem contradictory to speak of car rental and environmentally friendly practices in one breath, but Costa Rica is a country with a vision of a cleaner future and this is followed through in all areas of trade and tourism.
The car rental industry usually retains vehicles that are five years or less in their fleet, thus ensuring that cars are working on optimal engine performance – producing less contamination and using less fuel. Vehicles do need gas and therefore cause contamination, but car rental agencies are eager to find ways in which to offset their contribution with creative green ideas.
Environmentally-friendly practices and recognition
The Costa Rican Tourism Institute stipulates car rental agencies meet a rigorous list of requirements in order to obtain certification in sustainable tourism, and efforts are rewarded to a level graded between 1 and 5, where 5 is the highest level achieved. The requirements include business policies and projects that promote environmental protection, planning and operation of buildings and parking lots to minimize environmental and noise pollution, conservation of water and energy supplies, positive action to minimize air pollution, waste management, and adherence to public policies.
Mapache Rent A Car leads the way in certification having achieved the top ranking in the process. Adobe, Europcar, Green Motion, Sixt and Toyota have level 4 certification, and Alamo, Apex, Budget, Enterprise and National have obtained level 3 in recognition of their good working practices.
Some of the practices are so simple to introduce into the daily working life of a car rental agency, such as washing vehicles with collected rainwater as is the norm at Green Motion and Toyota, or Europcar and Mapache’s composting of office waste. Others require more planning, such as Toytoa’s buildings which are designed to use natural light, or investment, such as the $200,000 that Budget has ploughed into water recycling plants.
Other initiatives are welcomed by customers as they are time-saving or pleasant, as well as greener, which is true of the paper-free rental now offered by Budget Rent A Car, and Mapache’s plant-filled entrance.
As Paul Vargas, the general manager of Budget commented:
Sometimes we recieved comments that our clients were bothered by the amount of documents and that each of them needed to be signed. With the new system,only two signatures are needed and so it only lasts minutes.
When environmentally-friendly pracatices coincide with improved customer service, everyone wins.
Can car rental agencies be carbon neutral?
Carbon-offsetting is practiced by a number of car rental agencies to reduce their carbon footprint. Incredibly, Mapache have achieved a balance which results in a zero carbon footprint for the car rental agency through their efforts which were recognized with the Guayacán award by the Ministry of Energy and the Environment.
Thrifty has an agreement with FUNDACOR and the CRUSA foundation with the aim of becoming carbon positive by offsetting 100% of their emissions through these two organizations. Europcar’s reforestation program has helped with tree planting in both Heredia and Guanacaste. The agency is currently encouraging customers to contribute 0.75 USD per day during their rental period to the Europcar ‘Make your car rental GREEN’ campaign with all funds raised donated to FONOFIFO. Budget and Toyota also work alongside FONOFIFO as part of their carbon offsetting programs.
In fact, there are so many intiatives and programs in operation throughout the car rental industry that listing them all became impossible. For further information, visit the car rental agency websites or contact them directly to read more and become involved in the great work taking place.
Hybrid and battery-powered vehicles are one solution to the issues surrounding driving and the environment and ACAR member, Toyota Rent-A-Car are leading the way with hybrid vehicles to rent and to buy. Recharging stations are available within the Central Valley but it’s hoped that these will be expanded nation-wide in the coming years. Government incentives, such as no import taxes to be paid on bringing hybrid and electronic vehicles into the country may help provide a financial incentive to boost the sales of these cars.
A greener future?
The car rental industry is keen to do its part in working towards a more sustainable and greener Costa Rica by meeting rigorous governmental standards in acknowledgement of their green practices. There are numerous advantages for the car rental agencies in adopting greener practices and in moving towards carbon neutrality, and to hold the Certificate in sustainable Tourism, as explains Mariela Astua, Chief of Environmental Quality for the ANC Group:
The main benefits are the discounts for ICT fairs, and the appeal to clients which have also adopted sustainable practices and reinforce their own commitment to this theme with our organizations. For example, the root of this process is derived from saving water and electricity, the responsible management of wastes, the consciousness of personnel, better customer service practices, among other very positive effects.
It seems that the real guarantee of progress in the car rental industry is that the agencies themselves recognize the benefits of more environmentally sound practices and this drives them forward.