Sustainable Summer

A classic college campus surrounded by the beauty of New England's forests
June 25 - July 7, 2023 Application Closed

Environmental Leadership & Innovation
at Dartmouth

Program Details

Sustainable Summer at Dartmouth College is ideal for high school students with a strong interest in environmental sustainability, and is particularly well suited to students interested in social entrepreneurship, environmental policy, community activism and non-profit ventures. The program is designed to help students develop an advanced understanding of the interrelated challenges of sustainable development, climate change, and biodiversity loss through project-based learning and the real-world application of knowledge to a specific environmental problem.

If you are reading this you likely know that human-generated carbon emissions are driving global warming. The Earth’s average temperature has already increased 1° Celsius since the industrial revolution and we are on a path to an additional 3 or more degrees of warming by the end of the century. This has dire implications for the planet and its inhabitants. You already understand the broad strokes of this story. What you don’t know, or at least don’t fully understand, are the details and – more importantly – what needs to happen (and how) so that we have a climate future that is safe for people and the planet.

Sustainable Summer at Dartmouth is a fun and hands-on way to expand your understanding of sustainability while making friends from all over the world who share your passion for the environment. This is an intensive two-week program designed to develop students’ knowledge of sustainability concepts, problem-solving and leadership skills and a deeper understanding of self.

Summer at Dartmouth

There are few college campuses that can rival Dartmouth’s as a place to get a taste for college living. Picture yourself working with a team of your peers to develop a pitch for a newly conceived “triple bottom line” business over coffee in the student center. Or going canoeing or swimming in the Connecticut River, a few minutes walk from your residence hall. You’ll get to experience campus life, but also get to enjoy some of the incredible wilderness nearby culminating in a summit of Mount Moosilauke, one of the finest day hikes in the White Mountains. Most days feature some combination of classroom-based learning and field-based and/or experiential learning. We want to get out and about exploring sustainability on campus and in the surrounding natural world.

Program Goals

We focus on developing three pillars of environmental leadership in our students. What is environmental leadership?


Taking action starts with building knowledge. Participants through discussions, workshops, site visits, and fieldwork will investigate important concepts in the field of sustainability. An essential question guides this process on every program. By the end of the program students will have made gains in eco-literacy and built a solid foundation in principles of sustainable development.


We emphasize the application of knowledge to practical, real world problems through a project-based approach that allows for an in-depth investigation of an authentic and complex environmental problem. Knowing about something is very different from knowing how to do something. We structure our projects to bridge this gap, developing functional, transferrable skills in the process.


A Sustainable Summer program is an authentic space for students to explore their own value structures, professional and intellectual interests, and how their beliefs inform their environmental ethic and activism. It is a a space for youth to engage in their own sustainability journey with other like-minded peers. Our students are part of an emerging global community passionately committed to protecting human and planetary health and creating a more sustainable world than the one that exists today.

The Experience

More than almost anything else we do, we strive to build a cohort of intellectually curious youth from all over the world. Our programs emphasize dynamic project-based learning, personal growth, and discovery. This is NOT a "take notes and study for the test" type of program. This IS an "I'm all in, let's get our hands dirty and have fun while doing it" type of program. Check out what past students have to say about our programs at Dartmouth

The What and the How

Module I - Changing the Status Quo

The first week of the program explores the philosophy and mindset of innovators and changemakers; stimulates thinking about environmental problems and solutions to those problems; and helps students understand the most important considerations for operationalizing an idea into an initiative that creates positive environmental outcomes while being financially sustainable.

This module examines topics including:

  • the responsibilities that governments, businesses and individuals have towards the planet and society;
  • the main principles of sustainable development;
  • the fundamentals of climate science;
  • energy sources and uses;
  • the primary solutions, or pathways, that will enable urgent emissions reductions and a climate future that is safe for people and the planet;
  • and how organizations of all types and sizes can take action to advance positive sustainability outcomes.

Learning activities include case studies, climate simulations, group presentations, and other project-based activities. Guest speakers and lots of fun co-curriculars designed to connect students to nature and each other round out the week.

Module II - Putting Ideas Into Action

With a solid understanding of the fundamentals in place, we can then begin planning for action. That is what this program is all about. Using principles of human-centered design, students - working in small groups - will brainstorm and then develop either a market-based, policy-based, or community-based solution to a clearly articulated problem. This can be a a business concept, a white paper policy proposal, or a new non-profit organization or local environmental action campaign.

During an intensive three-day “innovation” bootcamp participants are guided through the process of finding an environmental problem worth solving and converting abstract ideas into real initiatives. Regardless of the type of venture, students will take their ideas to the community for feedback, refine their solution and then launch it with the goal of engaging people, inspiring action, and creating positive change.

What initiatives do students create? Here are some examples from the past two years:

  • a repurposed outdoor gear outfitter
  • a sugarcane-based bioplastic for eco-conscious snack packaging
  • a school-based, low-tech, on-site paper recycling system
  • a cockroach-based food waste processing system that will convert restaurant food waste into livestock feed and organic fertilizer
  • a stormwater management plan for a school
  • refillable cosmetics dispensed in bulk
  • biodegradable fishing tackle
  • a neighborhood composting initiative
  • seaweed livestock feed additive that reduces methane emissions

Have a look at our Program Guide for information about the program calendar, accommodations, academics, activities, guest speakers and other program details.


We use a tiered tuition model that leads to more socioeconomic diversity in our cohorts.


Our standard course fee, which represents the actual cost of operating our programs, including the administrative costs that are necessary to sustain our organization in the long-term. This is the suggested rate for families living in high cost of living areas with household net assets of greater than $650,000 and/or annual household income of greater than $180,000.

Tuition Assistance

Participants at this tuition rate cover only their direct participation costs, including lodging, meals, activities, and other programming. Participation at this level is based on the honor system. It is available to all families - no documentation required. We simply ask families to honestly consider their financial resources and ability to pay the full tuition rate.


Scholarship funding is available for students that are unable to participate at either of the other rates. Scholarship participants receive up to 100% of the program tuition in financial assistance. A parent statement of financial circumstances and a recent tax return are required.

What's Included


in either single, double, or triple rooms in Russell Sage residence hall, located just steps from the Dartmouth Green, the dining hall, and other centers of campus life.


Students will be provided with a full meal plan through Dartmouth's dining services. Dartmouth is a leader in food sustainability and meal options invariably include ingredients sourced locally. Dietary preferences or restrictions are no problem.


Activities, from the adventurous to the cultural, are a regular part of the program. For instance, we'll do a cooking class at King Arthur Flour and hike the Appalachian Trail.

Dynamic Learning Opportunities

Project-based. Interactive. Fun. This is an applied sustainability program. We focus on the application of ideas to practical problems.


Guest speakers from the Dartmouth community talk about local sustainability issues.

Residential Staff

Our professional facilitators live in the residence hall with the group.

Pre-Program Materials and Support

Students and parents receive comprehensive and prompt pre-program support.

Not Included

Tuition does not include transportation to/from campus, or personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and other incidentals.


Maybe, but that depends significantly on a number of factors. See this article on college admissions for more info.

No. Our position on college credit for pre-college enrichment programs is that, in most cases, it drives up the cost of participation without adding much value to the experience. It’s unlikely that admissions officers will weight the fact that a course was taken “for credit” any greater than one that is not in admissions decisions. Furthermore, competitive universities do not typically allow pre-college credits to transfer. Typically to be eligible for credit transfer, a course must be offered by accredited four year degree granting institutions as part of an undergraduate degree program, be at least three weeks long and meet for a minimum of 30 contact hours, and/or course enrollment must be by a majority of current college students. The vast majority of pre-college courses, even those offered by colleges themselves, don’t meet these requirements. This is probably why large pre-college programs run by universities like Columbia don’t confer credit. They know it’s not going to transfer.

That isn’t a possibility through our program, but, even if you’re not already familiar with the concept of sustainability, we encourage you take a few minutes to look through the information here and contact us with any questions. The program is geared towards students with an interest in environmental studies, but this is a broad field that overlaps with a number of other disciplines, such as business, public policy, economics, and the sciences. We are also more focused on developing transferable skills (eg; critical thinking and problem solving), than developing deep content knowledge. Students will certainly acquire lots of newfound information about sustainability, but learning is circular and we are primarily focused on building skill-sets that will help students be successful in a variety of academic disciplines when they matriculate to college.

We typically operate with a program team of five or six for our campus-based Leadership Academies. The staff lives in the residence hall and is closely involved with all aspects of program administration. You can learn more about the specific staff for a program on our website. The student:staff ratio will never exceed 10:1 and is typically 8:1 or so.

Students will live in either single, double, or triple rooms in Russell Sage residence hall, on the north side of Tuck Mall.

Russell Sage Residence Hall

The entire residence hall is dedicated to Sustainable Summer students. A common area, TV room, and kitchen are available to students. The residence halls are not air-conditioned, but summer evenings in Hanover rarely warrant A/C.

Students will be provided with a full meal plan through Dartmouth’s dining services. Dartmouth is a leader in food sustainability and meal options invariably include ingredients sourced locally, such as from Dartmouth’s own organic farm three miles from campus. Dietary preferences or restrictions are no problem.

We believe that there is significant value in disconnecting and not letting technology interfere with the immersion experience. Students are permitted to bring cell phones to the program, although note that we strive to create a “phone free” environment except during designated times when phones can/should be used. This is to ensure student engagement in the program. In general, we ask that students keep cell phones off whenever we’re together as a group and/or participating in any structured activity, workshop, session, etc.


Our staff can treat basic medical situations on-site within the limits of their certifications and training. Participants with more serious needs will be transported to an emergency medical facility or urgent care.

All of our programs have a detailed risk assessment and emergency protocols that we develop with our local partners and which are updated annually. Some risks and protocols are specific to certain geographies and not applicable to all programs (urban environments, wilderness environments, etc). Broadly speaking, here are some of the measures we take as an organization to manage risk and prepare for the unexpected:

  • During enrollment in the program, we ask parents to provide a medical history for each participant. Since several months typically pass between enrollment and participation, we ask parents to login to their MySummer account and update this information as we get closer to the summer. We require information on each participant’s immunizations, prescription and non-prescription medications, current health needs and medical insurance.
  • We conduct a pre-summer annual training with all facilitators and establish clear protocols to mitigate risk and effectively mobilize resources in the event of an emergency.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

The mission of Sustainable Summer is to cultivate the next generation of environmental leaders. Each student must be fully committed to and capable of working hard, taking responsibility for him or her self, and working effectively in the group to achieve the goals of the program. The following Essential Eligibility Criteria state expectations of each participant.

Each participant must…

  • Act reliably around hazards to minimize risk even when not directly supervised.
  • Independently perceive, understand, and follow directions and instructions given by others to be able to successfully execute appropriate and perhaps unfamiliar, techniques to avoid hazards and/or manage risks. These directions may be given before the hazard or risk is encountered or may need to be given during exposure to the hazard/risk and out of necessity and practicality are often given orally.
  • Be able to stay alert and to focus attention for up to several hours at a time while traveling in wilderness terrain, attending classes, or receiving instructions.
  • If taking prescription medications, be able to maintain proper dosage by self-medicating without assistance from instructors or others (except possibly in emergency situations).
  • Work effectively as a member of a team. This may require problem solving on an interpersonal or group level as well as a willingness to accept differences.
  • Contribute to a safe learning environment—no verbal or physical inappropriate behavior of others is tolerated for any reason.

Sustainable Summer Red Rules

Violation of the following “red rules” will result in immediate dismissal from a program:

  • NO engaging in activities that break US or local laws
  • NO sexual contact or exclusive relationships
  • NO sleeping in a room other than the one to which you have been assigned
  • NO body alteration, including piercing and tattoos
  • NO riding in motorized vehicles, unless authorized to do so by program staff
  • NO behavior that physically or emotionally endangers yourself or others, including 
specifically the use of recreational drugs or alcohol

Sustainable Summer Bullying and Inclusivity Statement

Sustainable Summer defines bullying as harassment, intimidation, or any act intended to exclude or harm another person physically or psychologically. We believe that any form, type, or level of bullying or discrimination is unacceptable and we have a zero tolerance policy on bullying and reserve the right to dismiss any student who bullies or discriminates against others.


Student health and well-being is unquestionably the number one priority for every organization working with teens, and we’re no different. However, let’s start with a basic statement about traveling abroad (or anywhere, for that matter): No one can guarantee total protection from injury, illness, or death. We can, though, consider our actions in the context of risk, which is the ‘effect of uncertainty on objectives.’ Sustainable Summer has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in the Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 40 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments.

As a result of this training Sustainable Summer has developed a risk management strategy encompassing all levels of our organization. In order to mitigate the risk that is inherent in all international expeditions, we have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is of the highest priority. All Sustainable Summer programs feature experienced staff using established risk management practices to guide every decision.


No. Dartmouth College is not a sponsor or co-sponsor of the program. Sustainable Summer leases space from Dartmouth to run the program and involvement by Dartmouth faculty or staff in the Environmental Leadership Institute is independent of the College. We do, however, offer lots of programming through Dartmouth’s Sustainability Office and the Dartmouth Organic Farm, but to reiterate again – this is not an official Dartmouth College program.


We are a “challenge by choice” program. We hope students that are apprehensive about an activity will take on the challenge, but we will respect the decision of any student not to participate in an activity provided they are otherwise fully committed to and capable of working hard, taking responsibility for him or her self, and working effectively in the group to achieve the goals of the program. We do not provide “alternate” programming if a student decides to sit out an activity.

We provide very detailed information about arrival and departure in the “Travel” section of your MySummer account (which students and parents can access after enrollment). This is where you’ll share your travel plans with us so we know when to expect you. The specifics of how and when to arrive differ from program to program, but generally speaking:

Students arriving by car should do so in the afternoon on the first day of the program and depart in the morning on the final day of the program

Students arriving by plane typically plan travel to the nearest major international airport, which is Boston Logan. From there, Dartmouth Coach offers direct service to Hanover with numerous departure times throughout the day. Students will be met by our staff at the Dartmouth Coach stop in front the Hopkins Center, which is about 5 minutes walking from our residence hall.

We are looking for intellectually curious and academically motivated students. For the most part, we focus on “applications” of knowledge rather than academic learning. This means a lot more project-based and experiential learning and a lot less lecturing than some students may be used to. It also means very full days to allow for field and group work. We try to create appropriate time in the daily calendar for rest, relaxation, and fun. It is difficult to find the balance because students often have a different sense and expectation of how much unstructured time is desirable. In practice, about 80% of past participants say that they found the pace of the program and balance between structured and unstructured time to be optimal. Of the 20% who felt otherwise, some would have preferred more “free time” while others would have preferred less. The same ratio (80/20) felt the program was appropriately “academic” and “intellectually challenging” with the dissenting 20% in “disagreement” over whether or not they would have preferred a more or less “academic” program.


How much does the program cost?

We operate on a tiered tuition model, which makes our participation in our programs accessible to families from across the socioeconomic spectrum. Please see our tuition page for additional information.

How do I enroll at the “tuition assistance’ level?

Once admitted to a program, there is a two-step enrollment process. First, the student reviews and acknowledges our Essential Eligibility Criteria. An enrollment email will then be sent to the student’s parent. Parents select their tuition tier during this step in the enrollment process. Enrolling at the “tuition assistance” level (20% discount on tuition) requires no additional documentation or application. It is offered based on the honor system. Please read more about our tiered tuition model for guidelines on choosing a tier.

What’s included in the cost of tuition?

Tuition includes all accommodations, meals, activities, curriculum and instruction, local transportation (excluding airport transfers), pre-program materials and support, gratuities, and contributions to service projects. Scholarships and financial aid are available.


Yes. Students can apply to multiple sessions and, if accepted, participate in consecutive sessions, either concurrently or not.

You must be at least 15 years of age and no more than 18 years of age on the program start date to participate. We are able to accept students from any location worldwide, although if you are applying from outside the United States there may be special visa and insurance requirements as part of your participation.

Program Staff

Curious about our program staff?

Dartmouth Program Testimonials

Admissions Process

  • Step 1

    Apply online. Your application will include a Letter of Recommendation from a teacher or mentor, a personal statement, and two short (500 words or less) responses to open-ended questions about sustainability. There is a $35 application fee (waived for scholarship applicants).
  • Step 2

    Admissions decision, based principally on the applicant's ability to demonstrate interest in sustainability issues and to contribute positively to our community of students. Students and parents are notified via email and provided enrollment instructions. This is also a good time for parents to be in contact with our office to review any questions about the program.
  • Step 3

    A non-refundable deposit secures enrollment in the program. Enrollment deposits are made online by credit card and the enrollment form must be completed by a parent.

Partners and Supporters

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