25 Environmental Agencies and Organizations

Part 4 in a 4 Part Series: Your 100-Item Guide to the Green Web

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After learning about the best green blogs, eco tools and applications and environment focused social media sites and forums, get involved and sign up with one of the following green organizations. This list is certainly not comprehensive but does offer a well-rounded snapshot of some of the prominent, active, dynamic and notable environmental organizations currently working for many green causes, including wildlife preservation, land conservation and climate change prevention.

Sierra Club

The Sierra Club, founded in 1892, is one of the oldest conservation organizations in existence. (You can read more about it in the overview of the modern environmental movement.) With over 1.3 million members, this organization is one of the most effective and powerful at effecting changes in government and corporate America. Fighting for the preservation of land and forest, clean air and water, and a host of other issues, the Sierra Club is well-known and respected.

National Audubon Society

The Audubon Society’s declared mission is “to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity” and since the late 1800s the organization has worked hard to achieve its mission. Interestingly, the original John Audubon, who created the foremost guide to North American birds, was not the founder, but did inspire the organization’s founders, namely George Bird Grinnell. Today bird conservation and Audubon are practically synonymous.

World Wildlife Fund

The iconic panda logo has made the WWF instantly recognizable to many people around the world. With 5 million members internationally and over 1.2 million in the States, this 45-year-old wildlife defense organization is going h2. h2ly promoting an emphasis on science, the WWF works to preserve nature and its creatures. From the organization’s website: “We are committed to reversing the degradation of our planet’s natural environment and to building a future in which human needs are met in harmony with nature. We recognize the critical relevance of human numbers, poverty and consumption patterns to meeting these goals.”


Famously unapologetic, EarthFirst! came to national prominence in the 1990s. EarthFirst! is a little different. There’s no slick website. There’s no bureacracy. There are no members. They welcome any and all. The entire premise of this biocentric “movement” as it calls itself is to foster direct action. Founded in 1979 out of disgust at corporate environmentalism and “namby pamby” green action, EarthFirst!ers have famously gotten involved in green issues directly, sometimes breaking the law. Calling itself a priority, not an organization, the website explains: “Earth First! has survived attacks by moderates, would-be leaders and the agents of the system, remaining the most diverse, passionate, committed, and uncompromising group of environmental activists. Our direct actions in defense of the last wild places only seem radical compared to an entire paradigm of denial and control, where the individual is convinced they are powerless, and the organizations set up to protect the wilderness continue to bargain it away.”


Greenpeace began in 1971 when a group of activists put themselves directly in harm’s way in order to protest nuclear testing off the coast of Alaska. Believing that concerted action from ordinary people is the best way – according to their signature quote from Margaret Mead, the only way – the organization has helped to stop whaling, nuclear testing, as well as leading efforts to protect Antarctica. Over 2.5 million members worldwide.

National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation is dedicated to preserving animals in the United States and works with local agencies in the 48 contiguous states. It is one of the largest environmental organizations, with over 4 million members participating in grass-roots efforts on a variety of wildlife issues. The organization was actually founded by a cartoonist named Jay Darling (aka “Ding” Darling) in 1936 at the behest of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

According to the official website: “The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.” The NRDC combines hundreds of active lawyers with over 1.2 million members to create direct and legislative change. The focus is on preventing climate change and saving endangered species, among other goals.

1% For The Planet

If you’ve shopped for anything organic or sustainable you’ve likely seen the 1% logo. With nearly 1,000 firms and companies now participating, 1% is helping corporate interests green their bottom lines by giving back to environmental causes. It’s a meaningful start.

Co-Op America

“Economic Action for a Just Planet” is the slogan of this green organization that seeks to empower consumers and harness the power of consumers to make the planet sustainable for future generations. They emphasize economic initiatives and actions over other more traditional environmental actions. This business-friendly environmental organization is also considered the gold standard for green businesses to be approved by. Co-Op America focuses equally on social justice and environmental responsibility. (Note: the organization is changing its name to Green America in 2009.)

World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Interested in sustainable development? The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is the place to go online. This global association of 200 leading companies states: “Our mission is to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues.” The capitalist’s online environmental organization.

Forest Stewardship Council

Certification from the FSC is essential for a green retailer to have genuine “eco cred”. Environmental labels and certifications are not globally standardized, but FSC is one you can trust. This non-governmental nonprofit was established to protect forests. Located in 46 countries, the FSC helps companies, governments and communities with proper forest management and accredidation. Though there are many certifications in the green world, the FSC is the only one that:

  • prohibits conversion of natural forests or other habitat around the world
  • prohibits the use of highly hazardous pesticides around the world
  • prohibits the cultivation of genetically modified trees (GMOs)
  • respects the right of indigenous peoples around the world
  • controls each certified operation at least once a year – and if they are found not to comply, the certificate is withdrawn

– from the FSC website

Rainforest Action Network

The relatively new Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is lauded by various media organizations as being incredibly savvy. Based in San Francisco and Tokyo, the 43 employees and thousands of members create memorable and often stigmatizing (when necessary) marketing campaigns to get corporations to clean up their acts. When companies like Home Depot and Citigroup make positive changes that better the environment, RAN is quick to give praise – but never scared to dish out harsh critique.

The Nature Conservancy

Since its inception in 1951 the Nature Conservancy has dedicated itself to saving lands and waters. With over 117 million acres sustained, 5,000 miles of rivers kept clean, and hundreds of marine conservation projects, the Nature Conservancy is one of the most successful and effective green organizations in existence. The science-based approach (they have 700 scientists on staff) is used in all conservation efforts around the world.

Heal the Bay

This regional (California-based) research-and-advocacy organization has become an iconic representative of ocean conservation and marine sustainability. It has inspired numerous other ocean protection organizations. It all started in 1985 when founder Dorothy Green and her cofounders got sick of the fact that Santa Monica Bay was a cesspool of untreated sewage. Animals were dying, people suffered infections if they swam, and vast swaths of the Bay were essentially dead. Today, the Bay is much cleaner and safer.


Like its just-barely southern cousin Heal the Bay, Surfrider protects California coastline and marine life. From the site: “The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 80 chapters worldwide.” Though originally focused on Southern California, Surfrider helps mobilize people to get active in supporting ocean conservation everywhere.

Environmental Defense Fund

The Environmental Defense Fund was started in 1967 and works with corporations and government to create environmental programs, initiatives and policy. Areas the EDF seeks to address: using “h2 science” to affect markets, laws and corporate partnerships. EDF has received numerous top awards from media and charity evaluators. You can see a list of their numerous achievements here.

Friends of Earth (FOE)

Champions of healthy people, animals, plants, land, water and air, and devoted to stopping global warming, Friends of Earth supports a number of causes and is focused primarily on the United States, especially political and economic decisions as they affect public health and land conservation. In the 39 years in operation FOE has stopped over 150 dams from being built (among other achievements).

Worldwatch Institute

The largest and most respected environmental news research service, this environmental organization publishes online as well as providing science-based environmental information and news to over 100 countries. Founded in 1974, the mission statement notes that “Worldwatch research is the gold-standard for sustainability analysis for decision makers in government, civil society, business, and academia.”

American Bird Conservancy

The American Bird Conservancy, like the Audubon Society, exists primarily to support bird conservation but broadly supports environmentalism and sustainability. Using education, advocacy and direct action, the ABC is the only U.S.-based organization that supports not just United States bird conservation but species preservation throughout all of the Americas.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The neutral IPCC’s recent conclusion that human activity is fueling global warming was both expected and stunning. Any last vestiges of naysaying and doubt were effectively negated in the panel’s deliberation which involved hundreds of leading scientists and analysis of thousands of papers. The IPCC is an independent non-governmental international group of leading respected scientists and, according to the official website: “The IPCC was established to provide the decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information about climate change. The IPCC does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters. Its role is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic literature produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change, its observed and projected impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

United States Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency has come under close scrutiny numerous times; the agency is often overriden or completely ignored by the current White House administration. For example, recent reports confirming global warming as a human-caused phenomenon were met with the announcement that the White House would simply not open the EPA’s emails containing that information. The EPA has, of late, not supported environmentalists’ concerns about such issues as plastic safety (e.g. with phthalates), water purity, animal cloning and genetic modification, and other issues, leading many to believe the EPA is controlled by special interests.

Earth Liberation Front

Famously activist, the ELF (or Elves) organization is an anonymous, independent and mysterious environmentalist group promoting civil disobedience and economic sabotage. Numerous cases of arson, SUV bombing, and other “extreme” actions have earned the ELF environmentalists a militant reputation. They maintain no office or press contacts and many environmentalists have been keen to distance themselves from the Elf. Some key quotes from one of the de facto leaders:

“There are over six billion people on this planet of which almost a third are either staving, or living in poverty. Building homes for the wealthy should not even be a priority. Forests, farms and wetlands are being replaced with a sea of houses, green chemical lawns, blacktop, and roadkill. Farmland is being bought out by land developers because of their inability to compete with cheap corporate, genetically-engineered, pesticide saturated food. The time has come to decide what is more important: the planet and the health of its population or the profits of those who destroy it.”

Wildlife Conservation Society

Devoted to saving wildlife, the Wildlife Conservation Society is unique in that it runs a large system of urban parks. The official statement reads: the Wildlife Conservation Society “saves wildlife and wild lands through careful science, international conservation, education, and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks”. The mission of the organization is to connect humans with wildlife in the hopes that interaction will inspire preservation of endangered species.

Association of Environmental Professionals

A must for anyone working in green, the Association of Environmental Professionals is the leading industry organization for environmental professionals. The non-profit aims to connect those working in green collar jobs, environmental technology and media and other sectors in order to foster improved skills, share resources and build relationships.

National Geographic Society

Celebrating its 120th year, the iconic and beloved National Geographic Society is one of the largest, most well-funded and most prominent environmental organizations. Focusing on science-based research and general interest as well as conservation efforts, Nat Geo is decidedly environmentalist without that being the overt thrust of the organization, choosing instead to celebrate amazing wonders of the earth and its creatures. Its mission: “Since 1888, we’ve traveled the Earth, sharing its amazing stories with each new generation. National Geographic’s Mission Programs support critical expeditions and scientific fieldwork, encourage geography education for students, promote natural and cultural conservation, and inspire audiences…”

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