An analysis by Carbon Switch released on Giving Tuesday shows that donations to environmental groups is concentrated mostly at just a couple of big nonprofits, most of which work in land conservation. It’s understandable: climate has often been pigeonholed as an environmental issue. And what are known as the “big green” groups have owned that space for decades. While these groups do some good work, they take up a lot of space—and receive the lion’s share of donor dollars.
There are plenty of smaller, under-the-radar groups to support that help crucial causes in the U.S. and nationally. If you’re interested in supporting those groups for the holiday season, we’ve included some options below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and everyone should do their own research and get involved in their communities to find organizations to support. And donating money is not the only way to get involved in the fight for a safer climate for everyone so consider any donation the first step.
Communities of color have disproportionately been impacted by pollution for decades, and the increasing impacts of climate change will hit them hardest. The analysis released on Tuesday, though, shows environmental justice charities rank far behind other types of nonprofits in terms of donations. The donations to all of the charities fighting for environmental justice in one year are equal to what the Nature Conservancy gets in a week.
While some people may think of “environmental justice” as a recent buzzword, many of these organizations have been around for decades, supporting the communities they work in and putting funds to relief efforts and fights that are desperately needed. They also largely focus on specific cities, states, or regions, meaning you can find a group in your own backyard to support.
- California: California Environmental Justice Alliance, Pacoima Beautiful
- Midwest: We the People of Detroit
- Southeast: Sant La, GASP, Harambee House
- Gulf Coast: First People’s Conservation Council of Louisiana, Port Arthur Community Action Network, RISE St James, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, T.e.j.a.s, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice
- National: NAACP Environment & Climate Justice, MADRE
- Global: Demand Climate Justice maintains a comprehensive list of organizations in various countries.
Some of the most impressive—and successful—movements against fossil fuels, pollution, and other environmental crises have been led by Indigenous and Native tribes, community groups, and concerned citizens banding together. Overseas, Indigenous land defenders are crucial to protecting rainforests and other carbon sinks. They are often put in serious and life-threatening situations doing so; figures show that at least 684 have been killed over the past 15 years protecting their land. In the U.S., they’ve stood up to major fossil fuel projects.
- Pipeline fights and fossil fuel projects: Stand with Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders, Stop Line 3 Bail Funds, Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Community In-Power and Development Association Inc.
- Environmental disasters: Flint Rising, Black Millenials 4 Flint
- Indigenous rights: RAVEN Trust, Pueblo Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, First Nations Development Institute
- Overseas: Amazon Watch, Urgent Action Fund, Not 1 More, Cultural Survival
The energy transition is going to require enormous amounts of work from national and local governments, as well as private companies—but nonprofits working to make this transition quicker and more just are often overlooked in terms of giving. There are lots of ways to support electrification efforts. Organizations like Grid Alternatives and Rewiring America work on a national level to bring renewables to communities, while Appalachian Voices, Sane Energy Project, South Carolina Interfaith Power and Light, and Green Light New Orleans work at the local level. The Footprint Project goes directly into communities affected by natural disasters to help them build out renewables as they recover. Finally, Adopt a Charger allows you to sponsor the installation of a public, fee-free electric vehicle charger. These groups help ensure that nobody is left behind in the transition to clean energy.
Short on cash this month? Your efforts to fight damaging climate policies or work towards solutions in your own backyard could be more valuable than any check you could write. Big green groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace are well-funded, and they can often act as valuable organizers for local efforts and information hubs for other grassroots groups; if there’s a local group affiliated in your area, it’s worth getting in touch to see what they’re up to. Smaller national organizations like Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Sunrise Movement, and 350 also run local chapters across the country. It’s a great way to get involved and meet like-minded people—and it may even help you deal with your daunting sense of climate dread.
There’s lots of good work that nonprofits around the country do, but the climate nonprofit industrial complex can only go so far. The most important climate solution arguably is to get involved in your local community and redistribute funds to help alleviate one of the most crucial climate risk factors: poverty.
Mutual aid groups, which have existed for decades but experienced a renaissance during the pandemic, are great ways to do this. These groups are not registered charities and generally operate at the local level. There are a few resources to find the one closest to you, including Mutual Aid Hub and Food Not Bombs, an international network of collectives that distributes free vegan and vegetarian meals. But those aren’t exhaustive lists by any means. Searching on Facebook for local organizations is often a good first step to finding a group in your area.
Lastly, if you’ve got extra cash to spare, helping folks out with medical bills or other big expenses via GoFundMe or Venmo is always a great move. In the time of climate crisis, helping each other is going to become more important than ever.