Illustration by Marian Blair
Climate change, global warming, and extreme weather events seem to be prominent fixtures in the news cycle every day, everywhere you look. Scientists and government leaders around the world agree the planet is in a state of climate emergency. Prof. Petteri Taalas of the World Meteorological Organization warns that global temperatures in the four-year range of 2017 to 2021 are higher than ever, and greenhouse gas concentrations are as high as they’ve been in three million years.
These facts highlight the urgency of fighting climate change, and the necessity of learning new ways to live on a radically altered planet. Many organizations in the social impact space are getting creative with solutions to building a more sustainable future. From repurposing recycled materials to keeping housing safe and affordable, these seven under-the-radar climate change organizations on Idealist are making sure we’re ready for what’s next.
Organizations dedicated to extreme weather survival
Catalyst Miami, Miami, FL
The communities in Florida’s Miami-Dade County are no stranger to the devastation of hurricanes. Catalyst Miami is dedicated to giving lower-income Miami-Dade communities the same level of security and protection from rising sea levels that wealthy communities get.
One way Catalyst Miami helps residents weather the next storm is through its Disaster Preparedness Matched Savings Program, a grant-funded initiative that provides matching funds when participants meet savings goals. The funds become a nest egg to cover the additional expenses that households often face after a natural disaster. Participants also receive “hurricane kits” with essential supplies.
The organization’s day-to-day grassroots work includes helping clients find low-cost healthcare, offering free financial planning and credit-building advice, and running the Worker-Owned Enterprises Program for local residents who want to form worker cooperatives.
Organizations dedicated to direct action and advocacy
Climate Emergency Fund, Beverly Hills, CA
This nonprofit’s name is designed to get your attention and doesn’t mince words. The Climate Emergency Fund provides funding to individual activists and climate change organizations in the United States. Fund recipients raise awareness of global warming and environmental change through tactics like “protest, nonviolent direct action, and public disruption.”
The nonprofit prioritizes supporting smaller, underfunded organizations and efforts that rely on volunteers. Yet many Climate Emergency Fund-supported projects earn international attention, such as the global youth climate strike of 2019 where young people rallied for climate action.
Earth Guardians, Boulder, CO
Named for the title they give to younger generations dedicated to protecting the planet, Earth Guardians focuses on environmental leadership and advocacy training for youth. Their leadership includes a youth council with several members of Indigenous nations in the United States, and many of its promotional materials are written for and by young activists.
The organization has diverse forms of media outreach, including storytelling, music, and eco-conscious fashion design. Other campaigns tackle issues like food and agriculture in a warming climate, or work to mobilize youth to vote in pivotal elections.
Organizations dedicated to resources and recycling
Container Recycling Institute, Culver City, CA
Recycling is hardly a new concept, but single-use containers and packaging materials still create waste and sap resources.
The Container Recycling Institute takes recycling to the next level by studying the best ways for communities to collect and reuse packaging in a “closed loop” recycling system. Much of their work takes place on the policy level, encouraging local, state, and federal governments to pass legislation that incentivizes recycling.
For instance, the success of beverage container deposit legislation or “bottle bills”—programs that charge a small deposit on beverage container purchases, and return the deposit when you recycle the container—inspired the organization to promote bottle bills across the country.
Resources for recycling-minded individuals are available too, such as this guide offering tips about how to recycle tricky materials like lightbulbs, batteries, and electronics.
5 Gyres Institute, Los Angeles, CA
The 5 Gyres Institute takes on plastic pollution. Named after the five ocean gyres, or currents that carry plastic into global waters, this climate change organization conducts extensive environmental research on plastic waste around the world.
On a local level, 5 Gyres has lobbied to reduce the use of plastic takeout utensils in Los Angeles as part of the Reusable LA Coalition. The nonprofit has also supported the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, an ambitious federal bill that would minimize and eventually phase out fossil fuel plastics across the United States.
Organizations dedicated to culture and community
Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Oakland, CA
One important way to fight climate change is to strengthen the decision-making power of local groups, since these communities have a strong investment in the land on which they live.
The Asian Pacific Environmental Network is centered in Oakland, a city with a robust Asian American population. Since its founding in 1993 the network has been at the forefront of environmental lobbying in California’s Bay Area, from fighting oil refinery and coal transit expansion to investing in renewable energy for Oakland neighborhoods.
Affordable housing is another priority for the organization—fair housing prices allow community members to keep living together, strengthening the power of local cultural cooperatives.
Cultural Survival, Cambridge, MA
The survival of Indigenous people and traditions is entwined with the survival of the planet. According to Cultural Survival’s website, 80% of the planet’s biodiversity is located in Indigenous territories.
This Indigenous-led organization works with Indigenous groups around the world to protect territories from environmentally dangerous construction initiatives, explore renewable energy systems, promote water and food sovereignty for Indigenous communities, and more.
Their Keepers of the Earth fund gives grants to Indigenous-led projects ranging from crop cultivation in Panama to solar-powered homes in Mexico to preserving the Okavango Delta in southern Africa.
These seven nonprofits are only a few of the many groups around the world working to keep Earth a livable planet. You don’t need to be a biologist or front-line activist to get involved—climate change organizations are diverse, and they need multiple skill sets. Start out by searching Idealist for climate change-related volunteer and job opportunities wherever you are.