AWS Public Sector Blog

3 Nonprofits to Know on World Environment Day

On World Environment Day, we are reminded it is up to all of us to better steward the finite resources of our planet. From limiting your utilization of single-use plastics to considering how a move to the cloud could help your organization reduce its overall energy consumption, each action matters.

AWS provides infrastructure technology to nonprofits around the world who preserve and protect our environment, enabling not only mission-critical work, but also efficiencies in energy usage. On average, our customers use 77% fewer servers, 84% less power, and utilize a 28% cleaner power mix, for a total reduction in carbon emissions of 88% from using the AWS Cloud instead of operating their own data centers.

Today, we’re spotlighting three nonprofit organizations who champion environmental protection year round:

Environmental Defense Fund: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization that develops evidence-based solutions, backed by rigorous scientific and economic research, and uses them to inform effective, nonpartisan policies. For example, to better understand the impacts of deforestation in Brazil, EDF leveraged AWS technology to analyze satellite data on the forests in the Mato Grosso region to detect and predict the impact of deforestation. When the EDF team wanted to expand their dataset to better understand deforestation in Mato Grosso, their dataset exploded from about 10 million to 1 billion forested pixels. Running just one regression took almost a whole day, crashing the organization’s computers.

The problem was ideal for cloud computing and big data processing systems, like Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR). Amazon EMR breaks down large volumes of data into small processing chunks and delegates the work to many powerful computers. Using EMR meant EDF could take advantage of multiple powerful computers at once, reducing overall processing time from days to hours. Now, EDF runs analysis with billions of data points to pinpoint where deforestation pressure is highest. The organization is taking advantage of data that was once a challenge and using it as a powerful tool to track and better understand a complex issue.

First Street Foundation: 125 million Americans live in areas endangered by coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels. First Street, a technology based nonprofit engages people on this important topic and advocates national solutions that mitigate the dangerous impacts of natural flooding. Many individuals in coastal areas experience flooding today or will in the near future yet they do not realize the culprit is rising sea levels. First Street aims to educate all levels of stakeholders about their risk of sea level rise flooding and turn them into advocates.

First Street currently provides two tools — and FloodIQ — that produce valuable insight into flooding trends to educate and inform both policymakers and individuals who live and work in impacted areas.

To run these data-intensive processes and create the mapping tools, FSF uses compute-intensive C5 instances for Amazon EC2 to process the terabytes of elevation and related raster data and calculate the flooding risk for millions of parcels in coastal areas. The 72 virtual cores allow the FSF data team to utilize parallel processing to concurrently map thousands of square miles, reducing production time from months to days. In addition, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) IOPS-optimized volumes accelerate the parallel processing of elevation and flooding layer rasters. At the same time, throughput-optimized volumes provide the storage FSF requires to map the flood risk of coastal areas at a meter level resolution.

Once the data processing is complete, to make the data ready for the web, FSF utilizes multiple 36-core C5 instances with EFS to generate map tiles and synchronize the results to Amazon S3. FSF then links the Amazon S3 bucket with CloudFront and in a matter of minutes is able to run a dedicated CDN for the map tiles.

Wildlife Conservation Society: The SMART Partnership*, led by nine of the world’s leading conservation organizations, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), worked with AWS to deploy a solution at scale that helps governments and conservation agencies protect the world’s threatened wildlife from poachers. Over the last eight years, the SMART Partnership developed a software platform called SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) that helps park rangers protect park animals from poachers and monitor wildlife populations around the globe. SMART Connect, the new cloud-based extension to the SMART software, runs on AWS and gives rangers a ‘real-time’ overview of the locations of all staff on patrol, helping rangers to report and record any signs of poaching. SMART Connect also allows protected area authorities to have a full 360° overview of all the events taking place across all their protected areas. Over time, the park can analyze these data and measure the program’s effectiveness, as well as the variations to the scale and impact of the poaching.

The SMART software has changed the ways park rangers do their jobs, making a positive impact on the state of threatened wildlife and enhancing the effectiveness of conservation programs globally.

*The SMART Partnership currently includes Frankfurt Zoological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, North Carolina Zoo, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Protection Solutions, World Wildlife Fund, and the Zoological Society of London.

Technology is changing the ways in which organizations fight for their cause – but it’s not limited to one mission area. Learn more about AWS for nonprofits and get started on your journey to the cloud today.

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWS_Nonprofits).