Greenpeace International

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Animal Welfare
Social Action
Greenpeace's goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity, from the protection of oceans and ancient forests to phasing out fossil fuels and promoting renewable energy in order to stop climate change.



Greenpeace International is a non-profit organization with involvement in issues spanning forty countries worldwide. “Greenpeace relies on contributions from individual supporters and foundation grants and will not accept donations from governments or corporations in order to maintain its independence, objectives or integrity” (Greenpeace). Greenpeace concentrates on the most vital threats worldwide to Earth’s biodiversity and environment. It “is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions for a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace’s goal is to ensure the ability of the earth to nurture life in all its diversity” (Wikipedia).

Greenpeace is involved in issues including “protecting oceans and ancient forests, phasing out fossil fuels and promoting renewable energy in order to stop climate change, eliminating toxic chemicals, preventing genetically modified organisms to be released into nature, to end the nuclear threat and nuclear contamination, and to ensure safe and sustainable trade” (Greenpeace).


Historic Roots

Greenpeace International was founded in 1971, when a small group of activists intended to sail near the island of Amchitka, off the West Coast of Alaska, to witness first hand the nuclear testing taking place by the United States. The island of Amchitka is one of the world’s regions most susceptible to earthquakes and is home to much wildlife including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, and was the last refuge for 3000 sea otters. (Greenpeace) Before the boat carrying the activists reached Amchitka, it was intercepted and the United States still detonated their bomb. Their mission, however, generated public attention and therefore nuclear testing was halted later that year. The island was eventually acknowledged as a safe haven for birds.

After their success in Amchitka, Greenpeace continued to protest against nuclear testing. They also led protests against toxic-waste dumping, whaling, and other environmental issues. As a result, Greenpeace became a powerful influence on global environmental protection (Greenpeace). 

It is unclear who are the exact founders of Greenpeace International. There is no recorded official founder, but the organization began with the Amchitka protest led by the small group who first called themselves the Don’t Make A Wave Committee. Included in this activist group were:

  • Paul Cote, a law student at the University of British Columbia
  • Jim Bohlen, a former deep-sea diver and radar operator in the US Navy
  • Irving Stowe, a Quaker and Yale-educated lawyer 
  • Patrick Moore, an ecology student at the University of British Columbia 
  • Bill Darnell, a social worker. (Greenpeace)

The Amchitka mission cemented the activists group’s new name, Greenpeace, It is said to have been Bill Darnell who said, “Let’s make it a Green Peace.” Jim Bohlen’s son, Paul, had trouble making the words fit on a button, so he linked them together and formed the word “Greenpeace,” and it stuck. (Greenpeace)



Greenpeace has had a major global impact on environmental issues since it was founded in 1971. Its successes are numerous and in the past year alone the organization has recorded over twelve major victories. These victories include the elimination of toxic chemicals from over five companies’ products, the preservation of The Great Bear Rainforest, a campaign that successfully prevented crops and animals from being genetically engineered in the alpine region of Switzerland, the protection of a greater area of the Amazon, a decrease in whaling practices after months of protesting, and a campaign that led Buenos Aires to implement a zero-waste policy. (Greenpeace) The impact that Greenpeace International and similar organizations have had all over the world have made an impression far larger than governments alone could do. We cannot rely solely on governments to act and make change, which is why non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace International need to exist. According to Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, “The importance of Greenpeace and organizations like ours continues to be proven in areas of fastest economic growth such as China and India, but the developed world must not sit on its laurels. Government and industry must not be driven by profits and politics, but by a genuine interest in the future of our planet.” (Greenpeace)


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Greenpeace International is a non-profit organization, which is run by a board of directors, titled “The Board of Stitching Greenpeace Council.” Members are voted in by volunteers and activists. The organization employs around 150 employees worldwide and depends on volunteers to help carry out its missions.

Greenpeace relies only on donations from individual supporters and grants from foundations. It will not accept any donations from governments, businesses or political parties or any other source that may “compromise its aims and objectives, its independence or its integrity”. (Greenpeace)


Key Related Ideas

Protect Ancient Forests is a cause that Greenpeace International focuses on to protect the forests and its wildlife. Plants, animals, and cultures of forest people are being seriously threatened. (Greenpeace)

Save Our Seas is a large part of Greenpeace International’s mission. Marine life has been and continues to be threatened by the following key components: industrial fishing, bycatch, unfair fisheries, fish farming, global warming and pollution. Greenpeace calls for change in the way that our oceans are managed. (Greenpeace)

Stop the Climate Change is Greenpeace International’s mission to phase out fossil fuels and replace them with reusable energy in order to stop climate change. (Greenpeace)

Toxic Chemicals harm our rivers, lakes, oceans, and air, as well as human health. Greenpeace International works to educate and eliminate these toxic chemicals from production, trade, and use. It suggests substituting the toxic chemicals with safer, alternative materials in order to keep our world cleaner and healthier. (Greenpeace)


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Gerd Leipold (January 1, 1951 —): Leipold has been the Executive Director of Greepeace International since February of 2001. Between 1981 and 1990 he played a key role in Greenpeace Germany, where he was born and raised. Between 1993 and 2001 Leipold was the Director of GEM Partners Ltd, a consultancy company based out of London. (Greenpeace).
  • Patrick Moore (1947 —): Moore was one of the founding members of Greenpeace. He spent 9 years as president of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as Director of Greenpeace International. In 1991, Moore founded Greenspirit, a “consultancy focusing on environmental policy and communications in natural resources, biodiversity, energy and climate change.” (Greenspirit).
  • Anne Summers (March 12, 1945—):  Summers is one of the Greenpeace International Board Chairs.  She is an award-winning Australian journalist who has had a wide-ranging career in the media and politics in Australia and the USA She currently writes an opinion column for the Sydney Morning Herald in addition to serving on the board of directors for Greenpeace International.  (Greenpeace)


Related Nonprofit Organizations

The Mangrove Environmental Protection Group is a grassroots organization based in Mexico.  It was established in 1993 to protect mangroves and other natural resources surrounding San Blas and Nayarit, Mexico.  Another of its goals is to ensure the current environmental laws are upheld.  (Mangrove Protection Group)

The Michigan United Conservation Club is an affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation.  It offers educational programs for children and adults about ecology and protecting our natural resources.  (Michigan United Conservation Club). 

The National Wildlife Federation is an organization whose objective is to inspire Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.  It has been working toward protecting wildlife since 1936.  This organization also offers educational materials and programs.  (National Wildlife Federation).

The Sierra Club is an organization with large membership representation.  Its conservation initiatives include “Smart Energy Solutions to Global Warming, Safe and Healthy Communities and America’s Wild Legacy.”  (Sierra Club).


Bibliography and Internet Sources

  • Greenpeace International.  Greenpeace International.
  • Mangrove Environmental Protection Group.  Mangrove Environmental Protection Group.
  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
  • Moore, Patrick.  Greenspirit.
  • National Wildlife Federation. National Wildlife Federation.
  • Sierra Club.  Sierra Club.