SDG 15: Life On Land

SDG 15: Life On Land

Casita Azul creates sustainability change makers in Costa Rica

By Elaine Smith

Casita Azul, “the Little Blue House,” is the smallest library branch in the York University Libraries' system, but it has a big presence at Las Nubes – York University’s Eco-Campus in Costa Rica, particularly in terms of its wide-ranging community impact.  

Casita Azul not only serves as a place for research and knowledge mobilization; it is also a community hub for research dissemination, citizen science, outreach and community engagement that is available to seven villages in the local area. Its stated mission is to cultivate a collaborative environment and engaged partnership that meets the needs and desires of the local communities. 

Since the Las Nubes campus has an environmental focus, library staff work closely with local groups to promote conservation, biodiversity protection and awareness as part of the University’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

This year, the sustainable use of resources is a key focus for Casita Azul’s community outreach. Library assistant Diandra Arias, in partnership with CEDUCA COBAS (the Environmental Education Coalition for the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor), has organized a recycling program for the library and local communities. Each month, Casita Azul and CEDUCA COBAS coordinate the collection of cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard.  

This grassroots initiative has required extensive legwork to secure permissions from the municipal government to implement the program, while leveraging expertise, advocacy skills and commitment to partner with an organization that is willing to use these recyclable materials. 

“It began as a small project in the library that turned into a community project linked to an environmental organization, and now, people are committed,” said Dana Craig, director, student learning and success for York University Libraries, who oversees programming at Casita Azul along with teaching and learning librarian Tom Scott. “The intent for Casita Azul is to serve the community in a way that’s culturally appropriate.” 

Casita Azul has also collaborated with COBAS and the local Programa Conociendo Nuestra Biodiversidad to deliver programs in area schools about the environment and the native animal population using materials created by Costa Rica’s federal Ministry of Education. By cultivating student interest in the environment from a young age, the aim is to increase the likelihood of them becoming future stewards of the surrounding lands to ensure a sustainable ecosystem. 

“Our projects are community driven,” said Craig. “Ideas arise through informal conversations and it requires us to be open. If people are talking to each other, ideas blossom. It’s all about people talking, often in Casita Azul’s coffee corner.” 

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