Sustainability and Environmental Justice

Learn how Portugal's approach to sustainability and social equity challenges the core principles of mainstream economic theory.

At a Glance




Relevant previous coursework

Language of Study


Courses taught in



Jan 31 – May 15

Online Component

Jan 31 – Feb 4

On Site Component

Feb 7 – May 5

Online Component

May 9 – May 15

Program Countries


Program Excursion Countries


Program Base

Lisbon, Portugal

Critical Global Issue of Study

Climate & Environment

Climate & Environment Icon

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon


Why study sustainability in Portugal?

Live in the European Green Capital for 2020: Lisbon, a city addressing carbon emissions and the impact of mass tourism through renewable energy technologies and social projects. Here, you’ll discover how Portugal’s approach to sustainability and social equity challenges the core principles of economic orthodoxy. On excursions to the ancient university town Coimbra, the Azores Islands, the coastal city Porto, and Spain’s stunning Extremadura region, you’ll compare conservation projects, sustainable agriculture production, resource management, and environmental good practice.


  • Live in Lisbon, Europe's Green Capital for 2020
  • Learn how policymakers are mapping alternative designs in green policies
  • Travel to Porto, Coimbra, and Azores and Spain’s Extremadura region
  • Learn about Portugal's national fire plan to reduce occurrence of forest fires


Previous college-level coursework or background in sustainability, environmental studies, economics, natural resources, health, environmental policy, sociology or other related fields, as assessed by SIT.



Explore this autonomous nine-island archipelago in the mid-Atlantic with its intense natural beauty. The Azores and have become a popular tourist destination and a hub for eco-conscious design.

In São Miguel, the largest of the islands, and Terceira, you will see smart approaches to sustainable tourism and climate change. Your excursion will reflect the values and principles of the program including low-emission transportation, sustainable catering, a circular economy for food, paperless management and other responsible practices.

The Extremadura Region

Study alternative energy technologies and sustainability systems in the Extremadura autonomous region  of the western Iberian Peninsula. Learn how Spain uses renewable energy to drive economic growth and create jobs in this high unemployment area.

Walk on a 1st century Roman bridge and visit the Alcazaba Arab fortress. In Cáceres, you’ll attend university lectures and visit the oldest part of the city used as a set location for the TV series  “Game of Thrones. “You’ll also visit one of Spain’s best-preserved Jewish quarters.

Porto and Coimbra

In the riverfront city of Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital, you’ll visit the historic University of Coimbra and its famed baroque library, Biblioteca Joanina. Attend student performances of classical songs in cafes and wander the well-preserved medieval old town.

In Porto, a city rich in history and stunning views, you’ll take in the blend of old and innovation. You will see the Casa da Música concert hall and visit the picturesque Cais da Ribeira and its iconic Luís I Bridge stretching across the Douro River.

Please note that SIT will make every effort to maintain its programs as described. To respond to emergent situations, however, SIT may have to change or cancel programs.


Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to: 

  • Conduct an Environmental Assessment Agency survey to evaluate environmental impacts on delimited neighborhoods. 
  • Compare different approaches to mass tourism and sustainable agriculture. 
  • Discuss the economies of Portugal, southern Spain, and the Azores using a theoretical and empirical perspective of the economic, environmental, and sociocultural sustainability impacts of bioenergy, biotechnology, and use of renewable resources. 
  • Outline Portugal’s sustainable strategy to preempt forest fire threats, improve firefighters’ performance, and develop forest intervention areas. 
  • Integrate Portuguese language skills into everyday communication. 

Read more about Program Learning Outcomes.


Access virtual library guide.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Comparative approaches to sustainability and bioeconomy
  • "The right to nature" and neoliberalism
  • Environmental in/justice and health equity
  • Urban regeneration in southern European cities
  • Environmental governance and sustainability
  • Blue ocean and Mediterranean bioeconomy

Comparative Sustainable Bioeconomy and Energy Resources

Comparative Sustainable Bioeconomy and Energy Resources – syllabus
(ENVI/EURO3000 / 3 credits)

This seminar provides a comparative approach to the analysis of sustainability and bioeconomic development in Southern Europe. The European Commission defines the bioeconomy as “the production of renewable biological resources and the conversion of these resources and waste streams into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy.” Portugal’s sustainability approach challenges the core principles of economic orthodoxy that is inherently unstable and crisis prone and maps directions for alternative designs in green policies, sustainable environmental tourism and use of natural resources, and access to a sustainable urban environment. Portugal generates almost 100% of the country’s needs in electricity consumption from renewable energy, its approach to sustainable and accessible tourism has been hailed as a model for economic development, and Lisbon has been awarded the title of the European Green Capital for 2020. Spain is the second most visited country in the world today (more than 75 million tourists), is the world’s largest producer of olive oil, and is expected to achieve 100% renewable energy in electricity generation by 2030. Through field visits and the excursion to southern Spain, students compare different sustainability and issues in bioeconomics including conservation projects, sustainable agriculture production, resource management and environmental good practice, and innovative use of renewable energy and impact on sustainable economic growth. Students also analyze and learn from Spain’s approach to mass tourism and urban sustainability.

Environmental Justice, Advocacy, and Urban Regeneration

Environmental Justice, Advocacy, and Urban Regeneration – syllabus
(ENVI/EURO3005 / 3 credits)

In this seminar, environmental justice is used in a broad sense to refer to the distribution and access to green spaces and green infrastructure and the social relations of production and power that shape equitable access and distribution. Variables such as race, class, or territorial location impact environmental in/justice and people’s access to resources, including green spaces, forests, clean air, water, health, or education. While the 1976 Portuguese Constitution recognized the “right to a healthy and ecologically balanced living environment” and the “duty to defend it,” it is only after the Framework Act on the Environment was passed in 1987 that environmental public policy became an important item on the agenda of policy makers. Students analyze the politics underlying inequitable environmental policies and the resistance movements built to fight such injustices in the areas of waste management, industry, energy, megaprojects, and territorial management. The focus is on environmental injustices in the areas of distribution of green spaces in urban environments and ensuing socioeconomic and health impacts. Students learn also about major cases of environmental conflicts in Portugal and in southern Spain during educational excursions. The seminar draws on theoretical and empirical frameworks from a plurality of disciplines including environmental studies, environmental science, urban planning, public health, cultural geography, and sociology to interrogate environmental policies and practices and examine their impacts on environmental degradation and the well-being of communities in low-income neighborhoods.

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics

Environmental Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ENVI3500 / 3 credits)

The Environmental Research Methods and Ethics (ERME) seminar introduces students to the conceptual and practical tools for gathering primary data and the knowledge and skills that are essential to forming constructive relationships with organizations and/or individuals, which are necessary for completing an academic project in the cultural context of Portugal. The main emphasis is on the development of empirical tools and ethics of interactive research skills involving the collection of primary data. The seminar includes modules on sustainability research methods and qualitative and quantitative research methods and ethics in environmental studies. The seminar uses lectures, readings, and field assignments to prepare students to undertake field study in the cultural context of Portugal in strict observance of research procedures involving human subjects and the regulatory ethical norms defined by the Local Review Board (LRB) and SIT’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The overall aim is to help students hone their experience-based learning processes and prepare them for the development of an Independent Study Project (ISP), which is largely based on data gathered from primary sources.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

The Independent Study Project (ISP) is a self-designed research project offering students the opportunity to undertake a personally significant and independent investigation that highlights the regional and cultural reality that can only be encountered during a study abroad experience. The ISP is the academic component in which the student most directly applies the concepts, skills, tools, and techniques of experience-based learning articulated through the Environmental Research Methods and Ethics course and the thematic courses, while enabling students to further integrate their language skills and the contacts they have developed in the homestay and in the broader community. Each student will plan, develop, and independently undertake a research project, with the advice and guidance of the academic director and an ISP advisor — a local academic and/or sustainability or environmental professional. The topic of study may be anything of interest to the student, within the scope of the program and the immediate region, and is usually developed out of lectures, discussions, field visits, and educational excursions. The final project should provide material evidence of student capability in utilizing appropriate methodologies and in synthesizing experiences in the host culture. Students are expected to complete 120 hours of field-based (non-archival, non-library) research on their topic, submit a substantial written paper, and deliver an accompanying oral presentation. It is not uncommon for ISPs to strongly contribute to the student’s choice of subject for graduate studies or professional career.

Sample topics:

  • National energy policy and EU energy framework
  • Hydropower and wind energy
  • Fundamentals of solar utilization
  • Integration of renewable energy technology into existing infrastructure
  • Smart technologies for power generation and distribution
  • Efficient energy generation and conversion
  • Operating and enhancing sustainable energy systems
  • Green combustion and biofuels in a local context
  • Renewable energy investments and markets
  • Impacts of environmental in/justice on neighborhood communities
  • Bioeconomy and regeneration in Lisbon


Portuguese Introductory I – syllabus
(PORT1003 / 3 credits)

Portuguese Introductory II – syllabus
(PORT1503 / 3 credits)

Portuguese Intermediate – syllabus
(PORT2003 / 3 credits)

Emphasis on speaking, reading, and writing skills in Portuguese through classroom and field instruction. Based on in-country evaluation, students are placed in intensive beginning or intermediate classes, with further language practice in homestays, lectures, and field visits.



You’ll live with a homestay family in the capital for 12 weeks. Host families are typically middle-class and reflect the rich cultural diversity of the city. Lisbon is a city of immigrants. You’ll find people from Brazil, Cape Verde, Ukraine, Angola, China, and Guinea Bissau who have made Lisbon their home. Your homestay family will live either within walking distance to the program center or about 15-30 minutes by bus or tram. You’ll receive a stipend covering the fare if you have a short commute by public transportation.

The homestay experience gives you the opportunity to be part of a family. You’ll share meals with them, practice speaking Portuguese, and understand the culture through their eyes. They will include you in special occasions such as holidays, weddings, and local celebrations. Your host family will introduce you to local cuisine, tell you where to get the best custard tarts, and where to listen to fado, traditional folk music with a melancholy lilt popular Lisbon’s cafes, bars and all around town.

Other Accommodations

Other accommodations during the program include hostels and modest hotels.

Career Paths

Students on this program may consider career paths in various sectors including with:

  • Public policy

  • Advocacy

  • Public relations

  • Sustainable energy

  • Sustainable agriculture

  • Environment agencies

  • International development

  • Government and administrative institutions

Faculty & Staff

Portugal: Sustainability and Environmental Justice

Cátia Magro, PhD
Academic Director
Joana Dionísio, MS
Program Assistant

Discover the Possibilities

  • Cost & Scholarships

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact [email protected] for more information.

    Accessibility Overview