Want to make a real environmental impact? Tuesday, November 29th is the national Day of Giving, and Everyday Earthiness has compiled this list of great climate action charities to support as the first of my “Season of Giving” posts (be sure check in at EverydayEarthness.com each week for more great environmental charities in the weeks to come).
Many Americans have felt fearful and helpless to make a difference since the election, particularly in the face of daunting issues like climate crisis. However, we have the opportunity to turn that fear into action. Donations and support for environmental non-profits go a long way toward affecting environmental policy and tackling environmental issues — not only in the U.S., but around the world. Plus, donations make great, environmentally-friendly holiday gifts and stocking stuffers — and they are tax deductible!
I’ve decided to start my “Season of Giving” posts with a list of ways to support climate action for one reason: climate change is the single most urgent and severe environmental concern at the local, national and global levels. Some of these organizations make climate change their top priority, others list climate action among several top priorities. All are important players in the fight for climate action.
How to fight climate change
With the election of climate denier Donald Trump into the White House and the re-election of the most anti-environment Congress in history, climate change will face an even steeper uphill battle for the next four years. There are 182 fossil-fuel-funded climate deniers in the House and Senate, meaning that 2/3 of the American population is currently represented by climate deniers in Congress. That’s 203 million people!
Climate change denial is an anti-science myth fabricated and funded by the fossil fuel industry. In fact, fossil fuel interests spent over $80 million in 2016 alone to ensure the election of climate deniers in our government. Why? Because the number number one way to combat climate change is to reduce the world’s use of fossil fuels… to zero. Climate denial creates government inaction, which in turn creates profits for fossil fuel companies. Fight climate change by supporting groups that advocate for renewable energy and the end of fossil fuels.
The second way to combat climate change is to stop deforestation. All plant life — from the jungle trees in the Amazon to plankton in the world’s oceans — act as “carbon sinks”, with forests absorbing 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually and preventing it from being released into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. Logging and clearing of forest land, particularly in tropical rainforests, not only removes valuable carbon sinks, but releases their stores of greenhouse gases into the air. In fact, deforestation and land use accounts for 11% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, forests provide a cooling effect by turning water from soil into moisture in the air. A 2014 scientific study published in Nature Climate Change proved that cutting down trees removes this cooling apparatus, causing world temperatures to rise and affecting weather patterns across the globe. Fight climate change by supporting groups that protect forests, stop deforestation and reforest degraded land.
The third way to combat climate change is to reduce the world’s dependence on animal products like beef, dairy and leather. Livestock production, and particularly cattle farming, is responsible for 14.5% of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Fight climate change by supporting organizations working to create sustainable food chains around the world and pushing for the world to move away from meat consumption.
How to support climate action groups
- Donate – Obviously action groups need funding to operate and make an impact, so donations are the most important way to help these organizations.
- Participate – Signing petitions, calling your representatives, attending rallies and protests, attending community meetings and legislative sessions, writing letters to the editor, listening to organization podcasts and reading news updates, volunteering to work and spreading the word on social media and elsewhere are all great ways to help out local and international environmental organizations.
Climate action groups
The following organizations tackle climate change through legal and political action, pushing renewables, fighting fossil fuels, combatting deforestation, engaging different sectors of society and different regions of the world and so on.
1. National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – The NRDC is devoted to legislative and judicial solutions for lasting environmental change and protecting natural resources in the United States and across the globe in the areas of climate, health, the wild, food, energy, water, oceans and communities. Recent successes include helping to create the Atlantic’s first Marine National Monument, helping California close the state’s last nuclear reactors and working with the Pentagon to build renewable energy resources near military bases in the West. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 96.35 score / 86.35% spent on the programs and services it provides.
2. Greenpeace – Greenpeace was founded in 1971 by a small group of environmental activists on a fishing boat trying to protect Alaska from a U.S. nuclear weapons test. Today it is a huge, people-powered international network of 30 million members in 55 countries focussed on creating a green and peaceful future by first and foremost fighting global warming, but also saving the Arctic, protecting forests, protecting oceans, living toxic-free, promoting sustainable food and defending democracy. Last year Greenpeace released their peer-reviewed 2015 Energy [R]evolution report, which outlined how global transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 is not only possible but economically beneficial. Use their Greenwire platform to connect with other activists and get event information. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 88.01score / 82.6% spent on the programs and services it provides. Rated by Fundraiser Insight as one of the Top 12 Environmental Organizations Who Use Their Donations Well.
3. Sierra Club – The national foundation has a principle focus of combating climate change through moving away from fossil fuels and protecting our wildlands. Their programs include Environmental Justice, Politics and Elections, Toxins, Fair Table, Water Sentinals and Responsible Trade, among others. Successes include shutting down coal power plants across the U.S. and preventing construction of new ones as part of their Beyond Coal initiative. Local chapters in each state organize and fight for local environmental issues. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 94.08 score / 88.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.
4. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Principally known for protecting animal species, the WWF actually has a multi-pronged focus on climate, food, forests, fresh water, oceans and wildlife across the globe. As the world’s leading conservation organization, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by more than one million members in the United States and close to five million globally. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 86.04 score / 74.2% spent on the programs and services it provides. Rated by Fundraiser Insight as one of the Top 12 Environmental Organizations Who Use Their Donations Well.
5. Union of Concerned Scientists – Originally founded during the Vietnam war to fight nuclear proliferation, the UCS today focuses on advocacy for climate change through “engaged science”. The group is responsible for groundbreaking research on sustainability standards for vehicles and the disastrous affects of climate change, for refuting the claim that climate change is a hoax and for producing reports on how the fossil fuel industry and other private interests profit from inaction on climate change. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 88.49 score / 78.4% spent on the programs and services it provides.
6. Environmental Defense Fund – EDF takes on the most urgent environmental threats to the climate, ecosystems, people’s health, and more by combining science, economics, and law to find practical and lasting solutions. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 94.48 score / 79.1% spent on the programs and services it provides.
7. Conservation International – CI works on issues ranging from climate change to food stability to environment protection. The organization sponsors field projects, funds scientific research and forges partnerships with businesses that can drive action on the conservation front. Climate change is a top priority as the biggest issue facing the world. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 90.81 score / 83.3% spent on the programs and services it provides.
8. League of Conservation Voters Education Fund -This group’s mission is to inform and engage voters about key environmental issues at election time and to advocate for sound environmental policies all year long. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 92.02 score / 89.3% spent on the programs and services it provides.
9. Climate Solutions – This group works to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming by galvanizing leadership, growing investment, and bridging divides. They partner with cities and companies to propel a clean energy economy by moving beyond oil and coal and stopping fossil fuel pollution. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 91.74 score / 81.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.
10. Environmental Working Group – EWG’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment using their amazing team of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, communication experts and programmers to make sure someone is standing up for public health when government and industry won’t. Among the group’s many focus areas is energy. EWGs hard-hitting energy investigations hold energy producers accountable and point the way toward conservation and cleaner energy. EWG scrutinizes drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil, use of ethanol to power vehicles, wood-burning electricity generation, uranium mining and nuclear power. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 87.38 score / 75.9% spent on the programs and services it provides.
11. The Nature Conservancy – The only environmental charity listed among the 50 biggest U.S. charities. TNC’s priorities include worldwide efforts to protect water, take action on climate change, save oceans, conserve land and transform cities using their staff of hundreds of scientists, a network of local branches across 69 countries, partnerships with companies and strategic conservation and financing. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 84.35 score / 71.2% spent on the programs and services it provides.
12. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – This group is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to forge practical solutions to climate change by advancing strong policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively, promote clean energy, and strengthen resilience to climate impacts. Their Alliance for a Sustainable Future brings cities and businesses together to play a more significant role in shaping sustainable communities and achieving climate goals. Formerly known as the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Charity Navigator Rating: 2 stars / 74.06 score / 81.2% spent on the programs and services it provides.
13. 350.org – Founded by top environmental activist Bill McKibben with the goal of uniting climate activists into a movement of bottom-up organizing around the world. 350.org operates in 188 countries fighting dependence on coal, helping groups divest from fossil fuels, fighting the Keystone pipeline, etc. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 91.36 score / 88.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.
14. The Solutions Project – Founded by clean energy mastermind and Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering, Mark Jacobson, The Solutions Project’s goal is to accelerate the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy across all 50 states, per Jacobson’s revolutionary report on the feasibility and economic benefits of doing so by 2050. The group works to engage the national public, convene leaders and to activate movement to implement their model at the state level. The Elon Musk Foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the 11th Hour Project and the Wallace Global Fund are all supporters.
15. EarthJustice – This legal group uses the power of law to take on critical environmental issues and bring about positive change by protecting the wild, promoting healthy communities and fighting for clean energy and a healthy climate. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 93.25 score / 79.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.
16. Rainforest Alliance – This international nonprofit organization works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. The Rainforest Alliance fights climate change by conserving forests, reforesting degraded land and sustainably managing forests. The group’s certification seal (the label with the frog) lets consumers know that a product has been created in a way that protects the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the area. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 85.73 score / 87.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.
17. NextGen Climate – This group focuses on mobilizing and organizing the youth vote and interest in climate issues around the election, transitioning to 100% clean energy and stopping the Keystone pipeline. NextGen was founded by Tom Steyer, a business leader and philanthropist who believes we have a moral responsibility to give back and help ensure that every family shares the benefits of economic opportunity, education, and a healthy climate. Join, volunteer or donate.
18. The Trust for Public Land – This group is committed to using conservation expertise to help solve and mitigate the world’s most pressing environmental problem, addressing climate change through carbon mitigation in nature, building climate smart cities and conserving vital landscapes that protect communities from climate threats.
19. Cool Earth – This UK-based group fights climate change by protecting the most threatened forests around the world while helping the indigenous people most affected by deforestation and teaching them to establish more profitable ventures than selling their trees. Cool Earth’s mission is based on the principles that protecting rainforests is the most cost effective way to combat climate change, that half of the world’s rainforests have disappeared in the last 40 years, and that indigenous people are the most affected by deforestation.
20. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – Dedicated to the long-term health and wellbeing of all of Earth’s inhabitants, LDF has given out $60 million in grants to organizations and projects focussed on climate change, innovative solutions, wildland conservation, indigenous rights, marine conservation and public advocacy. Leonardo DiCaprio is a UN Ambassador of Peace and Climate. He recently produced and starred in the climate change documentary Before the Flood.
21. SolarAid – This group works to combat climate change and poverty at the same time by selling small, portable solar lights in rural Africa to replace widely used kerosene lamps, thereby averting greenhouse emissions, reducing large expenditures on kerosene and preventing health damage caused by indoor smoke.
22. EcoTrust – This West coast group’s mission is to advance social equity, economic opportunity and environmental well-being for all. They focus on several issues, including climate change, with the goal of developing greater understanding of the risks and opportunities in their region posed by climate change via applied research, impact investments, data visualization, and public and media engagement. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 90.34 score / 84.4% spent on the programs and services it provides.
23. The Post Carbon Institute – This group believes that the world is experiencing the confluence of crisis in four interrelated systems — energy, ecology, economy, and equity. PCI provides individuals and communities with the resources needed to understand and respond by building resilience to withstand these crises and supporting social and cultural change to make society more ready to take decisive and appropriate action for the best possible outcome.
24. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air Initiative – This group analyzes air quality and health data to create public awareness and political advocacy for cleaning up the air in America by protecting legislation like the Clean Air Act in order to prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, and premature deaths each year. Charity Navigator Rating of the ALA’s national HQ: 3 stars / 82.33 score / 91.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.
25. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy – ACEEE acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors via technical and policy analysis and advising, partnerships, conferences, research and reporting and public outreach. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 92.02 score / 96.2% spent on the programs and services it provides.
26. Environment America – A federation of state-based citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations researching the challenges confronting our environment, educate the public about what’s at stake and helping members make an impact on climate change solutions and renewable energy, pollinators, land conservation and clean water.
27. Clean Air Watch – A non-partisan, non-profit group committed to monitoring and defending Clean Air laws and climate policies throughout the U.S.. CAW seeks to present a public-interest perspective grounded in fact and analysis.
28. The Ocean Conservancy – One of the multiple goals of this group is to tackle climate change issues by researching and educating the world about the effects of climate change on the ocean, namely the acidification of ocean waters from absorbing carbon dioxide emissions, which threatens the basic building blocks of marine life. By bringing climate change threats to light, The Ocean Conservancy hopes to inspire real and lasting climate action. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 90.87 score / 73.0% spent on the programs and services it provides.
29. Citizens Climate Lobby / Citizens Climate Education – A non-partisan, grassroots advocacy group working to create climate will for livable solutions to climate change through national policy. This group focuses on shared values versus political divides to create fair, effective and sustainable climate action.
30. Climate Action Network (CAN) – A global network of NGOs working together to promote government and individuals action to limit human-induced climate change to sustainable levels. The U.S. division (USCAN) fosters connectivity, information sharing, coordination and collaboration between climate groups with different perspectives and approaches to create effective group strategies towards achieving common goals. CAN also has regional branches, such as Utah CAN, to bring together regional climate action groups. Donate or support any CAN organization.
Alternative climate action groups
Beyond climate action charities, other organizations support climate action through participation beyond donations. Check out these alternative ways you can make an impact.
31. Organizing for America – Barak Obama’s post-Presidential goal is to get back to community organizing by founding this group of community organizers and volunteers in 250 local chapters and growing to fight for progressive change on issues like climate change, immigration reform, health care, women’s health, equal rights, gun violence prevention and economic opportunity. Get involved by volunteering, donating or becoming a community organizer through one of OFA’s training programs.
32. DivestInvest.org – Promoting a global transition to 100% clean, renewable energy, this group helps individuals, corporations, foundations, retirement plans, universities and organizations divest from fossil fuel investments and invest instead in clean energy, sustainable agriculture and local business to fight climate change. Divest Invest Philanthropy launched in 2014 with 17 foundations and over 1.8 billion in assets under management. To date institutions worth $3.4 trillion have joined the divestment movement with the goal of ending the use of fossil fuels by draining investment in fossil fuel businesses. You can divest too.
33. Climate Ride – A community of environment and active transportation advocates that sets up group bike rides around the country to promote awareness and raise funds for climate action by over 100 environment, conservation, clean energy, sustainability, climate education, and active transportation advocacy groups. Join a multi-day hiking and cycling event or Individual Challenge program today!
34. The Humane League and Vegan Outreach – Though climate action is not these groups principal goal, the spread of vegetarianism and veganism can have a profound environmental impact. Learn more about the impact of animal agriculture on climate change, spread the word about how important it is to reduce meat consumption, and work on reducing the meat and animal product consumption in your own family.
For Utah locals
For those of you in my home state of Utah, please consider supporting any of the following organizations via donations, calls to take action, volunteerism and more.
HEAL Utah (sign up for their Citizen Activist Program here), Utah Clean Energy, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, Utah Clean Air Alliance, Utah Climate Action Network, BreatheUtah, Utah Clean Air, Utah Moms for Clean Air, Utah Clean Cities, Utah Clean the Air Challenge, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, WildEarth Guardians and Sustain Utah.
What can you do today?
Don’t let the election put you in despair over its environmental implications — let it instead inspire you to take action, to engage in environmental issues, to devote some of your annual donations to climate action, to volunteer some of your time to making an impact on the urgent climate crisis and to inspire others to do the same. Be sure to spread the word about organizations you are supporting and why, information you are discovering through those organizations and ways that your community can chip in and help.
Featured website of the day: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has been one of the important science groups integral to fighting those who claim that climate change is a hoax.
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