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The 39 best environmental charities

  • The 39 best environmental charities

    On Sept. 20, 2019, millions of students around the world stepped out of their classrooms and into the streets to demand more climate action. This movement, dubbed “Fridays for Future” or “School Strike for Climate” and inspired by the work of youth activist Greta Thunberg, captured headlines on the day of the big strike. But when world leaders had the opportunity to act at the U.N. Climate Summit a few days later, they largely fell back on old platitudes and delays.

    This political inaction is indicative of a larger knowledge gap about climate change for many Americans. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s 2018 Climate Opinion Maps demonstrates that although the vast majority of Americans support funding research into renewable energy sources, we rarely discuss global warming with friends and family or read about it in our habitual news sources.

    At the same time, nonprofit organizations across the country are working to fill this gap by broadening public understanding of climate change. Such organizations at a national level include the National Audubon Society, which seeks to conserve and restore natural ecosystems with a focus on birds, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, which brings together scientists and concerned citizens in education and advocacy projects. From small towns to college campuses, local and regional groups are getting the word out as well.

    In this story, Stacker seeks to highlight the work of 39 such organizations. We searched Charity Navigator’s comprehensive charity evaluation database to identify 39 charities in the “Environment: Environmental Protection and Conservation” category which are rated 4 out of 4 stars and work on a national level. These charities’ mission statements and rankings were pulled directly from this database.

    Read on to learn about 39 noteworthy charities working to increase awareness of our environment and conserve America’s wild places.

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  • #39. Beyond Pesticides

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: Because freedom from pesticides is everybody's right
    - Overall score: 90.35 (Financial: 86.36, Accountability and transparency: 100)
    - Program expense ratio: 95.3%
    - Mission: Founded in 1981, Beyond Pesticides (formerly National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides) works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. Beyond Pesticides has historically taken a two-pronged approach to the pesticide problem by identifying the risks of conventional pest management practices and promoting non-chemical and least-hazardous management alternatives. The organization's primary goal is to effect change through local action, assisting individuals and community-based organizations to stimulate discussion on the hazards of toxic pesticides, while providing information on safer alternatives.

  • #38. National Environmental Education Foundation

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: Knowledge to live by
    - Overall score: 90.4 (Financial: 86.43, Accountability and transparency: 100)
    - Program expense ratio: 83.9%
    - Mission:
    OUR PURPOSE: To cultivate an environmentally conscious and responsible public
    OUR VISION: That people's everyday actions are guided by an understanding and concern for the well-being of people and the planet
    OUR MISSION: To make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant, and connected to the daily lives of all Americans

    Visit for more info. 

  • #37. Environmental Defense Fund

    - Location: New York, NY
    - Goal: Finding the ways that work
    - Overall score: 90.57 (Financial: 87.29, Accountability and transparency: 96)
    - Program expense ratio: 77.4%
    - Mission: Environmental Defense Fund's mission is to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. What distinguishes EDF from others is the combination of what we protect and how we protect it. We work to solve the most critical environmental problems facing the planet, focusing on mitigating climate change, restoring the ocean's bounty, protecting wildlife and their habitats, and safeguarding our health. Since these topics are intertwined, our solutions take a multidisciplinary approach. We work in concert with other organizations-as well as with business, government and communities-and avoid duplicating work already being done effectively by others.

  • #35. Green America (tie)

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: The nation's leading green economy organization
    - Overall score: 90.71 (Financial: 87.22, Accountability and transparency: 97)
    - Program expense ratio: 87.7%
    - Mission: Green America's mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Since 1982, Green America's programs and campaigns have used economic strategies to build the green marketplace, stop egregious corporate social and environmental practices, help millions of people green their lives and purchases, and create a green economy.

    We organize our national network of consumers, investors, activists, and businesses around four interrelated issue areas: 1) Clean Energy & Climate Action, 2) Regenerative Agriculture, 3) Fair Labor & Social Justice, and Responsible Finance & Better Banking. Our three strategic hubs include our: 1) Consumer & Corporate Engagement Programs, 2) Green Business Network, and 3) Center for Sustainability Solutions. Green America is also the nation's trusted source for green living and buying resources.


  • #35. New Buildings Institute (tie)

    - Location: Portland, OR
    - Goal: To promote energy efficiency in buildings
    - Overall score: 90.71 (Financial: 86.87, Accountability and transparency: 100)
    - Program expense ratio: 82.8%
    - Mission: New Buildings Institute is working to improve the energy performance of commercial buildings. We work collaboratively with commercial building market players- governments, utilities, energy efficiency Columbia Gorge advocates and building professionals- to remove barriers to energy efficiency, including promoting advanced design practices, improved technologies, public policies and programs that improve energy efficiency. We also develop and offer guidance to individuals and organizations on designing and constructing energy-efficient buildings through our Advanced Buildings suite of tools and resources.

    [Pictured: Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh, Penn.]

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  • #34. Rails-To-Trails Conservancy

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: Inspiring movement
    - Overall score: 90.82 (Financial: 87.37, Accountability and transparency: 97)
    - Program expense ratio: 75.8%
    - Mission: The mission of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. Since its beginning in 1986, RTC has supported the tremendous growth and development of rail-trails. Today, there are more than 1,500 preserved pathways that form the backbone of a growing trail system that spans communities, regions, states and, indeed, the entire country. We remain dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of trails. Further, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is committed to enhancing the health of America's environment, transportation, economy, neighborhoods and people - ensuring a better future made possible by trails and the connections they inspire.

    [Pictured: Baltimore Greenway Trails Network in Baltimore, Md.]

  • #33. Land Trust Alliance

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: Together, conserving the places you need and love.
    - Overall score: 90.85 (Financial: 89.83, Accountability and transparency: 92)
    - Program expense ratio: 80.2%
    - Mission: The Land Trust Alliance works to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America. Founded in 1982, we work with the national land conservation community—comprised of 1.5 million dedicated land conservation professionals, volunteers and supporters—to quickly, effectively and permanently save our most valued natural places across America. The Land Trust Alliance believes that if we focus our combined efforts to increase the pace, quality and permanence of conservation, we can turn the tide and ultimately change the way that land development takes place in America. Today, the result of our work has been the creation of a vibrant, national movement of 1,700 organizations which has now conserved over 37 million acres.

  • #32. Property and Environment Research Center

    - Location: Bozeman, MT
    - Goal: Improving environmental quality through markets
    - Overall score: 90.88 (Financial: 87.46, Accountability and transparency: 97)
    - Program expense ratio: 73.5%
    - Mission: The Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) is a 40-year-old conservation research institute dedicated to harnessing incentives and markets to create long-lasting conservation solutions. Located in Bozeman, Montana, PERC’s brand of conservation—free market environmentalism—relies on voluntary exchange that results in positive environmental outcomes for both private and public resources. We believe that when conservation makes economic sense, it is more sustainable. PERC works with conservationists, policymakers, landowners, scientists, and thought leaders to understand the root of environmental conflicts and move toward mutually beneficial solutions. We advance conservation that is voluntary and cooperative, rather than divisive and regulatory, ensuring it will last beyond changing administrations and across political parties.

  • #31. American Rivers

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: Rivers Connect Us
    - Overall score: 91.28 (Financial: 88.05, Accountability and transparency: 97)
    - Program expense ratio: 78.2%
    - Mission: American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America's Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington D.C., American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 200,000 members, supporters, and volunteers. Through our river conservation work we are ensuring clean drinking water supplies, revitalizing fish and wildlife, improving recreation, and leaving a legacy of healthy rivers for future generations.

  • #30. Environmental Working Group

    - Location: Washington D.C.
    - Goal: The power of information
    - Overall score: 91.51 (Financial: 88.68, Accountability and transparency: 96)
    - Program expense ratio: 80.4%
    - Mission: Founded in 1993, the mission of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. Our team of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers pores over government data, legal documents, scientific studies and our own laboratory tests to expose threats to your health and the environment, and to find solutions. Our research brings to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know. It shames and shakes up polluters and their lobbyists. It rattles politicians and shapes policy. It persuades bureaucracies to rethink science and strengthen regulation. It provides practical information you can use to protect your family and community.

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