If you are looking for an impactful way to help fight climate change, one of the easiest and best things you can do is to get involved with an environmental nonprofit that is working on climate change issues. They will be up to speed on the top priorities and will have organized projects where you can quickly jump in and start contributing to the effort in ways large or small.
Climate change is the biggest global challenge facing us today. It brings with it the threat of displacement due to rising seas, the collapse of ecosystems (which threaten species extinction as well as our food and water supplies), and severe weather like the increasingly frequent wildfires and floods that have resulted in people losing their homes and businesses. The cost of all of this - not only economically, but psychologically and emotionally - is enormous.
If there is good news here, it is that there are a LOT of really good, smart, and caring people (scientists, engineers, policymakers, educators, activists and others) who are pouring their energy into sounding the alarm and coming up with solutions that can make a difference, before it is too late. The urgency of the climate crisis has many regular people looking for a way to get involved as well, beyond recycling and doing what they can at home.
Volunteering is a great way to gain in-depth knowledge about environmental challenges and what actions actually have an impact. It is also a great way to build your skills and make new friends who share your passion for the environment. Some nonprofits provide in-depth training to help everyday people become climate leaders in their communities. If you don't have time for volunteering, but still want to contribute, find a nonprofit that is taking an approach you like and support them by making a donation. Whether you are helping to fight climate change with your time and talent, or with your checkbook, it's all fantastic and makes a difference!
While there are a growing number of nonprofits that focus exclusively on climate change, there are also many others that have a broader focus that includes climate change. The climate is so intertwined with everything that even if a nonprofit's main focus on wildlife habitat conservation, clean air and water, or renewable energy, achieving those program goals involves dealing with climate change.
In this article, we will cover 14 top U.S.-based environmental nonprofits working on climate change, whether as an exclusive focus or as part of a broader agenda.
Now let's dive into these environmental nonprofits doing really interesting and important work on climate change! We hope you'll find one that inspires you to get involved!
Environmental Nonprofits Focused Exclusively on Climate Change
These climate change nonprofits are working on a a variety of environmental goals like cutting emissions, preserving endangered species, empowering vulnerable communities, removing carbon from the atmosphere, and saving resources, all aimed at addressing the climate emergency.
Citizens Climate Lobby
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonprofit advocacy climate change organization with a focus on national policies to address climate change. The organization, which has volunteers organized into its 551 active chapters around the world, trains them to build relationships with their local representatives and influence climate policy.
CCL uses a variety of tools, in keeping with local politics and culture, like lobbying, media relations, and grassroots outreach and engagement, to build political support for climate action. The 501(c)4 organization provides some exciting opportunities to get actively involved in climate advocacy. If you want to join a CCL chapter, you can find one closest to you here. CCL also trains climate advocates starting a new organization, find more details here.
You can also donate to its sister organization -- Citizens' Climate Education (CCE) -- which is a 501(c)(3) organization and has a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. It trains and empowers its volunteers (more than 210,000) across the country to become effective advocates for climate solutions. Learn more about its programs here.
350.org is a global movement which involves ordinary people who are working together to end the age of fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy by supporting community-led energy solutions. It was founded in 2008 by a group of friends along with environmentalist and journalist Bill McKibben, who authored one of the first books on global warming aimed at the general public. The organization is building a global climate movement by linking activists and groups around the world.
350.org has been a part of key climate-related movements in the last 14 years. In 2014, it was a part of the massive and impactful People’s Climate March in New York City, attended by about 400,000 people. There were solidarity events in 162 other countries, making it the largest climate march in history. (1) In 2022, as a result of its advocacy for clean energy and stopping funding to fossil fuels, major banks and insurers like Deutsche Bank in Germany and JP Morgan Chase in the U.S. ruled out funding for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). (2)
If you are passionate about clean energy and dream of a fossil fuel-free world, this organization empowers you to support these causes. You can join environmental groups or even start your own group with the help of 350.org. Find more info here. You can donate to the organization here.
Action for the Climate Emergency
Action for the Climate Emergency (ACE) is a great climate platform that is educating and empowering young people to fight the climate crisis that profoundly impacts their future. It is ensuring that young people have everything they need to understand the science behind the climate emergency and advocate for solutions. The 501(c)3 organization, with a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, runs a Youth Action Network which has more than half a million youth advocates in all 50 states, and it sends out weekly alerts on how people can advocate for climate justice.
The organization has so far educated 25 million high school students about the climate emergency and possible solutions through its resource -- Our Climate Our Future. You can donate to the organization here, and participate in their climate advocacy efforts here.
NextGen America (formerly known as NextGen Climate) was founded in 2013 by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. The 501(c)(4) organization is the country's biggest youth voter organization, which mobilizes young people to support progressive candidates.
Climate is an important part of NextGen America's priorities along with economic justice, democracy, racial justice, and human dignity or equality. The San Francisco, California-based organization, which has registered more than 1.4 million young people to vote, is empowering young people with tools they need to put climate on the agenda.
You can make a contribution to Nextgen America here, and lend your voice to its causes here.
The Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project is a non-government advocacy and climate change education organization founded by former vice president Al Gore. The 501(c)3 organization, with a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, runs chapters across the country with ordinary citizens working for climate solutions by advocating for federal climate policies and opposing petrochemical projects. It has five key areas of concern: a just transition to green energy, zero-carbon transportation, climate justice and healthy communities, green urban and rural communities, and a fair, representative democracy. If you want to join the organization, you can find a chapter here.
The Climate Reality Project also runs a training program called the Climate Reality Leadership Corps led by Al Gore and a team of distinguished scientists, activists, and innovators. You can join the program to learn about the ongoing climate and justice crises and how you can contribute to fighting it. Want to know more about? Click here. You can also make a donation to the organization here.
Carbon180 is an environmental nonprofit with an ambitious goal to reverse two centuries of carbon emissions. It aims to do so through advocacy, building coalition, and supporting innovation that will enable the development and scaling of carbon-removal strategies like better soil management and direct air capture. Founders Pledge considers their work crucial as carbon-removal solutions become important. (3)
The 501(c)3 organization, with a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, works with multiple stakeholders like legislators, entrepreneurs, and organizations on designing and advocating for policies that will support large-scale carbon removal solutions. It has been working on building resources like interactive tools, fact sheets, and policy roadmaps that can be used by climate experts as well as new entrants in the field. It also leverages its network of business and policy experts, and scientists to take the best carbon removal solutions from labs to legislation. As of Jan, 2023, it was advocating for recommendations like centralizing federal soil carbon research efforts, expanding agroforestry practices, and more for the Farm Bill 2023. It sees the bill as an opportunity to secure policies that will bolster the carbon sinks in the soil and forests. (4)
If you believe carbon removal strategies are a key solution to fighting the environmental crisis, you can donate to the Washington, D.C.-based organization here.
Environmental Nonprofits Whose Work Includes Climate Change
We have also curated a list of organizations that have a broader area of focus but they provide exciting opportunities to get involved as volunteers, members, and contribute to the climate cause meaningfully.
Earthjustice is a non-profit environmental law organization that is combating climate change, helping preserve the environment, wildlife, people's health, and advancing clean energy using the power of the law. The 501(c)3 organization has a four-star rating on Charity Navigator.
As of the end of 2022, Earthjustice had about 200 lawyers working on over 650 active legal proceedings to protect the environment. It has scored some major wins that will protect the environment. For example, an exploratory drilling program in Western Arctic in Alaska was put on pause as a result of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of groups like Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA. The Peregrine site could potentially have carbon equivalent of emissions from 173 coal-fired power plants operating for a year, according to the EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions calculator. (5)
Earthjustice's main goals include ending the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, powering everything with clean energy, securing clean air and water rights for everyone, building a justice-centered environmental movement, safeguarding resources, and protecting biodiversity.
If you think legal recourse is the best way to get to polluters and effectively battle the climate crisis, you should absolutely support Earthjustice. You can become a monthly donor or make a one-time donation here. For those who want to get involved more actively, here is the organization's action center page with details.
Environmental Defense Fund
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is an advocacy group focused on finding lasting solutions to the most serious environmental problems related to the climate, oceans, ecosystems, and health. Its experts contribute to the organization's environmental goals in multiple ways, like researching different types of pollution to examine the causes of climate change and finding solutions, ensuring new climate policies help vulnerable communities, and working with allies and lawyers to defend environmental laws. The New York based 501(c)3 organization has a three-star rating on Charity Navigator.
Notably, EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, was one of the advocates for the Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to boost decarbonization in multiple ways, like driving demand for electric vehicles and low-carbon products, fueling growth of renewable energy through increased funding and tax credits extensions, and encouraging innovation of clean technology. (6)
You can support EDF work with individual donations or through a workplace giving campaign like EarthShare. You can also advocate for the environment by leaving messages for lawmakers or government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on specific issues on the EDF website. More information here.
Moms Clean Air Force
Moms Clean Air Force is a grassroot advocacy organization and a community of over one million parents fighting air pollution and environmental degradation in order to protect children's health and wellbeing. The New York-based group runs a network of state-based community organizers working on local and national policy issue. Its members meet policymakers at different levels of government to build support for equitable solutions to pollution.
Moms Clean Air Force is also an affiliate of the EDF. If you a concerned parent or citizen who is particularly troubled by the impact of polluted air on the health of children, then this is an organization you can consider joining or supporting. Here's all the information on how you can join this amazing community of parents. You can also make a monthly or a one-time donation here.
National Resources Defense Council
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has been at the forefront of fighting for clean water, clean air and healthy communities for more than five decades. In 1987, for example, it's research, litigation, and advocacy was instrumental in signing of the Montreal Protocol, aimed at phasing out of industrial use of ozone-depleting chemicals and closing the ozone hole growing over Antarctica.
Currently, it runs more than a dozen programs, where it partners with businesses, community groups, and elected representatives on issues ranging from climate and clean energy, health, litigation, and nature (land, nature, wildlife, oceans, and water). The 501(c)3 organization has a four star rating on Charity Navigator.
If you are passionate about protecting all kinds of resources for future generations, including land, oceans, wildlife, and want to stop reckless oil and gas drilling, the NRDC is a great organization to explore. You can make a donation that will help its work here. You can also explore other ways to get involved here.
Sierra Club is a 130-year-old environmental organization working for clean air, safe water, land conservation, and social and environmental justice. It lists stopping the expansion of the oil and gas industry, achieving 80% carbon pollution-free electricity, and restoring clean air and water and providing affordable clean energy by shifting funds from the fossil fuel economy, as its main goals for 2030.
You can join Sierra Club's national community of volunteers, advocates, and activists to help defend and advance environmental policies that fight pollution, protect air, water, and natural resources, advance clean energy, and support parks. More information here.
You can also help the Sierra Club through donations and by lending your voice to current environmental issues.
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is a non-profit environmental organization that has impacted conservation in more than 70 countries and territories since its founding in 1951. By 2030, the organization wants to conserve 10 billion acres of oceans through initiatives like new and better-managed protected areas, sustainable fishing, innovative financing, and policy changes and help 100 million people at risk of climate-related emergencies by protecting and restoring natural habitats, like forests, floodplains, and mangroves.
There are multiple ways you can support the Arlington, Virginia-based group's work. You can become a member by donating directly to the organization and supporting their conservation and advocacy work. The organization also offers multiple volunteer opportunities, like planting and caring for street trees in your areas, logging plant data for scientists to compare historical records, caring for native plants, and monitoring rare species in preserves. The Nature Conservancy says volunteers have helped the organization protect over 125 million acres of land, conserve thousands of river miles, and develop more than 100 marine projects, over the last seven decades.
Find volunteer opportunities here, and donate to the 501(c)3 organization here.
Union for Concerned Scientists
Union of Concerned Scientists is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which was founded by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The organization, with a four-star rating on Charity Navigator, has about 250 scientists, analysts, and policy experts dedicated to its mission of using independent science to solve some of the world's most pressing problems by combining technical analysis and effective advocacy to create sustainable solutions. Most recently, it advocated for the establishment of a fund to pay for loss and damage from extreme climate impact for climate vulnerable climate countries. (7)
You can donate to the organization here.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
With operations in about 100 countries, the World Wildlife Fund is a leading conservation organization. It is focused on six major goals: creating a zero-carbon world, doubling net food availability, conserving forests of the world, protecting the world's freshwater resources, safeguarding oceans and marine livelihoods, and wildlife conservation.
You can contribute to WWF's work in multiple ways, like making a donation, or lending your voice to different causes. (WWF Action Center). It also runs something called a Panda Ambassador Program for people interested in environmental activism. More details here.
Find a non-profit
If you are looking to explore environmental organizations that are close to you or align better with your values, you can use the Charity Navigator. The platform uses data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other sources to rate charities so that you can donate to the right organizations and make sure your money is used well. For volunteering gigs, you can explore VolunteerMatch, a platform that connects volunteers to good organizations and causes. So far, the organization has connected more than 17 million volunteers with over 140 million non-profits.
There are many more environmental organizations that you can explore. For example, the Good Food Institute, working to promote plant- and cell-based alternatives to animal products, or Industrious Labs, focused on cleaning up heavy industry like steel, cement, and aluminum, or Conservation International, which works on forest protection and enabling the inclusion of coastal habitats in climate policies, amongst others.
There is no singular solution to fighting climate change, it can range from creating awareness amongst your family, friends, colleagues or students, to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, or volunteering with an environmental organization or an activist group. Learning more about the climate emergency and talking to others about it can be empowering as well and motivate you to do more. The idea is to do something, however small it may be, to help the earth continue to nurture life.
1. 2014 annual report, 350.org
2. Think Local, Fight Global: 5 Climate Wins in 2022, 350.org
3. Climate Change Fund, Founders Pledge
4. The 2023 Farm Bill, Carbon180
5. Oil Project in Arctic Put on Pause, But Other Fights Remain
6. The Inflation Reduction Act and your business
7. COP27 Secures a Long-Awaited Climate Loss and Damage Fund; More Hard Work Ahead
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