Choosing environmental groups to support

As my editor is fond of saying, there’s a lot of disillusionment at a national level right now, which is why we should all get involved locally — because the average citizen can have a big impact on policy that way.

He generally says that when he’s talking politics, but I think this applies to other areas as well. Case in point: It’s a tough time to be an environmentalist in the United States these days, but there are a variety of environmental causes that could really use help, and I’m not just talking financially — I think that having bodies on the ground, doing the work, is just as important.

I don’t really have art for this post, so here’s a photo of the pear orchard near our house that I took two autumns ago and of which I am terribly proud.

And that’s a hard one for me, to be honest. It’s easier to give money and let someone else worry about the doing.

But I’ve decided a way to combat said disillusionment is to get involved in causes that are close to my heart — to do rather than … well, just be depressed, I guess. My environmental leanings are all over the board — clean air, clean water, climate change, wildlife, you name it — and while I can’t join everything, having such a broad scope does mean I’m more likely to find something that I can get excited about. (Logic!)

I started my search at the local level, all inspired and whatnot by that editor of mine. Working for the newspaper, I was aware of a climate change group and a couple others dedicated to the health of the Columbia River. But as I dug deeper (thanks, Internet!), I realized that there are many more — the ecology group that brings environmental education to schools, a wildlife clinic, a local food network that does a lot of outreach between farmers and the community, and a soil and water conservation district (where I learned last summer that it’s not that the days are getting hotter that is the problem, although they are, but that the nights aren’t getting cool enough). We’ve even got a couple different organizations that concentrate on wetlands or wildlife habitat preservation and restoration, and a school group that’s working to bring free reusable grocery bags to stores.

Awesome. That’s a lot of choices!

I couldn’t find quite as many Oregon state environmental groups (that’s pretty local, right?), and what I did find was more geared towards protecting wildlife than anything else. Which is cool, who doesn’t love wildlife? Nationally, of course, there are all sorts of groups. Sorting through those is a little harder, just because you have to make sure they’re legit and using donations to actually work towards the cause they’re claiming to champion. But there are plenty of websites that lay out who does what, where they get their money from and what percentage is spent on programs, like so:

Top 12 Environmental Organizations Who Use Their Donations Well

Charity Navigator: Environment 

A Guide to Environmental Non-Profits

It turns out I’m not really comfortable telling you exactly which organizations are “the best” and deserving of your support. I thought I would compile a list and then share, but, I mean, what do I know? And what’s most important to me might not be a priority for you. I hope the links above prove helpful as you do your own research … and that you don’t curse my name too much for being unwilling to take a definite stand for any certain cause.

However, I will share that I’m leaning towards our climate change group, the local food network, and the ecology institute. I also really like the reusable bag project by the elementary kids — simple, but effective. All of these are important to me — and they’re pretty diverse causes. Again, I can’t join everything, so my plan is to float around until I find one or two that really stick.

I feel energized by the prospect. This is going to be a big boost for my general sense of well-being (i.e., it’s hard just being depressed all the time).

One more thing …

It’s time to apply for The Simple Year 6! Click HERE for details, or check out “The Handoff” link above.

Next up: I made a reusable bag just to see if I could. It’s got a drawstring and everything! It’s super ugly, but I don’t even care.