Issue of October, 20, 2002
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Accents
Green Companies Honored
By Néfer Muñoz

Businesses that care about nature and that apply creative production techniques were awarded the Environmental Innovation Prize, the first time this honor has been bestowed in Central America.

SAN JOSE, (Tierramérica).- Seven small, medium and large companies in Central America that take care of nature and apply creative sustainable development techniques were honored recently in the Costa Rican capital by the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD).

A Nicaraguan firm that produces liquor, a Panamanian company specializing in dairy products, a coffee processing plant in Costa Rica and a Honduran tourist resort were among the award recipients. A special mention was also granted to a small hotel in the mountains that operates using criteria that are biodiversity friendly.

This was the first year of the Environmental Innovation Prize, which is to be awarded every two years as an incentive to urge public and private enterprise to mitigate the negative impacts of their activities on the environment, while also boosting their competitiveness.

"We can't solve the environmental problems only using laws involving penalties and fines," Hubert Méndez, coordinator of the CCAD's environmental management systems modification program, told Tierramérica.

As a result, it is important to create stimuli, motivations, so that entrepreneurs voluntarily join in the efforts to preserve the planet, Méndez said.

In this first contest for the prize, 52 Central American companies -- from Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama -- sent in 62 applications detailing their environmental and development endeavors.

The award, a statue designed by Costa Rican sculptor Edgar Zúñiga, was granted in three categories: eco-design, energy efficiency and technological innovation.

Although as many as nine prizes may be awarded, in this first edition there were just seven.

"We entrepreneurs who use environmental techniques often are swimming against the current, but this prize proves that it is worth the effort," Guatemalan engineer Luis Arturo Mérida, honored for his work in energy efficiency, told Tierramérica.

Mérida owns a small business near Amatitlán Lake, 50 km south of Guatemala City, where he uses geothermal energy to produce dried fruits and vegetables, which he later sells.

For his company, Eco-Fruit, he designed a system that takes advantage of subterranean volcanic heat, channeling it through a special tunnel to dry fruits like pineapple, banana and mango.

"The planet is being depleted and we have overextended ourselves. It is as if each of us reaches the end of the month owing 20 percent more than what we spent," said Bruno Stagno, a Costa Rican architect who was honored for his design of an environmentally friendly supermarket.

This first year of the CCAD's Environmental Innovation Prize was financed by the Netherlands government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

* Néfer Muñoz is an IPS correspondent.

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