World Rafting Champs World’s First Carbon Neutral Event

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The accolades come as a result of the leadership of the International Rafting Federation and Rios Tropicales — along with a team of Costa Rican host sponsors, communities, and organizations, including Turrialba Chamber of Tourism, and The Costa Rica Paddle and Adventure Association — who all banded together to host over 600 participating athletes from 35 countries, as well as associated team staff, in a farmer’s field above the river; coordinate shuttles to and from the put-in and take-out, and host the event in the most environmentally friendly manner possible.

Led by Rafael Gallo, who has transformed Rios Tropicales into Costa Rica’s top geotourism adventure company and sustainability advocate – and the owner of Costa Rica’s largest private native rainforest reserve for carbon mitigation — organizers contacted the Carbon Neutral Commission of EARTH University to plan how to certify the seven-day event. 

“We saw the perfect opportunity to make our environmental stewardship ideals real when the World Rafting Championships came to Costa Rica in 2011,” he says. “ We had the knowledge, systems, people, and product in place to be able to develop and host a certified Carbon Neutral International Sports event.”

To achieve carbon neutrality, Costa Rica had to remove, reduce, or compensate for 100% of the total carbon emissions associated with the Championships. Event organizers used the GHG Protocol (Greenhouse Gas protocol) to measure the total carbon footprint, including the indirect impact of all participants’ international flights to/from the event. The total event “footprint” came to over 1,000 tons of CO2.  Organizers reduced fossil fuel consumption through centralized participants’ housing, sourcing local food and products, waste recycling, organic matter composting, and solar energy.  Over 250 international athletes planted 3,000 native tree species in a 5.5 acre (2.2 hectare) deforested area of Costa Rica’s rainforest on Oct 7th, 2012. These seedlings will absorb carbon and generate oxygen over a 15-year period to mitigate for all remaining event carbon emissions.

“The oxygen generated from the trees we planted in Costa Rica will eventually reach us in Norway,” says a member of the Norwegian Women’s Rafting Championship Team.
Dr. Edmundo Castro, Director of the Neutral Carbon Program at Costa Rica’s EARTH University, verified and validated the event’s actions.  Carbon Neutral Certification was awarded in a ceremony after the tree planting work in one of Rios Tropicales Natural Reserves, to the applause of over 250 participants from Japan, Canada, Norway, Chile, Slovenia, Mexico, Costa Rica and other countries.

By inventorying all carbon emissions associated with the planning and operation of this event, IRF was able to then reduce and mitigate 100% of the event’s carbon impact, thus becoming the very first Certified Carbon Neutral World Sporting Championship in modern history.

The lessons learned at 2011WRC in Costa Rica went around the world. A total of 48 teams from 35 different countries participated in the Costa Rica WRC 2011, and took the knowledge shared on recycling , composting , solar energy, local sourcing, and tree planting mitigations back to their home countries.

Look for similar efforts towards sustainability when the World Rafting Championships come to New Zealand in 2013.