23 Environmental Organizations Worth Supporting
Environmental organizations come in all shapes and sizes.
Some of the heavyweights will be well-known already, but perhaps you haven’t been introduced to some lesser-known ways to get involved.
Let’s take a look at some of the largest environmental groups, as well as more niche nature organizations dedicating their time to our planet.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so make sure to check back in for updates whenever you’ve got time, as new groups are sprouting up all the time.
But first, what’s an easy way to define these organizations?
What are environmental organizations?
There are a few different kinds of organizations on this list, so let’s briefly go over the small details that define them:
Non-government organizations (NGOs). These are organizations founded by individuals, scientists, and other interest groups without ties to specific governments. This allows them to collect funding from a variety of sources, and operate across borders – these are often nonprofits.
Government and international organizations. We also have state-run agencies, including ones made up of experts from multiple different countries or with offices located within many different countries.
Trusts and charities. Charitable organizations and trusts are generally supported by donors and foundations, and aren’t always held to the same standards as NGOs and other organizations.
With that being said, all of the groups mentioned in this list are working towards finding solutions in areas along the lines of:
- Climate change, including social impacts
- Environmental destruction
- Natural resource depletion
- Pollution and the plastic crisis
General Environmental Organizations
Starting with a handful of generalist environmental groups, which cover a wide-range of niches within conservation. These are the well-established groups that have generally been around for a while, who may support anything from animal breeding programs to clean water initiatives.
1. International Union for Conservation of Nature
Established in 1948, the IUCN brings together governments, NGOs, scientists, and experts from around the world to address pressing environmental issues. It serves as a leading authority on ecology and nature conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable development.
Originally more focused on ecology and conservation work, the IUCN now also specializes in natural resource use consultation as well. Its primary goal is to influence and advise larger organizations, not the public – and its valuable data and scientific knowledge allows it to advise organizations like the United Nations (UN).
One awesome project is their Red List of Threatened Species, a detailed database of endangered species assessing the status of threatened plants and animals, compiled in an easy to follow format.
2. The Nature Conservancy
Founded in 1952, The Nature Conservancy now operates in 79 countries and territories, running both marine and land-based conservation projects.
With headquarters in Virginia, a US state known for some of the greenest cities in the US, here’s what this environmental NGO has to say:
The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.
They approach this with the mindset of solving environmental issues now – rather than decades in the future, a noble stance to take considering how little time we may have left to act.
They have a few goals they want to reach by 2030:
- Sequester 3 gigatons of CO2 emissions each year
- Help 100 million people at risk of climate-related emergencies
- Conserve 10 billion acres of ocean
- Protect 1.6 billion acres of land
- Conserve 620,000 miles of rivers
- Enable 45 million local environmental stewards (that’s you)
Bold targets, but the Nature Conservancy has had success all across the US, protecting 170 acres of the Mukwonago River Watershed and securing 634 acres in greater Yellowstone, among other wins.
3. Conservation International
Since 1987, Conservation International has combined fieldwork with innovations in science, policy, and finance to secure the critical benefits that nature provides to humanity. Their wider scope goals have expanded over time, aiming to stabilize the climate, double ocean protection, and expand planet-positive economies.
They approach these aims using a human-centric philosophy, striving to equate human well-being with environmental health. In doing so, they promote gender equality, human rights, and the enablement of local communities in their conservation actions.
Current plans include assisted natural regeneration of landscapes, something which shows great promise in being a fast, cost-effective, and equitable approach to restoring habitats.
4. Sierra Club
One of the top environmental organizations in the US, the Sierra Club has been a major player within the conservation lobbying scene since 1892. Founded by renowned conservationist John Muir, they strive to educate the public on climate and environmental issues through their network of grassroot activists and volunteers.
They always have a variety of important environmental campaigns running; whether it’s retiring aging coal plants or fundraising for ecological restoration and rehabilitation – making it one of the easier organizations to get involved with.
According to their 2030 goals, the club has pretty extensive plans for pushing back against the oil and gas industry – and nearly all of these plans consult marginalized communities and individuals often left out of the climate discussion.
5. Environmental Defense Fund
Created in 1967, the EDF is the group who spearheaded the now-worldwide ban on DDT – an insecticide responsible for extensive environmental damage and biodiversity loss, especially when it comes to birds of prey.
Since then, the fund has gone on to achieve many of their ecological project goals. Known for their work in species conservation, pushes for fast-food packaging reforms, and their help in developing the Clean Air Act, the EDF now has a rapidly growing international presence.
Teaming up with nations all across the globe, the EDF is valiantly working to drive change, advising multiple nations in their bids to join the Paris Climate Accords in 2016.
6. Natural Resources Defense Council
The NRDC is a US-based environmental nonprofit working in nearly all areas of conservation, but specializes as a legal advocacy group. This means they mainly work behind the scenes, navigating the complicated legal frameworks that make it tough for many to meet their robust climate goals.
Established in 1970 during the early years of environmentalism, the NRDC covers a lot of ground – including extensive work in PFAs and microplastic pollution solutions. Working alongside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the NRDC is currently working to have more rigorous toxic chemical restrictions put in place in the US.
Field work isn’t the only kind of environmental work that needs to get done, and legal organizations like this are incredible resources for others struggling to understand the landscape of environmental law.
7. Union of Concerned Scientists
The UCN is a nonprofit advocacy group made up of both private citizens and scientists, founded in 1969 by a group of concerned individuals based out of MIT. Focusing on the relationship between science, technology, and nature – the UCN is an organization known for its critical view of the politicization of science in recent years.
As a nonprofit organization, the union doesn’t accept money from governments or corporate sponsors, relying on membership donations from other concerned earth-citizens who want to see real change.
Similar to the UCN in funding, Greenpeace is an international green NGO which relies on over 3 million supporters and foundation grants to continue their biodiversity-focused work – even screening all major donations to make sure they aren’t accepting money from unwanted sources.
Our mission is to promote radical changes and new solutions to the ways we live on this planet so that we can all call it home for generations to come.
Since 1969, Greenpeace has been following a few guidelines that help them accomplish things like a worldwide ban on whaling:
- Bear witness to environmental destruction peacefully
- Use non-violent methods to elevate public debate
- Expose threats and find solutions to the environmental crisis
- Remain financially independent from corporate interests
Greenpeace is one of the biggest critics of Arctic fossil fuel ventures, and have been on the frontline since their Save the Arctic campaign began in 2012, which involves working to save those without a voice in the north – living beings who depend on our melting ice caps.
Sustainable Agriculture Organizations
Narrowing our scope a little, let’s check out some organizations that help the environment through advocating for changes in our food production system – an industry intertwined with climate change.
9. Organic Farming Research Foundation
Set up in 1990, this US-based research organization aims to advance the science behind organic farming by fostering and funding researchers exploring new areas of interest in the world of food production.
The OFRF has awarded 355 grants, and supplements these grants by publishing any results obtained for free in their grant research database.
Over the course of their existence, they’ve become quite adept at helping small and large farms become certified organic, and work in conjunction with universities to run courses for women farmers with an interest in organic food systems.
10. Slow Food International
Slow Food, founded in 1989, is an Italian organization responding to the destruction of local food cultures around the world. The main focus of the group is on cuisine and culture, but they’ve managed to leverage their influence into tackling wider issues of sustainability.
Here’s their simple philosophy on the kind of food everyone deserves:
- Nutritious, delicious, and high-quality food
- Environmentally friendly production methods
- Affordable and accessible prices and fair working conditions
A focal point of most cultures, food is a reflection of our values and human life; Slow Food seeks to preserve these expressions found in traditional cooking and food cultures around the world, and its network includes local chapters in over 160 different countries.
11. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
This system of decentralized grants is an offshoot of the USDA, divided further across the major regions of the US. The major focus is farmer-oriented research and education within sustainable agriculture, funding over 8500 projects since 1988 across the US.
Aside from simply supplying funds, SARE offers training and other resources for agriculture professionals, such as workshops for sharing ideas and sustainable education, outreach, and research opportunities among various communities.
SARE currently runs hundreds of projects, ranging from comprehensive state-wide plans, to research focused on the critical role of microbes in farming; they’re also looking for ways to reduce runoff and over-fertilization – things that wreak havoc on soil ecosystems.
12. Beyond Pesticides
Beyond Pesticides, founded in 1981, is an environmental and public health organization focused on speeding up the transition to a world without toxic pesticides. A hotly debated topic, the pros and cons of pesticides are confusing to work through – a problem they address with a few goals:
- Protect our air, water, land, and food into the far future
- Work with individuals and organizations who rely the natural world
- Reduce the need for pesticides overall
Alongside educating the public on the risks of conventional pest management, Beyond Pesticides is keen to promote non-chemical methods of pest control that aren’t ecotoxic.
They’re also fierce advocates of agricultural justice – a movement centered around fair wages, protection from harmful chemicals, and zero discrimination among agricultural workers.
Wildlife Conservation Organizations
There are countless wildlife and environmental nonprofits worth backing, of all scopes and scales. If you’re looking for one to support, it’s a good idea to search for one that matches your desired location and follows your principles.
However, here some of the best examples:
13. World Wide Fund for Nature
The WWF claims to be the leading independent conservation organization, and they have a lot of experience to back up those claims -they’ve grown to function in more than 100 countries since their founding in 1961.
Approaching conservation from a wide-scope, socio-ecological angle, the WWF prioritizes pressing issues like food scarcity and the degradation of our world’s natural ecosystems. In collaboration with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the WWF maintains the Living Planet Index, a tool for monitoring global biodiversity loss.
Covering nearly every environmental and sustainable niche there is, the WWF has an impressive resume of ongoing projects that make a real difference, tackling the climate crisis with lobbying, research, and consulting services.
14. African Wildlife Foundation
Similar to the WWF, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and wildlands in Africa. Starting in 1961, the AWF has held perhaps the most significant role in protecting Africa’s unique biodiversity by guiding sustainable development projects across the continent.
In 2014, the AWF launched the Urgent Response Fund, a project backed by $10 million, aimed at addressing the rise in the illegal wildlife trade. Wildlife trafficking is currently decimating some of Africa’s most iconic species, and this organization has a few key goals:
- Stop the killing
- Stop the trafficking
- Stop the demand
The primary goal of the AWF is to ensure the long-term survival of Africa’s wildlife and their habitats; approaching this holistically – the AWF recognizes the interdependence between wildlife, human society, and the natural world.
15. National Audubon Society
The NAS is one of America’s oldest bird conservation groups, a collection of around 500 local chapters that work together to educate and organize bird-related activities in the US.
Collaboration between Audubon and The Cornell Lab of Ornithology produced the eBird database, a tool that enables anyone with internet access to gather and share knowledge and experience with a goal of:
- Finding and tracking more birds
- Staying up to date with local bird trends
- Allowing bird enthusiasts to connect and contribute to science
While limited to the US, Audubon is a great example of just how effective independent groups of humans who care can be, as they’ve been organizing grassroot birding networks since 1905.
16. BirdLife International
BirdLife International is a collection of environmental NGOs dedicated to the protection of birds and their habitats around the world, including migratory ecosystems.
Founded over a century ago in 1922, BirdLife has since taken on the task of protecting over 13,000 bird biodiversity hotspots – an incredibly important task, as bird die-offs are an early warning sign of impending ecosystem collapse.
Nearly 3 million bird lovers and 120 national partners work together to safeguard avian species, a task becoming more difficult each year as birds are particularly vulnerable to issues worsening as we approach various climate tipping points.
17. Jane Goodall Institute
The Jane Goodall Institute is a nonprofit environmental foundation with a mission aimed at protecting and understanding our planet’s many primate species.
Founded in 1977 by none-other than legendary primatologist Jane Goodall, the group now operates within 25 different countries. Maintaining sanctuaries and pursuing legal action against wildlife traffickers are other important areas of work taken up by JGI, as well as educating the public on the importance of these amazing animals.
One of JGI’s most famous success stories is the Tchimpounga Sanctuary for chimpanzees, located in the Republic of the Congo. There you can find hundreds of injured and abandoned chimpanzees receiving care from JGI staff year-round.
18. Ocean Conservancy
The Ocean Conservancy, established in 1972, is one of many marine conservation nonprofits focused on ocean-related issues like overfishing, coastal ecosystem degradation, and marine plastic pollution.
Earth’s oceans are often given less attention than land-based ecosystems, making the work of organizations like the Ocean Conservancy incredibly important. Notably, they were the primary reason the US now operates under its current national fishery laws, which had virtually zero catch-limits before 1996.
Since then, the OC has developed a handful of other projects dedicated to finding science-based solutions to oceanic conservation – including arctic region protections, ocean-trash cleanups, and sustainably managing fisheries around the globe.
19. Coral Reef Alliance
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) is an NGO specializing in the protection of coral reefs. CORAL is funded in a variety of ways, including individual donors and government grants – in turn they fund reef conservation projects in coastal regions.
Founded in Berkeley, California in 1994, CORAL focuses on a few key areas:
- Keeping reef water free from pollution
- Finding solutions to coral bleaching
- Preventing reef habitat destruction
- Developing sustainable fisheries
- Educating local communities on the importance of corals
CORAL is also a founding member of the Ocean Sewage Alliance, a group of experts and organizations coming together to reduce the impact of human wastewater pollution on our world’s oceans.
20. The Ocean Cleanup
The newest organization on the list, The Ocean Cleanup is an environmental engineering group founded in 2013. As a nonprofit, they develop scalable, high-tech solutions aimed at ridding our oceans of plastic waste.
The Ocean Cleanup takes a two-pronged approach to this, focusing on cleaning up areas like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as well as installing hardware at the mouths of major rivers in order to stop the flow of plastic from reaching the sea in the first place.
This is a monumental task – but cleaning up our vast oceans is an increasingly popular idea. As more and more plastic reaches oceanic garbage patches each year, organizations are looking for new solutions to this complex problem, and the OC is leading the way.
Social & Environmental Justice Organizations
Conservation organizations also take on the task of social and environmental justice, often for communities affected the most by climate-change related destruction – focusing on legal and human rights-based protections.
21. Rainforest Foundation Fund
The Rainforest Foundation Fund is one of many global nonprofits dedicated to the protection of our world’s rainforests and the rights of the indigenous peoples who inhabit them.
Founded in 1987 by the musician Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, the fund shares a vision with similar NGOs who work to defend some of the most biodiverse regions on the planet; and you may be surprised by just how many products and foods from the rainforest you use everyday.
They focus on empowering indigenous communities living within or nearby rainforests, and collaborate with locals to provide legal and technical support – strengthening land rights and promoting sustainable development to lift many from poverty without sacrificing the health of tropical rainforests.
The ultimate goal of the rainforest fund is to ensure that over 1 million indigenous people have the rights, resources, and tools they need to continue their traditional way of life.
22. Earth Guardians
Earth Guardians is a youth-focused climate change nonprofit aimed at providing a space for youth leaders working in the environmental sector to connect, collaborate, and form campaigns.
They represent young activists, artists, and leaders taking action and driving cultural shifts that align with a more just and regenerative future. Composed of specialized groups like the Indigenous Youth Committee, Earth Guardians stay true to their mission of amplifying the voice and impact that today’s youth will have on our future.
This organization was involved in the Juliana v. United States climate justice case, in which they represented a group of young plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit seeking to hold the US government responsible for their lackluster response to the climate crisis.
23. Environmental Working Group
The EWG is famous within the sustainable skincare industry for its work in areas mainly involving the spread of environmental toxins and pollutants into the natural world – a growing area of concern in the age of corporate loopholes and agricultural subsidies.
The EWG has a clear set of goals:
Our mission is simple: To empower you with breakthrough research to make informed choices and live a healthy life in a healthy environment.
They accomplish this through a variety of means, including insanely comprehensive, high-quality databases to assist your everyday needs:
EWG Tap Water is a tool you can use to search by US zip code to monitor and compare levels of any drinking water contaminants you may be exposed to everyday.
EWG Verified is a searchable database that lists products made by brands within industries like personal care, cleaning, and even baby gear – digging up the details on what’s inside.
EWG Skin Deep is another searchable list of cosmetic brands, which allows you to easily find problematic ingredients and products and eliminate them from your skincare routine.
It’s important to remember that there are plenty of respectable organizations that protect the environment – but it can be a bit overwhelming to wade through all your options.
By focusing your support and working with or donating to environmental advocacy groups, you’re casting a vote with your wallet and making an impact, no matter what anyone tells you.
Do you support an organization you think deserves a spot on the list?