Costa Rica: MareBlu, sustainable tourism and the fight against coastal pollution

Costa Rica, renowned for its lush rainforest and impressive biodiversity, is recognized worldwide for its commitment to environmental preservation. That’s why we decided to go there to meet the local players and plastic recycling initiatives in this small but very committed country.

During the Masterclass at the University of Costa Rica, we met Geronimo, director and founder of MareBlu, an organization dedicated to preserving the oceans. This initiative appealed to us because it effectively combines beach and coastline clean-up actions, national and international collaboration, and the collection and processing of plastic.

Geronimo, protector of the oceans

Geronimo Ciuti, a Costa Rican of Italian origin, grew up in the capital of San José. His parents, from modest backgrounds, owned a family business specializing in textile manufacturing. From an early age, Gerónimo had to follow in the family footsteps to be able to help his parents. However, he was unhappy not to be doing what he was really passionate about: spending more time by the sea and caring for the environment.

In 2018, he decided to leave the family business and move to the Garabito region in Punta Leona on the Pacific coast, to realize a dream that would change his life: to create his non-profit organization to fight plastic pollution in the oceans and protect the environment.

The MareBlu story

GĂ©ronimo had a clear vision: to create an organization focused on beach preservation and the fight against plastic pollution. Inspired by initiatives such as the 4Ocean project in Bali and his cousin’s association for foreign volunteers, he adapted these models to set up his own concept: volunteer missions to clean up the region’s beaches.

The founder soon realized that recruiting volunteers would be a real challenge. So he decided to spread his idea across borders by developing a unique model he called “Vacations on Purpose”. The idea was simple, but powerful: attract foreign tourists to Costa Rica for a sunny vacation, while encouraging them to devote time to actions that benefit the planet.

When MareBlu was launched, Geronimo also faced considerable financial challenges. Without sufficient resources, he enlisted the help of a friend who owned a seaside hotel to house the foreign volunteers in an abandoned container. At the same time, he accepted odd jobs on weekends and vacations to support his project financially.

Although many people doubted MareBlu’s success, Geronimo redoubled his efforts to make it happen. He has created a strong identity for his foundation by producing merchandise with the project’s logo, such as t-shirts and caps to stand out at beach clean-ups. By posting volunteer opportunities on international platforms too, he quickly attracted attention.

Meeting Paola, his wife, was a key moment in the story, as she quickly became involved in MareBlu, with great enthusiasm. The project gained in popularity, and their reputation grew so strong that today, bookings now flow in directly via word-of-mouth and their website.

An adventure truck for plastic collection

To add a touch of originality to its concept, GĂ©ronimo has acquired an adventure truck dedicated to beach clean-ups. After collection, all waste is transported across the country for treatment and recycling. MareBlu’s business model is based on voluntary participation with accommodation, clean-up operations for businesses, and an innovative “No Plastic to Landfills” program, guaranteeing waste recycling. With these well-established sources of income and a sponsor for their vehicle, MareBlu has succeeded in transforming an ambitious idea into a thriving organization dedicated to preserving the environment.

Towards a promising future

Geronimo has no intention of stopping there, as he would like to acquire a large boat that can cover the Costa Rican coast and thus intensify his cleaning action. He is also carrying out tests to create plastic-sand paving stones as a solution to the problem of plastic-polluted islands in the Gulf of Nicoya.

The “Beach Cleanup” model exists all over the world, but MareBlu’s is a fine example of success, since it manages to link each of the stages to be sustainable and self-sufficient. It promotes sustainable tourism by attracting foreign travelers to get involved during their visit and raising their awareness of ocean plastic pollution. It provides them with an unforgettable experience thanks to its original concept, and collaborates with local processors while contributing to the country’s local economy.

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