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Class in Session: How One University In Costa Rica is Saving Earth's Future

“Isn’t every day Earth Day?” It was a question put to me by a five-year-old kindergartner while substitute teaching a lesson on Earth Day last year. I didn’t have an answer that wouldn’t lead to a dozen more questions, so I just shrugged.


Five months later and no longer substitute teaching, I visited Earth University, a place where no one needs a holiday to be reminded of earth’s abundance. In fact, it’s that abundance – namely bananas – that funds the University. If you’ve ever bought Costa Rican bananas at Whole Foods Market, you’ve made a contribution.


How does buying a banana – specifically, a banana certified by Fairtrade International and the Rainforest Alliance, among others – have this kind of impact? The answer starts with the University itself.


Set in the humid tropics of one of Costa Rica’s poorest areas, Earth University is a private, non-profit University focused on achieving human and environmental sustainability through agriculture. Its students, 80% of whom are recruited from marginalized communities primarily in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, are trained in advanced fields including peri-urban farming and biodynamic agriculture.


Each year’s studies begin in January and end on the third week of December. Daily classes commence Mondays at 6:30am and end late Saturday afternoon. As part of their coursework, students establish their own businesses centered on a particular area of interest. Past businesses have involved energy conversion, agri-tourism, and innovations in organic pest control. Following completion of the Earth University curriculum, students graduate with credentials akin to a Master’s Degree.


But while impressive, this is not what makes Earth University unique. Rather, it’s the University’s mission – to “Prepare leaders with ethical values for sustainable development of the tropics and maintain a commitment to construct a prosperous and just society” – and how it undertakes to achieve that mission that set it apart.


Next up, the role of banana production in education and agricultural sustainability… 

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