United States - Florida

Surrounded by subtropical and tropical waters, the US state of Florida is known for its warm ocean breezes and abundant sunshine. Much of the east coast is shielded from the Atlantic Ocean by narrow sandbars and barrier islands that protect shallow lagoons, rivers and bays. The world-famous Everglades are a unique wilderness region of subtropical plant growth and animal life, extending over the centre of the southern part of the peninsula. The Florida Keys extend south and west from the southern tip of the state and are linked to the mainland by a causeway.

Although Florida is nicknamed the “Sunshine State”, severe weather is common. It is the most hurricane-prone US state; and central Florida is known as the country’s lightning capital. Other environmental issues facing the country include water pollution from agricultural run-off, and saltwater has begun to seep into the layers of porous limestone that hold Florida’s reserves of fresh water.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Everglades National Park, Florida, US
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • Florida is harnessing one of the state’s most abundant resources, the sun. Any resident of Florida who purchases and installs a new solar energy system from 1 July 2006 through 30 June 2010 is eligible for a rebate.
  • Florida has sufficient wind resources to use large-scale wind turbines near the coasts.
  • Most of Florida’s drinking water comes from underground aquifers.
 
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Recycling
  • Florida is working to establish a new statewide recycling goal of 75% to be achieved by the year 2020.
  • To locate the nearest recycling or household hazardous waste collection centre, enter your zip code at the bottom of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website
  • Miami’s curbside recycling programme collects newspaper, aluminum, glass, tin cans and plastic bottles on a weekly basis; all residents received a 14-gallon blue bin with a brochure on what can be recycled.
 
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Transport
  • Amtrak’s Auto Train takes you and your car non-stop from the Washington, DC area to Orlando, Florida.
  • Greyhound bus service connects the major cities in Florida. There are a number of local and regional public transportation systems that offer inter-city bus services throughout the state.
  • It is possible to get around parts of Florida by ferry; for example there is a high speed ferry service from Fort Myers to Key West, and there are water taxis in places like Ft Lauderdale.
  • Miami’s Metrorail travels between downtown and the southern suburbs; the elevated Metromover circles the downtown area and connects with the Metrorail.
  • Miami is a biker’s paradise, especially on Miami Beach, where the hard-packed sand and boardwalks make it an easy and scenic route; biking is more for recreation than a serious means of transportation.
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Food
  • Florida is famous for its citrus, especially oranges and grapefruits.
  • Seafood from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico feature prominently in many dishes.
  • Immigrants from the Caribbean and Latin American have strongly influenced Floridian cuisine. Staple Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), rice and beans and fried plantains are common choices in the south of Florida.
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Souvenirs
  • Collecting coral (even dead coral) is illegal in Florida; avoid souvenirs made from coral.
  • Prior to their legal protection, alligators were sold in pet stores and souvenirs shops as novelty items. Florida law now strictly protects alligators, and only people with special licenses may possess a live alligator.
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Green Spots
  • Everglades National Park: Located in the southern tip 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.
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: About 112km west of Key West lies a cluster of seven islands - composed of coral reefs and sand - called the Dry Tortugas. Along with the surrounding shoals and waters, they make up Dry Tortugas National Park. The area is known for its famous bird and marine life.
  • Biscayne National Park: Less than 50km from downtown Miami, this park contains the longest undeveloped shoreline and mangrove forest on Florida’s east coast. It also preserves Biscayne Bay, one of the top scuba diving areas in the US.
  • Canaveral National Seashore: Situated on a barrier island along Florida’s east coast, the protected area includes pristine, undeveloped beaches, dunes and lagoons. The park provides habitat for a number of marine species, including marine turtles, manatees, and dolphins. The John F. Kennedy Space Center is located at the southern end of the barrier island; access to the seashore is often restricted during space shuttle launch-related activities.
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore: This 240-kilometre stretch of barrier islands and coastal mainland includes salt marshes, bayou, oak and southern magnolia forest, and snow-white beaches. More than 80% of the park is submerged and provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, river otters and marine turtles.
  • Ocala National Forest: Located in central Florida between the Ocklawaha and St Johns rivers, this is the southernmost forest in the continental US. The forest contains the largest concentration of sand pine in the world as well as some of the best remaining stands of longleaf pine in Central Florida and has over 600 natural lakes and ponds. One also finds a diverse range of wildlife, which includes black bear, American alligator, bobcat, gopher tortoise, armadillo and much more.
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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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