Boost Your Wildlife Gardening Credentials With 8 Eco-Friendly Certifications

Be an Earth champion and check out some eco-friendly certifications for your yard, garden or property.

A bird (a songthrush) stands in the grass and looks up
(Image credit: Rian Krenzer / 500px / Getty Images)

A Certified Wildlife Habitat is a special place. It’s a place that has been recognized as having the food, water, cover, and nesting areas required for birds, butterflies, and other local wildlife to thrive. Gaining eco-friendly certification is just an official stamp of approval on your effort, so why not work with an organization you trust and get your wildlife garden certified?

What Does it Mean to Have a Certified Wildlife Habitat?

Most gardeners love to include native plants in their backyard landscape to host local wildlife. I know I do; nothing brings me more joy. But at times I have had lots of questions about how to make things safe for birds or attractive for butterflies or other pollinators. Getting a backyard habitat certification is one way to be sure that you aren’t forgetting something essential. It also opens up a community of knowledge that can help you to help your wildlife.

Many different organizations, including the National Wildlife Association and other nonprofits, sponsor eco-friendly certifications for the garden. When you apply for certified status, you are asked to submit proof to the organization that you have met certain guidelines. These all involve offering nurture and protection for wildlife, but they vary among organizations.

8 Eco-Friendly Certifications

Are you ready to embark on a certification adventure? You will have many different options to get eco-certified, depending on your particular interests. Is your special interest assisting pollinators? Look for pollinator garden certification. Are you particularly concerned about the diminishing population of monarchs? There are a number of monarch-specific eco-garden certifications. Here are some of our favorites.

1. National Garden Club Certified Wildlife Habitat

The National Garden Club offers a certification program where your garden can gain the status of a Certified Wildlife Habitat by practicing sustainability in your personal landscapes. The application is online and you can decide for yourself the type of wildlife you want to aid, from birds to insects to small mammals. The steps an applicant takes can include making sure your space has food, water, and cover for wildlife, reducing turf grass, planting native plants, and installing a pond.

2. Certified Wildlife Habitat - National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation offers the status of “Certified Wildlife Habitat” to gardeners who provide habitat for local wildlife, like wild birds or butterflies, and maintain sustainable gardening practices. All you need to do to get this eco-certification is to fill out an application, setting out your information and the steps you have taken to create a wildlife habitat. There is a small fee involved. Those who are certified can obtain a sign reflecting the certification.

3. Backyard Habitat Certification Program - Bird Alliance of Oregon and Columbia Land Trust

The Bird Alliance of Oregon and Columbia Land Trust offers a Backyard Habitat certification for residential landscapes. This is one program that offers more than recognition, but also tools and resources for gardening sustainably and creating wildlife habitat. Rather than applying initially for certification, you file to enroll in the program. At that point, a Habitat Technician visits your property, connects you with resources and discounts, then emails a site report with their recommendations. Certification comes after you complete the program.

4. Pollinator Garden Certification - University of New Hampshire

Live in New Hampshire? New Hampshire gardeners can certify your garden as “pollinator-friendly”, with the help of the University of Maine Extension. You’ll need to follow the four-step application process and pay a small fee. The steps are providing food, providing water, providing shelter and safeguarding habitat. You become eligible for a certificate recognizing your garden’s pollinator-friendly status and to obtain a UNH Extension Pollinator-Friendly Garden sign.

5. Monarch Waystation - Monarch Watch

Many of us love monarch butterflies and would like to help their diminishing population. If you meet certain requirements, including planting appropriate milkweed and nectar plants, you can have your monarch habitat certified as an official Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch. Your space must be at least 100 square feet, get at least six hours of sun per day, and contain at least 10 milkweed plants. The specific actions you have to take depend on your habitat. If your application is approved, your yard will be included in the Monarch Waystation Registry, an online listing of Monarch Waystations worldwide, and you are given a certificate with a unique Monarch Waystation ID number.

6. Certified Earth-Friendly Gardens - Master Gardener Association of San Diego County

The Master Gardener Association of San Diego County wants to encourage residents to create earth-friendly gardens. They support eight interrelated principles, including choosing eco-friendly plants, taking care of the soil, protecting wildlife, using non-toxic pest management, and protecting water and air quality. Gardeners who work with these principles and get their gardens certified as an official Earth-Friendly Garden. You don’t have to do every one of the principles to get certification.

7. Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification - Penn State Extension Master Gardener Program -

Eco-friendly gardens support the life cycles of various pollinators. Recognizing this, the Penn State Extension Master Gardener program, Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification, lets a gardener inventory their garden landscape, looking for those that provide nectar and pollen for pollinators, add a water source, provide shelter for pollinators, and also safeguards for the habitat. Once this is accompanied, you can apply for certification and pay a small application fee. Successful applicants get the designation and can purchase a Penn State Extension Master Gardener Pollinator Friendly Garden sign.

8. Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification - Monroe County Master Gardeners

In New York, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Monroe County Master Gardeners encourage residents to build habitats for pollinators. You can certify your property as “Pollination Friendly” by providing a diversity of plants to provide for the needs of pollinators. This supports a healthy ecosystem. This includes: providing food for pollinators like nectar and pollen sources, providing food for caterpillars, providing water sources, providing shelter and reducing invasive plants and pesticides.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.