Your Currency for Change: How to Focus Environmental Giving

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By Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet

Currency is something we normally think of in narrow terms: the bills or coins we fish out of wallets and pockets to pay for our morning cuppa. But we can also think of it in broader terms: the influence we have on the people and world around us through our actions and choices. Our planet needs us to be thinking about how we can deploy our currency — in the broadest sense of the word — to address the urgent and often overwhelming slate of environmental challenges we face.

When we are reading about the health of the Great Barrier Reef, listening to a news update about the rate of deforestation in the Amazon or watching a documentary about the impact of our food systems closer to home, it can be easy to focus on our fears instead of the positive actions we can take. How can we get beyond the fears and obstacles to unleash our passion and take meaningful action?

At 1% for the Planet, we believe that it’s all about the power of simple, thoughtful action. Giving to credible environmental nonprofits, no matter how small a contribution, is a particularly powerful strategy for connecting your passion with real impact.

Passion is an incredible fuel source. Thinking about nonprofits in terms of critical areas of environmental impact most important to you can be a helpful framework to get you started. Areas of interest may include:

Climate

Renewable energy options are expanding — from sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat — and nonprofits are making great impact in this and other climate-related areas.

Food

Are you passionate about local agriculture or sustainable food systems? Nonprofits around the world are working to make sure our food systems are not only healthy but are also driving widely positive gains for the planet.

Land

From open space in your local community for a family walk to habitat that conserves biodiversity, protected or conserved land is a fundamental building block of environmental concern. This issue area can include not only physical places but also the activities that connect us to these places and grow in us the affection that can inform our activism.

Pollution

It really stinks, so to speak, to learn that your water is actually not clean, that the food you buy might contain toxins that no one is obligated to tell you about or to know that the air you breathe is contaminated. Nonprofits are playing an active and critical role identifying and solving these problems through a variety of channels.

Water

Water is the source of life — neither we nor our wildly diverse planet can live without it. The quality and availability of our precious water resources are by no means guaranteed, and our thoughtful stewardship of it is of paramount importance for a just and thriving world. The nonprofit sector raises awareness, gathers data, protects resources and ensures equitable access.

Wildlife

Who doesn’t love a cute puppy? It doesn’t take much to stretch the boundaries of that affection to encompass the many wild creatures with whom we share our planet home. The rich and diverse nonprofit community focused on wildlife and biodiversity spans the globe and tackles everything from habitat for diversity to very targeted efforts to bring endangered species back from the brink.

Take Action Today

Did your heart rate tick up as you read about any of these issues? Listen to that, and once you’ve identified your passion, take the next step and dig deeper to figure out how you want to deploy your currency for the planet.

To uncover the nonprofits working in your areas of greatest passion, there are several things you can do:

  • Talk to your peers. Advice from a trusted friend or colleague is often a great way to cut through the chatter to find organizations that are doing meaningful work and would be a good fit for you.
  • Pay attention. Once you’ve identified your interest, you’ll start to find nonprofits on the internet, in your local newspaper, on the radio and on television … you’ll be surprised at what you’ll start hearing and seeing once you’ve set your intention. Once you get some names, you can start digging.
  • Search online. While we all know that broad searches online can bring more information than you may want, there are useful tools that can give you a solid direction. For example, the 1% for the Planet website includes a searchable database of vetted environmental nonprofits, and also includes an individual membership option that gives you access to expert advice on choosing the right nonprofit for you.
  • Do a background check. Websites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar rate the operational and financial position of nonprofits so you can feel confident in your choice.
  • Call the nonprofit and ask for a brief phone call with someone on staff who can provide you with information about their work. Nonprofits are always busy, so respect that and be brief, but their response to your outreach may tell you a lot.
  • Give through your purchases. A number of companies make smart environmental commitments, which you can support through your shopping. Look for certification logos like Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade and 1% for the Planet — among many others — as these third-party certifications ensure that dollars are being thoughtfully allocated to important causes.

We all possess currency that we can invest in positive change. Just like stashing pennies in a piggy bank can add up to significant savings, even your one small currency investment can contribute to a big impact.

About the Author:

Kate Williams is CEO of 1% for the Planet, the nonprofit environmental organization that leads a global network of businesses, nonprofits and individuals working together for a healthy planet. Kate stepped into her role at 1% for the Planet in May 2015, bringing a strong track record as a leader, including roles as board chair of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), as executive director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, as founder and owner of a farm business enterprise, and as an elected political leader in her community. Kate lives in Vermont with her husband and two children.

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