GREEN Program experience

By Courtney Spoerndle

For 12 days I was able to experience Costa Rica in a unique way while being educated in renewable energy. This once-in-a-lifetime trip was sponsored by the GREEN Program, an organization dedicated to educating students on all aspects of renewable energy and its impact on the world.


Founded in 2009, they have sent hundreds of students from all over the world and all different majors to Costa Rica, and most recently Iceland, to have adventures, experience a new culture and get inspired by an exciting and growing field.

I have always wanted to travel, but as an engineering major I never had the time or money to go on a semester-long trip. Then I stumbled upon the GREEN Program and found the reasonably priced short-term trip hard to resist; especially after seeing the website’s picture of a group in zip-lining gear.  I went with a group of 20 other college students from all over the U.S. and of different majors.

Going into this trip with hardly any knowledge in renewable energy and having never traveled by myself, I had no idea what to expect. By the end of the trip, I got a brand new outlook on renewable energy while having many adventures along the way.

A unique aspect of GREEN is its hands-on education. There is a classroom portion where you spend an hour each day being taught by experts in the fields of solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy.


Than you see what you learn come to life by taking tours of power plants of each type of energy. My favorite was the wind farm.

Not only did I get to watch the wind turbines up close, but I was also able to stand right next to a rotor that was on the ground for maintenance and was amazed how the big the blades were.

Every GREEN group also does a capstone project, working in smaller groups researching and presenting an idea that gets them excited about renewable energy.

It could be as technical as a new waste-heat recovery system for power plants or as simple as a car powered by wasted beer.

Since you can’t be in Costa Rica and not experience its culture, the GREEN Program gave us a lot of activities. Every day was something new and different. We went zip-lining through the jungle canopy, hiked in the rainforest and went surfing in the Pacific Ocean.

I also had the chance to do community service at a local elementary school. We installed a water filtration system, painted a mural and played around with the kids. Every day forced me to get out of my comfort zone which is a rarity in a classroom.


This trip is once-in-a-lifetime. First I got to experience a beautiful country and got to do many things I had never dreamed I would get to do.

Second, I learned so much about renewable energy. Before the trip, I didn’t know many things about this field. If I had to choose one word to describe my experience with GREEN in Costa Rica it would be “inspiring.”

If you are interested in a trip to Costa Rica or Iceland next summer go to: