Which Environmental Nonprofit Organizations are Really Making a Difference?

Small and lean grassroots groups are being rated the best environmental organizations in the country, according to GreatNonprofits’ 2009 Green Choice Awards. The contest, which asks people who have had an experience with an environmental group to rate and review those nonprofits, is showing surprising results as it heads into its last week. One surprise? Many of the groups garnering green attention are not your typical environmental organization.
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Menlo Park, Calif. — Small and lean grassroots groups are being rated the best environmental organizations in the country, according to GreatNonprofits’ 2009 Green Choice Awards. The contest, which asks people who have had an experience with an environmental group to rate and review those nonprofits, is showing surprising results as it heads into its last week. One surprise? Many of the groups garnering green attention are not your typical environmental organization.

“It’s been exciting to see people vote for organizations you would otherwise not associate with environmental activism,” says GreatNonprofits founder and CEO Perla Ni. “These are innovative, young, grassroots organizations – some refurbish medical supplies and others provide healthy and well-paying work for low-income women. People are seeing innovative ways to be ‘green’ beyond wildlife and climate change, and they’re submitting their reviews to spread the word.”

While big organizations such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are available for review, those groups haven’t seen the results as their leaner counterparts. The last day to submit reviews for Green Choice is April 29th. Here’s a snapshot of some of the current contest leaders:

Global Links (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Refurbishes, sorts, and sends donated hospital equipment (everything from beds and wheelchairs to IV poles and dialysis machines) to Latin American and Caribbean countries. Global Links recovers over 100 tons of medical materials a year.

One volunteer writes, “As a surgeon and recipient of their aid, I have witnessed first hand Global Links’ passion and integrity with which they pursue their goal of furnishing needed medical supplies to the underserved throughout the world. Most of these supplies would have ended in land fills without first having gotten the opportunity to fulfill the purpose for which they were manufactured. I have personally packaged and hand carried some of this equipment to Haiti and Ethiopia where, without it, I would have been unable to perform some of the procedures needed there.”

Center for Biological Diversity (Tucson, Ariz.)

Wrote the petition that got the polar bear listed under the Endangered Species Act, and has been successful in protecting the orca habitat in the Northwest, as well as wolves in the Rockies.

“The Center is fabulous. In many ways it is a news service for endangered nature, with fantastic, detailed stories and updates on the species and habitats themselves and on legislative or policy developments that impact them,” raves one donor. “This is also a grassroots organization in which it is obvious that every penny is used well.”

Another donor says, “Hands down, one of the best nonprofits I donate to with regards for getting the most "bang for your buck." I believe so much in this nonprofit, that I designated them as the recipient of 30% of profits from one of my company's products!”

WAGES (Oakland, Calif.)

Creates housecleaning cooperatives for low-income women, using environmentally friendly cleaning techniques. The cooperatives have more than 1 million in annual sales, workers earn 50-100% more than they would make working for a conventional cleaning company, and the co-ops prevent the release of thousands of pounds of harmful chemicals per year.

“It educates not only the women who clean with environmentally approved products but also the owners whose houses they clean,” writes one donor to WAGES, “Secondly by creating a role of ownership for the women who belong to and run these organizations, it gives them the dignity they have every right to have.”

Foundation for Sustainable Development (San Francisco, Calif.)

Partners with more than 200 community-based organizations throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America to support sustainable change. Projects include construction of communal clothes-washing areas and non-polluting bathrooms, teaching organic farming methods, and establishing vegetable nurseries and organic gardens at local schools. 

“My experience opened my eyes to the world of sustainable development. It taught me the importance of capacity building, and ensuring that you are constantly empowering others and the organization to function without you. It also showed me the innovative ways that organizations can use natural resources to improve individuals' quality of life,” writes one volunteer who went to Kenya to work on a sustainable agro-forestry project using Eucalyptus trees. 

About the 2009 Green Choice Awards

The awards are hosted by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user-generated ratings and reviews of nonprofits. Reviews appear on both GreatNonprofits.org as well as GuideStar.org, the premiere source for donor research on nonprofits. Nonprofits with the most positive reviews in their budget category (small, medium, and large) will be announced as winners of the 2009 Green Choice Awards. Those who submit reviews are eligible to win prizes, such as an autographed copy of Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded, earth-friendly wines from Fetzer wineries, subscriptions to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, a getaway at Joie De Vivre hotels, gift certificates for Whole Foods, coupons for Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and more. Submit your reviews by April 29th at www.greatnonprofits.org/green.

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