Stewardship & Sustainability

Credit: Lindsay Nohl

Making an Impact

As a mission-driven institution, NOLS strives to ensure that the wilderness values and environmental ethics taught on your course are reflected in our work.

When you travel through a remote desert landscape, ascend an alpine peak, or float a wild river through a timeless canyon, you are reveling in an experience that has likely been preserved through previous efforts of conservation advocacy. NOLS follows in the footsteps of those great figures who fought for the protection of wild landscapes. We boldly advocate for the vast wildernesses of the world that are nature’s best classrooms. More broadly, the ecological balance held in place by a stable climate also deserves our focus. NOLS travels lightly on the earth, practicing Leave No Trace in the backcountry and pursuing an ambitious sustainability program in the front country by reducing our carbon footprint, minimizing our waste, and prioritizing eco-friendly supply streams.

FieldNote-Book-Sand.png What You’ll Learn

NOLS courses provide some of the best classrooms for learning about environmental studies: the wilderness! While on your course, you will connect to the natural world through observing and applying ecological concepts. Instructors focus on place-based learning so that you become familiar with land management and environmental issues that shape that area. We also want you to have an active role in protecting our environment. Leave No Trace principles transform the way you travel through the backcountry and inform your habits after returning home. After a NOLS course, you will be able to articulate your grown environmental ethic.


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Sustainable practices will permeate your NOLS experience from the beginning. You will notice when you arrive at your NOLS destination that our campuses focus on key elements of sustainability, from harnessing solar energy to growing our own food. From tracking and mitigating our contribution to climate change, to making gear and food purchases based on their environmental footprints, it’s all part of our commitment to treading lightly on our planet and building a shared sustainable community.

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Stewardship at NOLS starts with our courses and extends through all of our operations. From advocating for better land management policies to engaging in national campaigns to protect our public lands, NOLS is leading the charge to preserve and protect the places we love. We believe that, as people who explore and enjoy wilderness and public lands, we have an obligation to take care of these places. Click below to learn about our ongoing projects and campaigns, and find out how you can make a difference for the places you care about.

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Volunteer on an Alumni Service Trip

Volunteering on an Alumni Service Trip is a direct way to be a good steward of public lands. It doesn’t get any better than going somewhere beautiful, getting your hands dirty, and making the world a better place.

Credit: Rich Brame