A Letter from Sustainable Summer’s Founders
Dear students, parents, and educators:
In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development first offered a definition of sustainability: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Unfortunately, our current global efforts to achieve sustainability are woefully inadequate, considering accelerating rates of population growth and consumption, and the rapid depletion of our planet’s natural resources. Today’s teenagers will be forced to confront these complex, global issues when they reach adulthood. At Sustainable Summer, our mission is to cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders though transformative study abroad experiences and field-based learning.
The Sustainable Summer Experience
We run summer abroad programs that teach high school students about environmental sustainability. Our programs combine environmental education in remarkable places – such as an organic farm in Costa Rica or Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest – with leadership development and outdoor adventure. Each Sustainable Summer program tackles the broader question of sustainability by examining our three core sustainability themes: agriculture, water, or energy. We consider human impact upon the environment at the local level, but always with a keen eye towards the larger political, economic, and cultural forces that determine or influence individual behaviors. We combine theory with practice for an experience that is engaging, rewarding, and empowering.
We are not a ‘community service’ or ‘foreign language immersion’ program. The cultural experience is an important element of our curriculum, but it is just the beginning. Sustainability becomes the lens through which students see and understand the experience of living and traveling in a developing country.
Our students participate in expert-led workshops and discussions on environmental issues, field-based learning, group projects, and other experiences built around our five core principles of sustainability immersion, global perspective, leadership development, environmental study, and active learning. Throughout the program, students work towards the completion of a Sustainability Action Plan, identifying one to three specific sustainability initiatives they plan to implement in their communities or schools, with established actions, accountabilities, and timelines. This integrated and interdisciplinary approach enhances students’ understanding of sustainability while developing their capacity as future environmental leaders.
Considerations for Choosing a Summer Abroad Program
As a teen (or the parent of a teen), there are a lot of summer abroad programs offering travel experiences to developing countries. How is one to choose between these different programs? Price? Group size and composition? Destination? The number of community service credits? There are many great summer programs available and the best choice for you probably comes down to two factors. First, safety. This is unquestionably the number one priority for every organization working with teens, and we’re no different. Second, the organization’s area of specialization.
Sustainable Summer is a unique learning experience, unlike any other offered to teenagers today. We founded Sustainable Summer because — after many years working with high school students at some of the most respected organizations in the summer education field — we realized teenagers needed an opportunity to engage the critical issue of sustainability in a direct and substantive way. Sustainable Summer programs starts with an interesting destination and a purposeful travel experience, a group of intellectually curious young people with strong environmental sensitivities, and an approach to learning that is designed to cultivate sustainability knowledge and leadership capabilities. Where you take it from there is in your hands.
Sustainable Summer is not the right program for every student, but if you’re intrigued by what you’ve read so far, we invite you to contact us and hope you’ll consider joining us for a Sustainable Summer experience. Please be in touch if you have any questions. Follow these links to learn more about Sustainable Summer, what make’s us different, and our leadership team.
Jeff Sharpe and Anne Fenton
Co-Founders, Sustainable Summer