Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
The Greenprint Concept

To help buyers and builders and also protect the environment, Laura Murray has been working with a committee of the local environmental group as well as others to develop a "greenprint," a sort of blueprint that will enable remodeling or new construction with a minimum of bureaucratic stress while still morally as well as legally reducing stress on our fantastic Lake Arenal watershed. The "greenprint" title is a brain child of our recommended contractor, J.C. Miller (click here for more information about him), who has built for years in this area. Recently, J.C. has put together an ideal septic design, which we will encourage contractors to follow, partly by warning and educating property buyers about the traditional inadequate installations that some local builders continue to use.We plan to soon present J.C.'s septic design in these pages. We also plan to present details of the "greenprint" concept as discussions proceed.

Laura spent a year and a half working for a major developer in the region and thus has much first-hand knowledge of Costa Rica's permitting requirements and processes. In addition, she is well aware of the dangers certain construction practices pose to the environment and thus intends, as she advises clients, to be proactive in preservation and restoration efforts. Thanks largely to the 10-year-old Fuentes Verdes (Green Fountains) non-profit organization, the Lake Arenal region has significantly forestalled the environmental problems now afflicting the coastal hotspots. Laura is determined not only to work with them but to lead the way in teaching incomers how to establish their new or remodeled homes with a minimum of delay as well as a minimum of environmental impact. Thus she has joined the effort to preserve the wonderful environment at Lake Arenal and even to improve it, enhancing Costa Rica's reputation as an ecological leader.

A related topic is the growing interest in alternative forms of energy by residents in the area. On July 25 and 26, 2008, residents met with an engineer from a Costa Rican company specializing in alternative energies. While at least one household has already installed solar heating for hot water, many more must start down this path in anticipation of the doubling of energy requirements in the next five years, much of which increase will have to be supplied by crude-oil fired electrical plants unless there is a tremendous increase in the use of solar, wind, water, and methane systems. The owner of a fairly large resort at the eastern end of the lake has been successful in moving his entire property "off the grid," thus proving that it can be done. Homeowners must continue to learn about the costs and benefits of current and developing systems to decide to what extent they can afford to join the alternative energy movement.

Also operating to preserve and restore habitat as well check run-off is La Reserva Ecological Association, a local nonprofit formed by residents Roberta Ward and Daniel Spreen, who came to Costa Rica over 25 years ago to start a dairy farm. Later, they switched to raising beef cattle, finally quitting farming to begin restoring habitat on their 100 acres. This they have done to large extent, planting thousands of indigenous trees to turn their pastures into woodland to the benefit of the wildlife, especially the howler monkeys and sloths, which need arboreal corridors to move safely between feeding areas. Several years ago they established their own ecological nonprofit as well as a nursery to supply trees at very small cost to others who desired to provide more wildlife habitat, and they have succeeded to the point that they can now grant ranchers and others who will reforest pasture $300 per year per hectaria to allow them to plant and tend trees on these properties. To aid in these efforts Laura is donating 5% of the commission from each real estate transaction to La Reserva. You can learn more about Roberta's and Dan's reforestation efforts at

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