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Recommended Non-profits

Featured: Ginger Taylor, founder of the Ocean-Friendly Establishment Certification; Bonnie Monteleone, Executive Director and Founder of the Plastic Ocean Project; Molly Matlock of SeaSource Group. Photo by Todd Tinkham.

I live in a tiny mill house that has nearly no closet space. As a result of that and of my mounting knowledge of ocean garbage, I am developing a very real phobia of STUFF. Seeing the landfill scene in the new Blade Runner movie didn’t help matters.

My request is this, instead of giving me or anyone else more STUFF that could make that scary Blade Runner scene a future reality, donate to someone who is doing something that matters for the ocean and all of its creatures. There are many problems to solve in this world, but somehow, the ocean consistently emerges as an underdog.

Here are a few reasons why it’s so important:

1.Healthy marine phytoplankton is responsible for a minimum of 50% of the oxygen that we breathe. It’s also our greatest source of carbon sequestration. This is why Sylvia Earle, the Jane Goodall of the seas, says, “No ocean, no life. No blue, no green.” Especially right now, all life in the ocean is crucial to keeping this system in balance.


2. What we know about ocean life is fascinating, but even more fascinating is what we don’t know. We discover new and mind-blowing aquatic species daily. I don’t know if any life in outer space could possibly top the weird aliens that we’re meeting underwater on this planet. And did you know that harems of Parrotfish are led by a single male Parrotfish? When that male dies, the lead female physically changes gender and colors and assumes his place. Crazy town.


3. When I was a kid, my dad took me camping and also gave me Roger Payne’s whale song recordings from National Geographic Magazine. I absorbed a central focus on stewardship. We are fortunate to be among so much astounding natural beauty, and we have a responsibility to take care of it. So, it doesn’t even matter that the ocean may be the most important natural resource for preserving human life. All of nature and all of life has inherent value.

4. Love sea creatures and all creatures the way that we love ourselves. They are our neighbors too, no matter how small, how cute, or how ugly.

I’m not sure that I’m really selling it with the Blobfish and Angler Fish photos, but please consider the ways that we arbitrarily assign value to what’s conventionally attractive, what’s large vs. small, and what’s human vs. non-human. We are all connected and interdependent. And maintaining a healthy ocean is essential to ALL life. If you believe in God or a Creator, trust me when I say that such a force would feel appalled if your actions or lack of action contributes to killing everything.

So, here is my curated list of some folks who are protecting the ocean and the creatures that maintain its balance:


The Cape Lookout Studies Program (soon to be Bonehenge Whale and Dolphin Center). These guys give up SO much in order to learn more, teach more, and conserve more. They are helping us learn more about cetaceans and their importance to the entire world at a time when the Marine Mammal Protection Act is threatened by Congress. And they are helping them to recover from injury, to grow freed from entanglement in fishing line, and to recover from strandings, when possible. Plus, they are the little guy. People don’t know about them and tend to give to larger organizations with name recognition such as the Sierra Club, etc. Give here! 

Plastic Ocean Project.
 With these guys, your dollars do all kinds of things from educating school children to helping convert ocean plastic into fuel renewably! Also, eat sustainably by using their NC Ocean-Friendly Establishment GuideGive here!

Kay Blada Recycling.  Based out of Snow Camp, NC and directed by Haitian native Johnson Desauguste (aka Blada), Kay Blada seeks to solve Haiti’s severe plastic waste problem while also creating local jobs and educating the public about the benefits of recycling. “Because recycling of consumer plastics is still so new to Haiti, it is practiced by a very small fraction of the population. Recyclable plastic waste pollutes the streets, waterways, canals, rivers, and beaches. Additionally, plastic waste is often burned for disposal, which creates an extremely toxic smoke byproduct that harms people’s health.” Give here!

The Scrap Exchange. Primarily an arts center using only reclaimed materials, the Scrap Exchange brilliantly combines an environmental mission with the arts. With a mind toward responsible urban renewal, they are building a reuse district and creating “green jobs and workforce development opportunities through a range of community partnerships.” Their property presently boasts a retail store, an art gallery, a Design Center for classes, a Make N Take classroom for open studio art-making, and space for educational and community events. Give here! 

NC Conservation Network. Do you ever notice a lot of nonprofits working toward the same mission within the same area and wish that they would just join forces already? NC Conservation Network has done that by forming a coalition of conservation and environmental justice organizations across North Carolina. They host educational events, work directly with policymakers, and keep us informed. I rely on them for the bulk of my environmental news and updates. I appreciate that they realize that we wilderness and wildlife lovers are more powerful when we are united. Give here!    

North Carolina Coastal Federation. Executive Director Todd Miller grew this non-profit from a staff of one to a staff of many. This organization bridges all kinds of divides, including political partisanship. Just when you thought that it couldn’t be done. Give here! 

Earth Echo Foundation. Founded by Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau (yes of THE Cousteaus), this organization teaches and empowers youth to tackle ocean conservation and water scarcity issues in their own communities around the globe. They learn about problems, collaboratively develop solutions, and implement those solutions with the help of their neighbors.Give here!   

As mentioned above, I like to keep it local. So many donors look for the “big fish” whose names they recognize. But the reason they recognize those names is often b/c those non-profits are HUGE and invest large sums in marketing. Plus, once a non-profit gets really big, it’s tougher for them to control where they direct their income. But there are several bigger fish that I think are worth your investment as a complement to investing in the little guy.   

Southern Environmental Law Center. If you want to protect the oceans, these are the guys who are really doing it on a grand scale for the Atlantic coast.Give here! 

Natural Resources Defense Council. When I ask insiders which non-profits are truly effective at environmental stewardship, this is the one most frequently named. Southern Environmental Law Center also tops the list.Give here!  

The Blue Ocean Institute. This is Carl Safina’s conservation and education non-profit. In my opinion, Safina is one of the top science communicators. He knows how to take hard research out of the lab and to the masses, including to policy-makers. You’ll notice that I quote him and reference him often. Watch here. Give here! 

Mission Blue. If there is one individual other than Jacques Cousteau who has done the most for ocean research and health, it’s Sylvia Earle. Mission Blue is her effort to save our seas. She may be my top personal hero of all time. Give here! 

Oceana. In 1999, several foundations “commissioned a study and discovered that less than 0.5 percent of all resources spent by environmental nonprofit groups in the United States went to ocean advocacy — an appalling statistic. No organization was working exclusively to protect and restore the oceans on a global scale.” They combined forces to form Oceana to fill this vacuum. Remember what I shared about what happens to all life if our ocean ecosystems collapse? Give here!  

North Carolina-based non-profits and coastal destinations, take notice! 
NCDEQ offers a Green Travel Destination
Certificate ! Learn more and apply

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