Money might not grow on trees, but for students who want to help save the trees, it's there for the asking

By Brittany Johnson

September 1, 2013

illustration of a tree in the shape of a brain

With the green economy demanding fresh minds, students who are environmentally concerned but fiscally challenged have options, because schools and nonprofits are rallying resources to assist eco-scholars. Aid comes in the form of both financial assistance and career-development opportunities. The Earth Island Institute's Brower Youth Awards, for one, is granted annually to six young environmental activists. Ariana Katovich, a member of the first batch of recipients, received the $3,000 award in 2000. She's now the institute's director of restoration and director of its Streets Alive! project.

"Winning the award was very cool,' Katovich says. "But more important, it introduced me to the institute's network, which played a major role in me getting the job I hold now.'

That's the general viewpoint among institutions: Scholarships that develop students' careers are, in the long run, more valuable than just money. "Students are trying to figure out how to turn their passion into a paycheck. Our recipients use these scholarships to jump-start their green careers,' says Niles Barnes, senior programs coordinator at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The organization, which has been offering awards to students for eight years, provides not only grants but also access to its huge network of contacts in the environmental workforce.

Competition for these prizes is getting tougher. Katovich, who is on the selection committee for the Brower Youth Awards, says that the number of applicants has doubled in recent years—a trend that other organizations handing out "green money' are also seeing. The key to taking home the prize? Being a well-rounded candidate who can approach sustainability and environmentalism from a variety of angles.

Maria Rosales, winner of AASHE's Student Sustainability Leadership Award, addressed both the social and economic aspects of sustainability when she spearheaded a student-led campaign to raise $1 million for energy efficiency at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Similarly, the project that won Katovich the 2000 Brower Youth Award continues to raise awareness of shoreline preservation and distributes more than $180,000 to the cause annually.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars go toward eco-scholarships every year in the United States. Broad-based scholars are often most likely to win them, but sometimes applicants need to something specific to qualify: The Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation, for example, annually awards worthy eco-scholars and Native American and Alaska Native students dedicated to tribal public policy and healthcare. Annie's Homegrown Foods offers $100,000 to students dedicated to sustainable agriculture.

If you're serious about studying something green, chances are decent that there's money out there for it. See below for a list of environmental scholarships that'll be available this fall.


Check out these environmental scholarships and awards available for undergraduate and graduate students. —Brittany Johnson, with additional reporting by Christine Coester

Annie's Homegrown Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship
Known for its organic bunny-shaped crackers and its mac and cheese, Annie's Homegrown invests in the future of environmental stewardship. Annually, the company's Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship program gives $100,000 to undergraduate and graduate students studying sustainable and organic farming.

Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Awards 
For almost a decade, AASHE has been offering awards to students who are dedicated to sustainability and helping them build a strong network in the environmental community.

Brower Youth Awards 
Founded by the Sierra Club's first executive director, David Brower, this award recognizes six environmental activists between the ages of 13 and 22. Administered by the Earth Island Institute, founded by Brower in 1982, the program offers each award recipient a $3,000 cash prize and a weeklong trip to San Francisco, where they participate in conferences and outdoor activities.

Castle Ink Paperless Scholarship
This might be the easiest way to apply for a scholarship. By simply hashtagging Castle Ink or linking to its site when posting about the importance of recycling, you put yourself in the running to win a $1,000 scholarship. The winner is chosen at random, but you can increase your odds by posting multiple times in multiple places.

Elizabeth and Sherman Asche Memorial Scholarship 
The Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA) awards this scholarship, available to undergraduates and graduates. Seven students receive $1,500 to pursue a public health or science degree. The AAIA scholarship program has been assisting American Indian and Alaska Native students since 1948.

EPA Marshall Scholarships
Since 1953, the U.K.'s Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission has awarded the esteemed Marshall Scholarship to deserving students seeking to attend universities in Great Britain. Now, to promote global environmental stewardship, the U.S. EPA has teamed up with the commission to offer EPA Marshall Scholarships. Up to three exceptional college graduates who have demonstrated a strong interest in environmental studies, and who have been selected as Marshall Scholars, can receive two years of graduate education assistance for study in Great Britain and up to an additional three years of study in either Great Britain or the United States leading to a doctoral degree.

Minority Scholarship 
Offered by Brown and Caldwell, an environmental engineering consulting firm, the Minority Scholarship aims to increase diversity in the industry by supporting organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Undergraduate Scholarships 
Students pursuing a career focusing on the environment, and Native American and Alaska Native students pursuing a career related to tribal public policy or Native American healthcare, are encouraged to apply for an Udall Scholarship, created to honor longtime Arizona congressman Morris Udall and his brother Stewart. Annually, about 50 applicants are awarded up to $5,000 each.

National Environmental Health Association Scholarship 
The National Environmental Health Association has teamed up with the American Academy of Sanitarians to offer $1,000 scholarships to students studying environmental and public health.

National Garden Club Scholarships 
If you have a soft spot for horticulture, gardening, landscape design, or floral design, the National Garden Club Scholarship Program could be fertile ground for college funds. To promote gardening and environmental stewardship, the National Garden Club awards more than a dozen scholarships to college juniors, seniors, and graduate students pursuing a degree in an environmental field.

National Network for Environmental Management Studies Fellowships 
Part of the EPA, the NNEMS offers fellowships to undergraduates and graduates studying environmental science, law, policy, administration, or management. Fellows get a stipend to conduct a research project. Six fellowships were awarded in 2012.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Educational Partnership Program 
With a focus on students attending minority-serving institutions, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association offers an undergraduate scholarship for sophomores and juniors majoring, or planning to major, in oceanic, atmospheric, or environmental disciplines. The two-year program includes a summer internship and a scholarship.

Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program 
The Switzer Fellowship is granted to exceptional graduate students—10 in New England and 10 in California—who exhibit a promising future in environmental improvement and leadership. Winners get a one-year $15,000 cash prize, networking opportunities, and support to help foster their growth as environmental professionals.

Theodore Gordon Flyfishers Founders Fund Scholarship 
The Theodore Gordon Flyfishers and the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities offer a $3,500 scholarship to students who attend one of the 59 institutions in the Environmental Consortium and demonstrate excellence while studying environmental studies.

Dr. W. Wesley Eckenfelder Jr. Scholarship 
In memory of Dr. Eckenfelder, a pioneer in the field of water treatment, the Eckenfelder Scholarship is offered by engineering consultation firm Brown and Caldwell. It provides a grant to students studying civil, chemical, or environmental engineering or a related environmental science.