COSTA RICA JOURNAL — “Rather than just grow bananas we decided to do business in a sustainable way,: says the rector of the school, the Universidad EARTH (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región Tropical Húmeda), a private non-profit university which offers an undergraduate program leading to a licenciatura degree in agricultural sciences.

As part of its commitment to provide opportunities to young people who want to make a difference in the world, but lack the resources for a higher education, EARTH University operates a commercial enterprise and markets EARTH University products in Costa Rica, Latin America and the United States. Profits support EARTH’s scholarship program and operational expenses.

Products for the local market (Costa Rica): 100% natural yogurt, sustainably grown bananas, natural cleaning products and biological agricultural inputs.

Bananas from EARTH has been rated the “Best” by Whole Foods with retail stores in the United States and Canada.

Sustainably grown bananas from EARTH, along with pineapple, tropical flowers, and coffee are sold exclusively at Whole Foods Markets.

Roger Ruiz, manager of Variedadas de la EARTH, said the retail chain began implementing categories to inform consumers which product are the best rated in terms of food quality, environmental responsibility and labour.

The new grading system divides fruits, vegetables and flowers in “good”, “better” and “best”.

“We are not producers of bananas, we are an educational institution, but when we started we proposed a way of doing business in a sustainable way,” said the rector of the school, Joseph A. Zaghlul.

Zaghlul explains that the university does no teach students to sell bananas, but sel a dream, of 100 percent organic products with protection of the rivers and environment.

“These practices left losses for about three or four years, but that the cost of doing things differently,” said Zaghlul.

For over 15 years the University faculty, staff, and students have been experimenting on EARTH in the banana farm.

They have developed new techniques to increase quality and reduce environmental and social impacts of commercial banana production.

EARTH University has two locations in Costa Rica: in Guácimo, Limón and La Flor, in Guanacaste. In the 1980s, EARTH University was developed through a partnership between a group of Costa Ricans, the United States Agency for International Development(USAID), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Costa Rican Government.  The cornerstone of the first campus building was laid on 2 April 1989 and the campus and first academic year were inaugurated on 26 March 1990.

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