When it comes to humanity’s collective challenges, none is so huge, so grave, and so complicated as climate change. Impacting every single person and every single ecosystem on Earth, threatening to disrupt or outright transform the natural resources, ecological services, and geographies that sustain humankind, our changing climate transcends categories of crisis. It includes environmental protection, food and energy security, social justice, political stability, urban planning, economic sustainability, and more within its unprecedented planetary stakes.
Make no mistake, we are experiencing the impacts of climate change now and the situation is urgent. Such a vast and dizzyingly complex problem calls for courage, creativity, and collaboration. Scientists, corporations, community leaders, politicians, activists, thinkers and innovators of all stripes: The need for all-hands-on-deck solutions is immediate. You, too, can help.
The following 13 nonprofits all put climate action at the forefront of their missions.
Named after what many scientists believe is the safe upper limit of atmospheric carbon dioxide (350 parts per million), 350.org musters a global grassroots membership and diverse coalitions to achieve “a fast and just transition to 100% renewable energy for all.” Established in 2008—the noted author and early climate-change messenger Bill McKibben was a co-founder—the nonprofit celebrates innovation in response to the climate crisis while emphasizing the interlinkage of climate action and social justice. 350.org takes as a given the pithy fundamentals of climate change boiled down by Dr. Kimberly Nicholas: “1. It’s warming. 2. It’s us. 3. We’re sure. 4. It’s bad. 5. We can fix it.”
2. Sierra Club
The venerable Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by none other than John Muir, the influential Scottish-American botanist, mountain rambler, writer, and pioneering conservationist. It’s now nearly four million members strong. Climate action is among many of the Sierra Club’s focus areas, with specific initiatives including Ready for 100, which lays out the path to 100% clean and renewable energy. Other programs include Beyond Coal, which aims to close all U.S. coal plants, and Climate Parents, which mobilizes families to combat climate change.
3. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Formed in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) highlights the real costs of the traditional fossil-fuels economy, and the environmental, economic, and health benefits of clean-energy alternatives throughout the Southeastern states. The group advocates for renewable-energy solutions such as wind and solar, works to maximize energy efficiency, supports decarbonization of the transportation sector, and otherwise aims for healthier, more sustainable communities in the face of regional climate-change impacts such as hurricanes and rising sea levels.
4. Surfrider Foundation
As part of its multifaceted strategies to protect the marine ecosystem, the Surfrider Foundation puts a major emphasis on climate action—no surprise, really, given the stark impacts that a warming atmosphere is having on this mostly blue planet of ours. Among the nonprofit’s priorities in this arena are supporting research and monitoring ocean acidification, keeping plastic out of the World Ocean, advocating for renewable coastal and marine energy, and helping coastal communities prepare for and adapt to sea-level rise.
5. Clean Fuels Ohio
By supporting alternative/advanced energy sources and clean technologies, Clean Fuels Ohio endeavors “to improve air quality and health, reduce environmental pollution, strengthen Ohio’s economy, and enhance our nation’s energy security.” Some of the specific approaches include expanding the use of electric vehicles in the Buckeye State via Drive Electric Ohio, tackling the trucking industry’s fuel usage and emissions by certifying Ohio Green Fleets, and connecting stakeholders and policymakers at all levels of government in the quest for cleaner energy and more sustainable fuels.
6. The Nature Conservancy
Since 1951, the Nature Conservancy has worked to safeguard wild and traditionally utilized lands and waters all around the world. It identifies climate change and global biodiversity loss as “dual threats” to its mission. On the climate-change front, the nonprofit—which has protected more than 125 million acres in more than 70 countries—pursues a number of strategies. They include “nature-based” climate solutions such as the conservation of carbon-absorbing ecosystems, regenerative agriculture, and reforestation. They also advocate for clean-energy policies, and boost community resilience to climate change by protecting and restoring habitats such as mangrove forests, coral reefs, and floodplain wetlands, which serve as natural buffers against global-warming-enhanced storms and flooding.
7. Union of Concerned Scientists
Applying rigorous, independent research and interdisciplinary scientific knowledge to the defining stressors facing humanity and the biosphere—climate change most certainly included—is the M.O. of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Founded in 1969 by a consortium of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students and researchers, UCS now boasts close to 250 scientists, policy and communication specialists, and other experts. The nonprofit’s analyses and innovations support science-based solutions and advocacy in the face of climate change. As atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, the lead author of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, puts it on the UCS website: “Science tells us the planet is warming, the impacts we’re seeing today are already serious, and our future is in our hands. UCS is the most effective organization I know for addressing those truths head-on.”
8. Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund
The Texas Campaign for the Environment Fund strives for a Lone Star State that’s cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable. The threat of climate change informs many of its campaigns, including resisting the expansion of fracking and other fossil-fuel extraction and export projects, promoting an economy based on renewable energy, and taking aim both at greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution with Zero Waste initiatives.
9. Container Recycling Institute
The production, waste, and drawn-out decay of plastics and other synthetic materials used in packaging all add up to a major share of humanity’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Since 1991, the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) has sought to stem this tide by expanding and improving recycling systems while promoting refillable containers as an alternative to single-use, one-way disposables. Through deep-dive research into everything from the life cycles of aluminum, glass, and plastic to cost/benefit analyses of single-stream vs. dual-stream recycling methods and the efficacy of “bottle bills” and other policies, CRI aims “to make North America a global model for the collection and quality recycling of packaging materials.”
10. Northwest Energy Coalition
More than 100 organizations, businesses, and utilities as well as individual members across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana as well as British Columbia compose the Northwest Energy Coalition, originally founded in 1981 as the Northwest Conservation Act Coalition. In its pursuit of clean and renewable energy and fair, just energy policies founded on sustainability, the Coalition hopes to see “Northwest communities benefit from a carbon-free energy system that equitably meets the needs of people and preserves the region’s natural resources.” The on-the-ground work includes such undertakings as decarbonizing buildings, transportation, and other infrastructure as well as boosting energy efficiency and conservation.
11. One Tree Planted
One Tree Planted was launched in Vermont in 2014 with an international focus. The nonprofit implements and supports reforestation efforts on multiple continents, collaborative work that saw some 10 million trees planted in 2020. The reforestation projects under their purview help safeguard habitat, nourish communities, and provide jobs; they also serve to mitigate climate change by beefing up carbon-sucking canopies from the Americas to Asia and Africa.
12. Environmental & Energy Study Institute
Legislation and policy that will determine our planet’s future is key to our response to climate change. Members of Congress worked across the aisle in 1984 to conceive the Environmental & Energy Study Institute (EESI), a bipartisan nonprofit that defines its mission as “advanc[ing] science-based solutions for climate change, energy, and environmental challenges in order to achieve our vision of a sustainable, resilient, and equitable world.” Having pegged climate action as a “moral imperative” back in 1988, EESI addresses it and related issues via Capitol Hill briefings, the production of wide-ranging policy papers, offering technical assistance on energy-efficiency initiatives, and serving as a coalition-builder bringing lawmakers and representatives together with a plethora of stakeholders.
13. Conservation International
Nature-based solutions to climate change are a signal goal of Conservation International, which notes that such efforts receive a mere 3% of international climate-action funding. The Arlington, Virginia-headquartered but globe-spanning nonprofit considers the preservation and restoration of wildlands such as old-growth forests, marshes, mangrove swamps, and peatlands that store significant quantities of carbon an integral part of responding to the climate crisis. There is also the added reward of safeguarding a whole host of associated ecosystem services — clean air, clean water, etc. — which directly benefit humankind.
Interested in donating or working with any of these environmental nonprofits? See how to help by visiting their websites and getting involved on our Giving and Engagement platform — contact us today to learn more.