United States - California

The third largest state in the US behind Alaska and Texas, California’s geography is as vast as it is diverse. It has an extensive coastline, numerous mountain ranges, large desert regions and a fertile central valley. It is also home to both the highest (Mt Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the 48 contiguous states.

With an area of 414,000km2, California is one of the most biologically diverse spots in the world, and is home to more unique plants and animals than any other state in the US.

California’s most infamous natural hazard is earthquakes due to the many faults, particularly the San Andreas Fault, that run through the state. It is also vulnerable to wild fires, mudslides, droughts and floods.

Other environmental problems facing the state include overgrazing, logging, water and air pollution. Los Angeles, for example, is notorious for its smog.
Giant redwood forest, Yosemite National Park, California, USA. / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER
Giant redwood forest, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • California uses a variety of energy sources, including petroleum, natural gas, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, and increasing amounts of renewable and alternative fuels, such as solar and wind energy.
  • Despite its abundant natural resources, California’s water supply is straining to meet growing demand.
  • California has some of the most aggressive energy-saving targets, renewable energy programmes, and reduction plans for global warming in the US - California law requires that 33% of the state’s electricity mix come from renewables by 2020.
  • The water that residents of California’s largest cities get from their taps meets government safety standards. Los Angeles won an award in 2008 for having the tastiest tap water in the US.
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Recycling
  • There are approximately 2,000 certified recycling centres in California. To find the one closest to you, visit the online recycling centre locator.
  • California Refund Value (CRV) is the amount paid by consumers at the checkout stand and paid back to consumers when they recycle eligible aluminum, plastic, glass and bi-metal beverage containers at certified recycling centres. The minimum refund value established for each type of eligible beverage container is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.
 
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Transport
  • California has one of the most expansive state highway systems in the US.
  • Intercity rail travel is operated by Amtrak.
  • Los Angeles and San Francisco both have subway networks, in addition to light rail. Metrolink commuter rail runs much of Southern California, and BART and Caltrain commuter rail connect Bay Area suburbs to San Francisco.
  • San Jose and Sacramento have light rail, and San Diego has Trolley light rail and Coaster commuter rail services.
  • Almost all counties run bus lines, and many cities run their own bus lines too. Intercity bus travel is supplied mainly by Greyhound bus services.
  • Most of California’s cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, have bike paths.
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Food
  • California cuisine is about freshness and lots of fruits and vegetables, rather than manufactured and fried. Many dishes include ingredients available in California, including avocado, artichoke, citrus fruits, almonds and mushrooms; rice and pasta replace potatoes and corn, more commonly eaten in the rest of the country.
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Green Spots
  • Yosemite National Park: Covering over 3,000km2 of mountainous terrain in California, Yosemite is best known for its waterfalls, glacially-carved 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.
  • Joshua Tree National Park: Located in southeastern California, Joshua Tree National Park is made up of two deserts: the Colorado Desert, occupying the eastern half of the park and dominated by abundant creosote bush; and the Mojave Desert in the western part of the park, known for its unique forest of Joshua trees. Despite the harsh desert environment, one finds a diverse range of wildlife that includes coyotes, bobcats, roadrunner, golden eagles and a number of lizards and snakes.
  • Redwood National Park: Located along the coast of northern California on the Pacific Ocean, the park is famous for its redwood trees, which can grow to a height of 112m and have a width of 7m. They live on average 500-7000 years; a few are documented to be 2,000 years old. In addition to the forests, the park is marked by rocky promontories and beaches – gray whales and sea lions can often be observed from the shore.
  • Death Valley National Park: This large desert in eastern California on the border with southern Nevada is the lowest, driest and hottest spot in the US, with temperatures soaring to 46°C in the summer months. Covering 1,351,816 hectares, this is the country’s largest park outside Alaska. It is known for its colourful rock and salt formations, canyons, sand dunes and even a diverse range of wildlife, which includes bighorn sheep, coyote, bobcat and mountain lion, horned lizard and scorpion.
  • Sequoia National Park: The majority of the national park protects a large part of the Sierra Nevada range with canyons, lakes, waterfalls and high mountains, including Mt Whitney (4417m), the highest peak in the contiguous United States. Here, one finds the giant sequoia trees, which grow to an average height of 50-85m and 6-8m in diameter. The oldest known giant sequoia, based on ring count, is 3,500 years old. The park connects with Kings Canyon National Park to the south.
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Covering more than 30,000 hectares, including 95km of coastline, around the San Francisco Bay area, this is one of the largest urban national parks in the world. Near the city, redwood forests, beaches, grassy hillsides, marshes and rocky shoreline offer a natural retreat.
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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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