Top Organizations Working Hard on Energy Resources
The United States is still very dependent on coal and gas for our energy, but there are many organizations working hard with communities to reduce their dependence on harmful energy sources and make wind and solar more accessible.
With climate change at the top of many people’s minds, it’s important to be aware of these incredible organizations with expertise in clean energy. Below we highlight just a few that are helping more and more people embrace solar, wind, and other clean resources.
Trees, Water & People
Fort Collins, CO
This organization works to improve lives by helping communities manage the natural resources that they depend on. They are always working on multiple programs, but one of the big ones is with the Native American communities in the great plains region of the U.S. In some reservations, heating expenses during the winter can cost 50–70 percent of a household’s income. TWP is working with tribal communities to build and install renewable energy applications like small wind turbines and solar air furnaces. Not only does this work benefit the people and save them money, but the options are more environmentally conscious.
I have volunteered with Trees, Water & People several times through their Tribal Program on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Every volunteer experience has been inspiring, grounding, and fulfilling. Trees, Water & People is an organization that is addressing one of the longest contentious issues in America: Native American oppression. It is doing so with “boots on the ground” practices, like planting trees, building gardens and homes, and donating food and supplies to Lakota locals.
Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI)
The EESI was founded by a bipartisan group of members of Congress to help inform the decision making on energy and environmental policies and promote sustainable societies. The organization works to present complicated subjects in more user-friendly materials for the public and people that make important policy decisions. The materials they create are used by media outlets, education establishments and the general public to help understand issues surrounding climate change and the policies that impact the environment.
As a congressional staff member, I always find EESI’s briefings very informative and thorough. They view environmental issues through a multidisciplinary and systemwide lens, and bring in stakeholders that can speak to very different sides of an issue. Information is organized very succinctly and easy to find on their website, with helpful summaries and fact sheets about the issue areas they cover and the most recent news of the day. Definitely a great source of analysis and unique perspectives on important issues.
Sustainable Harvest International
This organization is dedicated to sustainable farming and how they can help small-scale farmers adopt sustainable farming practices. Many farmers don’t have access to education about successful agricultural practices and have resorted to slash-and-burn techniques. With so much of the planet’s forest area in danger, this organization is working to stop the burn and help families and rural communities find success in their farms with better practices.
I got to know the work of Sustainable Harvest International, (SHI), while serving in the Peace Corps in Panama. Although my scope of work was to support my small community’s efforts for a safe and well-maintained water supply, I became aware of SHI and of their work in a neighboring community. I invited SHI to adopt my community and they gracefully accepted the invitation.
During my two years in Panama I had the opportunity to observe firsthand the amazing work that this organization is doing in the field. SHI employs local experts who visit the adopted communities weekly and help the families that participate in its program by giving them not only training and advice, but also seeds, saplings, and tools as the need may be. The experts know the local culture, how to identify the people who need assistance the most, and how to maximize the outcome of their limited resources.
When I left Panama in August 2019 SHI had been working in my community for seven months. I participated in the training of making organic fertilizer, in the formation of a demonstrative farming plot, and in the construction of an “eco-stove” that burns one-fourth of the wood that traditional stoves use. I also saw pastureland that had never been cultivated before transformed into a vegetable farm based on the guidance of SHI.
I consider SHI’s adopting my community as the major accomplishment of my Peace Corps service.
This nonprofit is working to improve North Carolina’s environment by supporting renewable energy and carbon offset projects, and helping to get solar installations for schools with grants. They have helped with more than 1,000 projects in the state since 2003. With their school program, the schools receive the solar system, but they also get a weather station and curriculum for teachers to get the students involved in learning about solar energy.
NCGreenPower was AMAZING!! They supported our high school through quite the grant process. Katie Lebrato in particular was fantastic and helped with grant writing, raising funds, coordination with the installers, and a ton of red tape laid out by my school system. Would give more than 5 stars if I could! Check it all out here:
Similar to the work that NC GreenPower is doing, this organization wants to bring solar power to more people. Their main focus is other nonprofit organizations. By helping reduce their electricity costs, they can help more money go directly to the causes they support. With their partnerships and knowledge of regulations, they are able to take a lot of the administrative work on for these projects as well as using their resources to gain funding through grant writing, fundraisers, and sponsorships. Every penny that goes to a nonprofit is important, so their work is making an impact in so many different areas.
Collaborating with Everybody Solar has been a huge gift to our community in Boise, Idaho. Our local social enterprise, Empowered Solar, had done pro bono design for a photovoltaic system for Boise Bicycle Project’s (BBP) remodel, but in the end, the solar portion of the project didn’t make the final budget and was relegated indefinitely to the “nonprofit wish list.” Even a sustainability-oriented Community Benefit Organization (CBO) such as BBP — with a handful of office staff and decent revenue generated from memberships and bike sales — could not find a way to dedicate enough fundraising resources to a project of this size and cost. Empowered Solar was able to offer design and labor, but like BBP, we did not have the staff solely to raise the money for all the panels and equipment. In a last-ditch effort before shelving the project, I came across Everybody Solar in my search for a funder that would be our solar jackpot — and we won!
When I found Everybody Solar online and read that their mission is to fund solar projects for organizations like BBP, I was astounded! This model represents everything that is right in the CBO sector — multiple players coming together across sectors to contribute to a solution that is greater than the sum of its parts. Providing organizations with clean energy translates directly into economic security for their operation, more of their resources invested back in their communities, and environmental benefits for all.
We are so grateful to Everybody Solar for their grand vision and steadfast commitment. Working with Myriam throughout the entire process was a fantastic experience. She was extremely responsive, easy to work with while coordinating a lot of moving parts, and patient as we went through permitting, utilities, and local government to complete the installation. This project came to fruition because of Everybody Solar and Boise will reap the benefits for years to come. The Everybody Solar team has inspired people in our city and beyond to invest in solar solutions and offers everyone a way to participate in building a better future. We’re honored to have had the pleasure of working with them on this project and excited to see their operation grow!
St. Paul, MN
This nonprofit organization works to help Minnesota become a state that leads the country in clean energy. They have worked to get legislation passed, helped bring awareness to the communities, and educated policymakers in the government. By pushing for the use of more clean, renewable energy, they are helping reduce our dependence on oil and coal. But most importantly, they fight to make sure everyone has equal access to affordable solutions that are good for the environment.
My family has been involved with and supporters of Fresh Energy for years. It is No. 1 on our list when we make our charitable donations each year. Fresh Energy is one of the most forward-thinking organizations when it comes to energy policy. This is the go-to organization if you want clear, easy-to-understand, science-based information about renewable, responsible, and reliable sources of energy. I appreciate how active they are in my local community but also across the state and even at the federal level. Fresh Energy is making a significant impact in changing the way people and policymakers think about climate change and energy use.
With wildfires raging in the West and hurricanes threatening the East, climate change is something that we all need to be focused on. These organizations have been fighting this for years and they rely on donations and volunteers to get the hard work done. Please take action and help them move the needle on clean energy resources and conservation