How Environmental Organizations Work

A pelican is cleaned of oil deposits by members of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at a temporary cleaning facility following the 'Pacific Adventurer' oil spill disaster off Moreton Island.
Many organizations are dedicated to making the world a greener place. And most of them need volunteers -- for example, these people are cleaning a bird after an oil spill.
Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images AsiaPac

Want to save the planet? You're not alone. There's an almost endless list of organizations dedicated to making the world a greener place. Finding some (or several) to support just depends on which areas you are most interested in channeling your passions.

Most developed countries have government agencies devoted to protecting the environment. In the U.S., the most well known are the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets standards and enforces regulations on things like air quality, water contamination and ground pollution; and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which protects endangered species, enforces hunting rules and conserves wildlife habitats like wetlands [sources: EPA, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service].


Beyond the government, there are hundreds of organizations devoted to specific environmental causes like air quality, climate change, forest preservation, habitat conservation, wildlife protection, population control, sustainable business, waste management, ground pollution and clean water [source: Envirolink].

Some of the best-known environmental organizations include:

  • Sierra Club -- founded in 1892, fights for preservation of land and forest as well as clean air and water
  • The National Audubon Society -- strives to preserve natural habitats for birds
  • Greenpeace -- protests whaling, nuclear testing and fishing and mining in Antarctica
  • Rainforest Action Network -- runs marketing campaigns to convince multinational corporations to stop business practices that lead to logging of ancient forests and destruction of other ecosystems [source: WebEcoist].

If you're interested in local causes, most cities also have their own environmental organizations such as Friends of the Chicago River, New Yorkers for Parks and Los Angeles County Bicycle Association.

Read on to find out which environmental organizations focus on education.


Education-related Environmental Organizations

If you want to teach others about environmental issues, your first stop is the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), a network of organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada that raise awareness about environmental issues.

Since 1971, NAAEE has provided training for people interested in developing programs to educate the public about the environment in non-formal settings, K-12 classrooms, universities, government agencies and corporations [source: NAAEE].


Like traditional environmental organizations, groups focused on environmental education cover topics like air quality and climate change, endangered species, energy, transportation, forestry, marine life, water quality, solid waste and sustainable development [source: EELink].

The Canary Project, for example, is an organization dedicated to photographing landscapes around the world to show the effects of global warming [source: The Canary Project]. The Green Ribbon Pledge teaches Americans how to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, encouraging them to use public transportation, take shorter showers, let dishes and laundry air dry and weather strip doors and windows [source: The Green Ribbon Pledge].

Other education-related environmental organizations include Negative Population Group (NPG), which publishes newsletters, forum papers and population fact sheets to educate the public and politicians on the affect of overpopulation on the environment [source: NPG]. Another is The Center for Ecoliteracy, which teaches grammar and high schools students about sustainable living by tending school gardens and designing neighborhood recycling programs [source: The Center for Ecoliteracy].

When it comes to the environment, there are many lessons to learn -- and teach. Read on for information on global warming organizations.


Global Warming Organizations

Al Gore may have lost the presidency, but his work on global warming won him an Academy Award for "An Inconvenient Truth" in 2006 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. As consolation prizes go, these aren't too shabby.

He also founded the Alliance for Climate Protection, which advocates for laws to reduce CO2 emissions, works to persuade everyone from individuals to corporations to become "carbon neutral," and generates American support for international treaties to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide [source: Alliance for Climate Protection].


Many other organizations are dedicated to reducing greenhouse gases, which scientists say are the reason Earth's temperature has increased 1 degree in the past 100 years. It may not sound like much, but scientists say even a few degrees can cause droughts and flooding as well as damage plants, wildlife and the ecosystems we all depend on [source: Network for Good].

The Union of Concerned Scientists is an alliance of students and faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the general public that gives regular briefings, analysis and recommendations for ways for the government, corporations and consumers can reduce global warming [source: Union of Concerned Scientists]. And the Global Roundtable on Climate Change (GROCC), holds meetings that bring together top executives from global corporations -- including the world's top banks, energy companies and automotive manufacturers -- to discuss technology and policy options for reducing climate change [source: GROCC].

A simple online search will give you a long list of similar climate change organizations you can join. Read on to find out how to support environmental organizations.


Supporting Environmental Organizations

Got a pen? Supporting an environmental cause is as easy as writing a check. Most environmental organizations are non-profits that depend on donations to survive so they are more than happy to take your money.

Before donating to a particular organization, it may be helpful to research it on GuideStar, a free database that gathers information on non-profits, including annual reports, programs, leaders, goals, accomplishments and needs [source: GuideStar].


Your contributions to environmental non-profits are tax deductible, but only if you itemize your income tax deductions. Most non-profits are registered as a 501(c)(3), which automatically makes them eligible for deduction, but be sure to check with the organization to make sure it has this designation. Also, be sure to get a receipt from the charity for your contribution [source: H&R Block].

You can deduct cash donations of up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income. If you donate property, such as a car, boat or supplies, you can deduct the fair market value of that item up to 30 percent of your adjusted gross income [source: H&R Block].

You cannot take a tax deduction for your time or services spent on charitable work, such as using your graphic design skills to create fliers or a newsletter. But you can deduct out-of-pocket expenses like your gas mileage [source: H&R Block].

Then again, considering you're volunteering for an environmental organization, you may want to take the bus or ride your bike.

For more information on environmental organizations, visit the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Alliance for Climate Protection. "About the Alliance for Climate Protection." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • EELink. "EE Projects and Organizations." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • Envirolink. "Organizations by Topic." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • Environmental Defense Fund. "Global Warming by the Numbers." Feb. 24, 2009. (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • GuideStar. "About Us." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • H&R Block. "Tax Tips." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • Negative Population Group. "Publications." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • Network for Good. "Global Warming." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • North American Association for Environmental Education. "About NAAEE." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • Social Funds. "Introduction to Socially Responsible Investing." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • The Canary Project. "Mission Statement." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • The Center for Ecoliteracy. "Smart by Nature." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • The Global Roundtable on Climate Change. "About GROCC." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • The Green Ribbon Project. "Conserving Energy, Securing Our Future." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • Union of Concerned Scientists. "About Us." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "About EPA." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Teaching Center." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. "About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service." (Accessed 5/1/09)
  • WebEcoist. "25 Environmental Agencies and Organizations." Sept. 25, 2008. (Accessed 5/1/09)