Sustainable Summer at Yale

Sustainable Summer

A leader in sustainability, Yale is of one of the country's oldest and most famous universities. Tree-lined streets, gothic architecture, and Yale's unique residential colleges make an ideal location for this program.
June 23 - July 5, 2024 Accepting Applications

Environmental Leadership & Innovation
at Yale

Program Details

This Sustainable Summer program — held in New Haven, CT at Yale University — 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.

Understand The Problem. Develop Innovative Solutions.

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 Yale 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.

Sustainable Summer at Yale

Summer at Yale

Yale is like a real-life Hogwarts, and while you're unlikely to encounter any Harry Potter magic during the program, Yale's gothic beauty, storied history, and numerous nooks and crannies are enchanting. Our home for two weeks is in one Yale's twelve residential colleges, each with its own inner courtyard, dining hall and underground "buttery" perfect for hanging out or brainstorming ideas for a new a triple bottom line business plan. Days feature a combination of project-based learning, culture or outdoors activities, and quality time enjoying the amazing community of students from all over the world that participate in a Sustainable Summer program. PLEASE NOTE: Sustainable Summer at Yale is operated independently of Yale University and is not sponsored or endorsed by the University. The views expressed in connection with the program are not the official positions, statements of advice nor opinions of Yale University and should not be viewed as an endorsement by Yale of any such views or statements.

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 projects will investigate important concepts in the field of sustainability.


We emphasize the application of knowledge to practical, real world problems through a project-based approach.


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.

The Experience

With 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 Yale.

Sustainable Summer at Yale

What You'll Be Doing

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.

Program Details

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

What's Included


in double occupancy non air-conditioned rooms in one of Yale's residential colleges


Students will be provided with a full meal plan through Yale's dining services. Dietary preferences or restrictions are no problem.


In addition to activities on the Yale campus, students will visit NYC and the Yale Outdoor Education Center

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 Yale community share their expertise and 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.

Students will reside in a double occupancy room in one of Yale’s residential colleges. Each college is accessed through a security access point that opens into a private courtyard for that college. Our program has its own dedicated “entryway” that provides access to our program’s rooms and common areas.

Roommate assignments are based on a housing questionnaire. The residence hall is not air-conditioned. Linens are not provided but can be rented from Sustainable Summer for a small fee.

No. Yale University does not operate Sustainable Summer. Sustainable Summer is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. We receive support from a number of different organizations, including the federal government. Yale University is not a supporter, sponsor, or co-sponsor of this program and the words “Yale” and “Yale University” are used here only to describe (i) the program’s location and facilities and (ii) the experience of program staff who are employed or otherwise officially affiliated with Yale.


Detailed information is provided to enrolled families, but the basics are as follows:

Students arriving into either the Tweed-New Haven airport or the New Haven train station will be met there by staff.

Otherwise, students should plan to arrive by private vehicle. For students traveling to the program by plane into one of the NYC airports, private airport shuttles or car services to campus are available from JFK or LGA. Additional information is provided upon acceptance into the program.

Program Staff

Curious about our program staff?

Sustainable Summer 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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Silicon Vally Community Trust Logo
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