1. Portland, Oregon
Affordable and accessible, this city straddling the banks of the Willamette River has long made sustainable living a priority. More than 30 years ago, with other cities in a freeway-building frenzy, Portland broke ranks and tore down a six-lane expressway to make room for a waterfront park. Since then the city has set an urban growth boundary to protect 25 million acres of forest and farmland, started a solid-waste program that recycles more than half of the city’s trash and erected more than 50 public buildings that meet tough standards set by the United States Green Building Council. One of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S., Portland’s public transportation, Portland’s public transportation systems boasts a high rate of ridership. Add in one of the nation’s largest city parks – the aptly named Forest Park has 74 miles of running, biking and hiking trails – and Portland’s rep as the nation’s greenest city makes sense.
2. Austin, Texas
Home to the first Whole Foods Market and more than 300 days of sunshine a year (and you thought this city was all about the music) Austin spreads out among 205 parks, 14 nature preserves, and 25 greenbelts. Talk about green. The city plans to meet 20 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2020. Factor in county laws protecting the region’s natural watershed from development, a recycling center that dates back to 1970, a dozen outdoor farmer’s markets, city buses that offer free rides on “high ozone” days and an innovative “pay-as-you-throw” trash collection program that rewards residents for being less wasteful and Austin easily earns a spot on the Green List.
3. Minneapolis, Minnesota
Named one of the top business districts in the nation for by the Environmental Protection Agency, Minneapolis is a commuter’s paradise where more than 60 percent of downtown workers use public or alternative transportation to get to the office. Free parking for registered van and car pools, an extensive bike path and bike lane system and employer-sponsored showers and locker rooms not only add endorphins but make a significant dent into auto-based air pollution. On the way to work, commuters thread their way among scores of lakes and parks and ponds and greenbelts and more than 200,000 trees. With great drinking water, active community organizations and the Minnesota State Department of Commerce nudging businesses and residents to hook solar systems up to the city’s grid, it doesn’t take Mary Tyler Moore tossing her beret into the air to let you know this is a great place to live.
4. Boulder, Colorado
Being green has been a way of life in this small Rocky Mountain city ever since prescient city planners started preserving parkland in 1898. Today, with more than 42,000 acres of pristine land cushioning the city from urban sprawl, Boulder is a place where hiking trails, rock-climbing areas, picnic spots and fishing holes are within reach of every resident. But there’s more to this city than just a pretty face. It’s a place where more than 90 percent of residents recycle, where new water meters are not allowed above certain elevation, thus protecting ridgelines and peaks, and where, when recent federal tax cuts gutted city budgets, residents voted themselves a third sales-tax hike to raise $51 million to buy and protect even more open land.
5. Burlington, Vermont
In this small city on Lake Champlain, community pride and responsibility drive the urge to be green. More than one-third of all energy used in the city comes from renewable resources, an impressive statistic in chilly New England. Burlington laws don’t allow the use of pesticides on public parks, land or waterways. Challenged by their local leaders to come up with environmental priorities and solutions to existing problems, residents formed an extensive network of citizen-based groups that take on everything from environmental programs to clean up toxic sites to watchdog groups to monitor pollution in Lake Champlain. With local agriculture a mainstay of the region, schools are switching to locally- and organically-grown foods. The idea of sustainability is becoming part of the school curriculum so, as Burlington’s children grow and take their places in the community – any community – they can take a greener way of thinking along with them.
6. Madison, Wisconsin
The first city in the U.S. to offer curbside recycling (and one of the few with a university course on ice cream making) Madison’s 15,000 acres of lakes and 6,000 acres of parkland give it great appeal. Drawn by the natural beauty, residents seem determined to help preserve it. The recycling program gets a whopping 97 percent participation, with 265 tons of material – everything from broken washers to empty beer cans to grass clippings – collected each week. A year-round farmer’s market (held indoors in the frigid winter months) draws vendors and buyers from throughout the fertile region. As a result, organic and local-grown foods are a priority. This bike-friendly city with over 100 miles of bike paths ranks high in air quality, no surprise in a place where there are three bikes for every car.
7. New York, New York
Surprise! Thanks to its storied (and widely used) public transportation, energy-efficient housing and good water quality, New York rates a place among the nation’s green cities. Central Park makes it even greener. Considered a folly of epic proportions when its 843 swampy, muddy acres were set aside in the 1850s, Central Park is a wilderness within the urban core. More than 80 percent of NYC residents use public transportation, something that earns the city bragging rights. In fact, New Yorkers burn gasoline at the rate the U.S. did in the 1920s. The key to the city’s low use of fossil fuels, pesticides and other energy sources is population density. Calculated by square foot, New York uses as much energy and produces as much solid waste as any city. Calculate by population, however, and the numbers shift. Per capita, New Yorkers use fewer resources and put less pressure on their surroundings than any other city of its size. So welcome to the Big Green Apple.
8. San Francisco, California
To the superlatives the City by the Bay has acquired over the decades – steepest, foggiest, most expensive – add greenest. With bus, subway and ferry services that reach throughout the Bay area, avid bikers and devoted car poolers, San Francisco has a good track record for getting people out of their cars. In fact, more than half the city’s residents use public or alternative transportation to get to work. With Golden Gate Park, the newly-decommissioned Presidio, beaches, extensive bike paths and access to the Pacific and the Bay, the city has an abundance of recreational options. Prevailing winds from the water help keep pollution at bay. The city is also a leader in green building, with more than 20 building projects registered for official green certification. And city residents are willing to tax themselves. Voters said yes to allowing the city to sell $100 million in revenue bonds to support renewable energy.
9. Santa Monica, California
Just 12 years ago, the environmental future of this seaside city looked unimpressive. Thanks to an active city council, which wrote and enacted the Sustainable City Plan, Santa Monica has turned green. Three of every four of the city’s public works vehicles run on alternative fuel, making it among the largest such fleets in the country. All public buildings use renewable energy. In the last 15 years, the city has cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 10 percent, a feat in car-crazy Southern California. City officials and residents have made the ongoing cleanup of the Santa Monica Bay a priority – an urban runoff facility catches 3.5 million gallons of water each week that would otherwise flow into the bay. Add in the miles of beaches, extensive curbside recycling, farmer’s markets, community gardens, the city’s nimble bus system and Santa Monica is clearly more than just another bathing beauty.
10. Chicago, Illinois
With open space, public transportation and a commitment to renewable and sustainable energy, Chicago has earned a spot on numerous ‘greenest city’ lists. The city has 42 green-certified building projects, with more to come. All of the city’s nine museums and the Art Institute of Chicago have been converted to run partially on solar power. Close to one-third of all residents use public transportation to get to work. Among the city’s energy goals, likely to be met, is buying 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources this year. City officials have voted to give tax incentives to homeowners who invest in Chicago’s many historic homes and retrofit them with energy efficient heating and cooling systems, as well as water-saving plumbing. Water quality on the city’s lakefront is rated as excellent by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a happy detail for all the swimmers, boaters and sun bathers along the shore in the summer. And you thought it was all about Oprah.
Simba the lion cub and Monty the dog are best playmates.
Amazing how such different species can become friends! :)
Humans aren’t the only creatures on Earth that have to get ready for summer! Check out these amazing animals that have to change their fur and feathers to match the terrain of the summer season!
The Ptarmigan, or Rock Ptarmigan
the Arctic Hare
the Arctic Fox
The most critically endangered species on our list of the ten most critically endangered animals is the ivory-billed woodpecker, which lives—or lived—in the Southeastern part of the US as well as Cuba. This huge woodpecker was considered extinct until 2004, when a handful of tantalizing reports of sightings in Arkansas and Florida began to trickle in. However, definitive proof for the ivory-bill’s continued existence has remained elusive, and if a population does exist, it is likely to be tiny and extremely vulnerable. The ivory-billed woodpecker owes its near- or complete extinction to habitat loss (logging) as well as over-exploitation by humans, who hunted it for its feathers.
The Amur leopard is a very rare leopard subspecies that lives only in the remote and snowy northern forests of eastern Russian’s Primorye region. Its former range included Korea and northern China, but the Amur leopard is now extinct in those countries. A 2007 census counted only 14-20 adult Amur leopards and 5-6 cubs. Threats facing the species include habitat loss due to logging, road building and encroaching civilization, poaching (illegal hunting) and global climate change.
The Javan rhinoceros is the most endangered of the world’s five rhinoceros species, with an estimated 40-60 animals remaining on the western tip of the Island of Java (Indonesia) in Ujung Kulon National Park. The last member of another tiny population in Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park was killed by poachers in 2011. The water- and swamp-loving Javan rhinoceros formerly ranged throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia, but has been hunted to near-extinction for its horn, which is used to make Asian folk medicines. Although it is now protected, it may not have a large-enough breeding population to prevent the species from going extinct.
GREATER BAMBOO LEMUR
he Island of Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa, is home to dozens of species of lemurs—and almost all of them are disappearing very quickly due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. But the most critically endangered of all of Madagascar’s lemurs is the greater bamboo lemur, also known as the broad-nosed gentle lemur. Fewer than 100 greater bamboo lemurs remain in the island’s southeastern and south-central forests, and they continue to be threatened by illegal hunting as well as habitat loss due to logging and the burning of forests for agricultural purposes.
NORTHERN RIGHT WHALE
The most endangered of all the world’s whale species, the northern right whale numbers around 350 individuals that travel the Atlantic coasts of Canada and the US. During the whaling days of the 19th century, the right whale got its name because whalers considered it the “right” whale to kill, as it not only was full of valuable whale oil, but it floated after it was dead, which made it easy to handle and process. As a result, it was driven to near extinction. Although the right whale is now protected, its small remnant population continues to suffer losses due to entanglements in commercial fishing gear: Whales drown after becoming wrapped in nets, lines and other equipment. Global climate change, which can affect the availability of the tiny crustaceans on which right whales feed, may prove to be another serious threat to their recovery.
WESTERN LOWLAND GORILLA
There are two lowland gorillas native to West Africa: the western lowland gorilla, which is the most numerous of the four gorilla subspecies, with over 90,000 individuals in the wild, and the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla diehli), of which only a tiny population of a few hundred remains. Both are listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered because of the fact that their populations have declined by over 60 percent during the past 25 years—and are projected to continue dropping over the coming decades. Causes for the increasing scarcity include habitat loss and illegal commercial hunting by poachers, who sell gorillas for food in West African markets. But the largest killer of gorillas has been a deadly illness—the incurable ebola virus—which has ended the lives of up to 90 percent of these great apes in some forest areas.
LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE
The leatherback sea turtle is the earth’s biggest turtle and has the largest range of any species, swimming all over the globe from the tropics to the sub-polar regions. When it comes time to dig a nest and lay its eggs, it crawls out onto sandy sub-tropical beaches the world over. The leatherback is also critically endangered. According to the IUCN, in 1982 there were around 115,000 adult female leatherback turtles in the world; just 14 years later, there were only 20,000 to 30,000—and the population has continued to plummet. The leatherback’s problems include theft of its eggs by humans, illegal hunting and nesting-habitat loss due to beach development, and the erosion of beaches due to global climate change. In addition, leatherbacks sometimes die after ingesting plastic debris they find floating in the ocean, which they mistake for food such as jellyfish.
The Amur, or Siberian, tiger is the largest big cat in the world, weighing up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). Unlike the other tiger subspecies, which are jungle-dwellers, the Amur tiger lives in the birch forests of Russia’s frigid and snowy Far East, and formerly inhabited the colder regions of China and Korea. In fact, the animal thrives in winter temperatures that often drop to -50 degrees fahrenheit (-45 celsius). Due to relentless hunting, Russia’s tiger population had dropped to around 40 individuals by the 1930′s. Since then, the animal has been protected, and its numbers have rebounded to around 500. However, it is still threatened by illegal hunting and habitat loss in the form of logging and development.
CHINESE GIANT SALAMANDER
The Chinese giant salamander is the world’s largest amphibian, growing to lengths of up to 6 feet. It used to be common throughout central, southwestern and southern China, where it lives in streams in the forested hills and lays up to 500 eggs at a time in underwater burrows guarded by the male. However, the Chinese giant salamander has now almost completely disappeared due to its over-exploitation as a food source.
The Kakapo parrot of New Zealand is a unique creature in several ways. Not only is it the world’s heaviest parrot, weighing up to 9 pounds (4 kilograms) but it is the world’s only only flightless parrot, as well as the only nocturnal one. The bird was once common on both of New Zealand’s main islands. However, by the early 1970′s it was thought to have been driven into extinction by such prolific human-introduced invasive predators as rats and cats, which killed the helpless young birds in their nests on the ground. Tiny populations were later found on a couple of smaller, more remote islands. Despite an intensive program of breeding and protection by the New Zealanders, currently there are fewer than 150 kakapos left in the wild—so few that almost all of them have names given to them by conservationists.
These little guys are the ones that will help me save the Earth from the nasty polluting factories!Tell me which one is your favorite!
The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a strepsirrhine native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker. It is the world’s largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unique method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out.
The Angora rabbit is a variety of domestic rabbit bred for its long, soft hair. The Angora is one of the oldest types of domestic rabbit, originating in Ankara, Turkey, along with the Angora cat and Angora goat. The rabbits were popular pets with French royalty in the mid 1700s, and spread to other parts of Europe by the end of the century. They first appeared in the United States in the early 1900s. They are bred largely for their long wool, which may be removed by shearing or plucking (gently pulling loose wool).
The Axolotl (or ajolote) (Ambystoma mexicanum) is the best-known of the Mexican neotenic mole salamanders belonging to the Tiger Salamander complex. Larvae of this species fail to undergo metamorphosis, so the adults remain aquatic and gilled. The species originates from the lake underlying Mexico City. Axolotls are used extensively in scientific research due to their ability to regenerate most body parts, ease of breeding, and large embryos. They are commonly kept as pets in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Japan (where they are sold under the name Wooper Rooper, and other countries.
The Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) is a semi-aquatic mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania. Together with the four species of echidna, it is one of the five extant species of monotremes, the only mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young. It is the sole living representative of its family (Ornithorhynchidae) and genus (Ornithorhynchus), though a number of related species have been found in the fossil record.
The bizarre appearance of this egg-laying, duck-billed mammal baffled naturalists when it was first discovered, with some considering it an elaborate fraud. It is one of the few venomous mammals; the male Platypus has a spur on the hind foot which delivers a poison capable of causing severe pain to humans. The unique features of the Platypus make it an important subject in the study of evolutionary biology and a recognizable and iconic symbol of Australia; it has appeared as a mascot at national events and is featured on the reverse of the Australian 20 cent coin.
The Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) is a bear found primarily in the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia.
The Sun Bear stands approximately 4 ft (1.2 m) in length, making it the smallest member in the bear family. It is often called the dog bear because of its small stature. It has a 2 in (5 cm) tail and on average weighs less than 145 lb (65 kg). Males tend to be slightly larger than females.
Unlike other bears, the Sun Bear’s fur is short and sleek. This adaptation is probably due to the lowland climates it inhabits. Dark black or brown-black fur covers its body, except on the chest where there is a pale orange-yellow marking in the shape of a horseshoe. Similar colored fur can be found around the muzzle and the eyes. This distinct marking gives the sun bear its name.
I really like this guy, I think he’s cute. I don’t know what he is though.
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