The Sustainability InstituteThe Sustainability Institute

Currently recruiting 12-month Crew Leaders, 12-month Crew Members, and 6-month Crew Members for 2024!

151,000+ Hours of Conservation Service in the Lowcountry!


The Environmental Conservation Corps (“ECC”) Program

Join AmeriCorps – Opportunity & Eligibility Details

The ECC Program

A Nationally Recognized and Award-Winning Accredited AmeriCorps Program.  Life-Changing Experiences in Conservation.

The Environmental Conservation Corps (“ECC”) is an innovative and award-winning program accredited by The Corps Network that engages young people as AmeriCorps service members in environmental conservation experiences that promote climate resilience, quality of life and sustainability in both protected places and urban environments within our Lowcountry region. Our projects provide meaningful opportunities for young people to develop personally and professionally while being of service to their communities, the environment, and themselves. Our goal is to create the next generation of conservation leaders in our region.

Over 180 AmeriCorps members have served in our program and contributed over 151,000 hours of conservation service in our region!

Corps are known for high-quality work, and we measure our success not just by how well we get a job done, but also the long-term impact of that work.

Diversity and inclusivity are perennial values of the Environmental Conservation Corps, and we work towards a vision of equitable access to nature and conservation careers.

We offer several different types of program opportunities and experiences, including our “Education Award Program” (EAP), which typically supports undergraduate and graduate students up to age 28, and our “Opportunity Youth Service Initiative” (OYSI) program, which serves at-risk and economically disadvantaged persons aged 17-24 experiencing barriers. We also engage and train non-AmeriCorps, volunteer citizen scientists (of any age) to support our projects.

The Program offers AmeriCorps members an opportunity to learn in-demand conservation skills and earn certifications, to participate in and lead critically important conservation projects, and to become connected with conservation career opportunities. The Program also provides “soft-skills” training, teaching participants new skills while honing existing skill sets to enable them to thrive both personally and professionally following their conservation service experience.

ECC service-learning activities focus on two distinct sets of conservation work in our community–

1. Habitat restoration & green infrastructure projects that advance coastal resilience

Public lands and waterways, including parks, greenways, forests, wildlife refuges and management areas, and wetlands and rivers across the SC Lowcountry

We specifically focus on 5 conservation activities: (1) Salt marsh restoration, including cultivating and planting Spartina and restoring oyster reefs and constructing living shorelines; (2) Building rain gardens; (3) Water quality monitoring, testing and data collection (salt and fresh water); (4) Planting native trees and plants; (5) Constructing, maintaining and repairing trails, bridges and boardwalks.

2. Home weatherization and energy conservation workshops that promote energy & water savings

Low-wealth neighborhoods in the greater Charleston metro area, including Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

Home repairs and efficiency upgrades to help families significantly reduce energy use and utility bills, including air sealing the building envelope; installing insulation in attics and crawl spaces; installing smart thermostats; retrofitting lighting; installing water saving devices; and installing safety devices such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We use an innovative “performance approach” that includes diagnostic testing on the home before, during, and after repairs and using equipment such as blower doors, duct blasters, and infrared cameras to detect problem areas within the home.

We also facilitate community workshops that train and empower families to conserve energy and water in their homes and significantly reduce utility costs. Families that attend workshops receive a home energy + water savings kit.

Both sets of activities represent important environmental conservation work that makes our communities more resilient to climate change impacts.

AmeriCorps members are recruited directly from local Charleston communities and universities and participate in service terms ranging from 3-months (300 hours) to 6-months (900 hours) to 1-year (1,700 hours) service terms. During their service, they receive training and certifications that direct align with our conservation work and are in-demand by the federal, state and local partners we work with.

OYSI AmeriCorps members earn a living stipend while they serve and receive assistance in transitioning to postsecondary education or the workforce. Upon completion of their term of service, all AmeriCorps members – both EAP and OYSI – receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award.

2020 study by economists at ICF found that every $1 in federal taxes invested in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps returns $17 to society, program members, and the federal government!


Hours of Conservation Service


Corps Members Served


​Miles of Trails & Waterways Treated & Restored


​Low-Income Homes Upgraded with Energy Efficiency


We’re really proud of our results and program impacts. By the end of the first half of the 2021-2022 year, our program had already treated, restored and improved more than 22.5 acres of public lands and more than 13 miles of trails and waterways. We have built a network of partnerships with more than 8 federal, state and local public lands agencies and conservation groups to do this work. Over our history, the ECC has performed more than 300 weatherization projects in the Charleston region, conducted hundreds of community workshops on energy + water conservation, formed lifelong relationships with thousands of clients and stakeholders, and became a trusted partner to neighborhoods in our community that are undergoing change. For this work, the Home Depot Foundation recognized The Sustainability Institute with a National Award of Excellence for Sustainable Community Development.

Additionally, the Program has produced two members who were recognized as AmeriCorps Members of the Year (out of more than 24,000 serving nationwide), Ladine (“JR”) Daniels in 2012 and Timothy Gunn in 2016, as well as a South Carolina Commission AmeriCorps Member of the Year, Derek Dustin in 2016.    

The Program has been featured nationally in many publications and broadcasts including U.S. News & World Report, ShelterForce Magazine, Soledad O’Brien’s Matter Of Fact, and locally in publications including The Post & Courier and the Charleston Regional Business Journal.


Develop the next generation of conservation leaders in our community while performing critically needed conservation projects that restore habitats, produce green infrastructure, build coastal resiliency, and protect the local places that are most vulnerable to a rapidly changing climate.


We do this by providing conservation-based, service-learning opportunities and life-changing conservation experiences for young people.


Corps members are recruited directly from local communities to serve 3 month to 1 year terms; receive a successful combination of classroom training and hands-on, in-field conservation experiences; and give back to communities through their service work.


We partner with and perform work for federal, state and local agencies that manage public lands and waterways, as well as conservation-focused nonprofits involved in coastal resilience work.


THOUSANDS of low-income families face high energy costs that they cannot afford due to the inefficiencies of their home.

Many homes in our Lowcountry communities suffer from insufficient insulation in their attics and crawlspaces, outdated mechanical systems and appliances, inefficient HVAC duct systems, and general air leakage that results from age and disrepair.  Some homeowners we serve have no insulation at all, and many have inoperable HVAC window units that do not sufficiently cool the home.  These conditions can create critical safety concerns for families, especially went temperatures rise in the summer season.

Low-income families are often economically stifled by high, monthly energy bills and spend a disproportionate amount of their income on their monthly energy costs. The repair and “upgrading” of these homes have become a national cause and urgent priority for our local communities.


Ellen Smalls, Homeowner

I knew I was cold but nobody else could feel it but me. Breezes were coming from the floors, the walls, the bathroom… everywhere in my house. My light bill was up there and I had to go get help from Human Services over and over…The amazing thing [was] that after I got this done, the first month my light bill went down to $134! It was like $300 a month [before]!”