United States Of America

The geography of the United States is as diverse as it is big in area. From the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, one finds mountain ranges, plains, forests, lakes, deserts, coral reefs, coastlines and just about every other type of environment. The country’s wildlife is also varied and abundant with thousands of species of plants and animals, both big and small.

The US is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide. This contributes to the country’s air pollution problems, such as acid rain, as well as global warming. Other environmental problems include freshwater and marine pollution from agricultural runoff of pesticides and fertilizers, and industrial discharge. Disposal of waste, including hazardous waste, also presents a number of environmental challenges.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Jamie  PITTOCK
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, United States of America.
© WWF-Canon / Jamie PITTOCK

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • Tap water in the US is generally considered safe to drink. Over 90% of all water systems meet the US Environment Protection Agency’s standards for tap water quality. For more information on drinking water across the US, visit: http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/faq/faq.html.
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Recycling
  • There is no national law for recycling. However, many states have mandatory recycling schemes, including deposits or refunds on beverage containers (http://www.bottlebill.org/legislation/usa.htm)
  • Several states, including California, Maine, Maryland and Washington, have enacted laws dealing with electronic waste; many of the larger computer and electronics companies offer recycling programmes.
  • To find out where and how to recycle glass, paper, aluminum, batteries and just about everything else, visit: http://earth911.com.
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Transport
  • Nearly all long-distance trains are operated by Amtrak, which reaches almost all 50 states. Although taking the train is not considered the best way to travel within the US, as it is generally slower, more infrequent and often more expensive than air travel, it is one of the more environmentally-friendly ways of getting around the country.
  • Greyhound is the main national bus carrier, covering the entire country, including Alaska.
  • There are subways in most major US cities, including New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Other cities have tramways and trolleybus systems, like San Francisco.
  • There is extensive water transport along the coastline as well as on most major rivers and lakes.
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Food
  • If you want to buy organic products, look for the national USDA organic label at the nearest supermarket.
  • To find farmers’ markets, family farms, restaurants and other sources of sustainably grown food anywhere in the US, visit: http://www.localharvest.org/.
  • Find out where in the US to find Fair Trade certified products, including wine, coffee and ice cream, visit: http://www.transfairusa.org/content/WhereToBuy/.
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Souvenirs
  • Products from American black bears, brown bears and polar bears require a special permit for international trade; reptile skin products may also need a permit.
  • Walruses, fur seals and other marine mammals are protected; trade in their parts is only allowed for use by Native American artisans.
  • All migratory bird species are protected in the US and that possessing even a feather is illegal.
  • To learn more about what souvenirs can not be brought into the US, visit: www.worldwildlife.org/buyerbeware/.
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Green Spots
  • Everglades National Park: Located in the southern tip of the US state of Florida, the Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness area in America. The exceptional variety of its water habitats has made it a sanctuary for a large number of birds and reptiles, as well as for threatened species such as the manatee. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve and Wetland of International Importance.
  • Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone is America’s first national park. Situated across the US states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it is home to a large variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, bison and elk. Within the park one also finds some of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, including Old Faithful.
  • Yosemite National Park: Covering over 3,000km2 of mountainous terrain in California, Yosemite is best known for its waterfalls, deep valleys, green meadows and ancient giant sequoias. A great variety of wildlife is protected here, including black bears, mule deer and hundreds of bird species. More than 4 million people visit the park every year for rock climbing, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, camping, skiing and snowshoeing.
  • Glacier National Park: Located in the US state of Montana and extending across the border into Canada, the park is named after the 50 glaciers spread across millions of square kilometres of wilderness. There are also more than 200 lakes, waterfalls and dense forests, which are home to a number of species, such as deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, wolves and grizzly bears.
  • Rocky Mountain National Park: Located in the US state of Colorado, the park has more than 60 peaks higher than 3700m; Longs Peak is the highest at 4346m. There are hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails that range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs. Rock climbing, mountaineering, cross-country skiing, fishing and camping are popular activities within the park.
  • Grand Canyon National Park: One of the most visited national parks in the US, the Grand Canyon, in the US state of Arizona, is a massive gorge of the Colorado River. Hiking in and around the canyon is popular, as well as fishing, camping and river rafting. Deer, elk and coyotes are found near the canyon rims. Down in the canyon you’ll find lizards, snakes and many bird species, including eagles, vultures and condors.
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: This national park on the Big Island of Hawaii contains two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Over half of the park is designated as wilderness. Hiking and camping is permitted.
  • Central Park: One of the most famous urban parks in the world, New York City’s Central Park boasts several lakes, fountains, tennis courts, baseball fields, playgrounds and other facilities. It is also home to the Central Park Zoo and the Metropolitan museum of Art. Especially during the weekends, when cars are not allowed into the park, Central Park is a welcome oasis in this hectic city.
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WWF-US offers wildlife-viewing expeditions to several green spots within the US and abroad. For more information, visit: http://www.worldwildlife.org/travel/item8328.html
Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the above information. However, WWF makes no warranties, expressed or implied, regarding errors or omissions and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use.
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