There are minor personal benefits to opting for the additional registration fees, too. The environmental and conservation plates are usually more visually interesting than your standard-issue rectangle, with unique, colorful images and artwork. In many cases, the extra fees for the plates are tax deductible, and some even offer bonuses like free access to state parks or – in the case of Maryland – discounts at various businesses
Here, I've put together some of the most interesting options from each state (and Washington, DC), but most states have multiple offerings. Be sure to click through the links and poke around the various transportation department websites for more choices. Hopefully you'll find something you'd be proud to mount on your own vehicle, and maybe you'll discover some worthwhile organizations and environmental programs while you're at it. If you don't want to scroll down to find your site, just click on your state in the list below (alphabetical by state name).
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, DC, WV, WI, WY.
Probably the coolest looking environmental plate Alabama offers supports the Alabama Wildlife Federation. It currently features images of a buck, wild turkey, geese in flight, and an alligator peeking out of a body of water, but the design is changed every five years. This plate and others can be reserved online.
Honorable mention goes to the Legacy plate, as it funds important environmental education programs. Both options cost $50, and you can personalize them for free.
While Alaska does offer a variety of specialty plates, none are specific toward environmental causes. You can get a pretty sweet grizzly bear plate, though, for $30.
In terms of supporting a cause with your plate, Arizona's "Protect Our Environment" plate costs $25 a year, of which $17 goes to the Arizona Land Department for environmental education and conservancy programs. The "Keep Arizona Beautiful" plate, though, depicts a cactus throwing away some trash, which is pretty neat.
In Arizona, your plate can also serve as a badge of honor to show off your green cred. EVs, fuel cell vehicles, solar vehicles, cars powered by LPG, CNG/LNG, propane, or a blend of at least 70 percent alternative fuel are eligible for the "Alternative Fuel" plate for an initial $8, with no added annual fee. Similarly, the "Energy Efficient" plate offers HOV access for hybrids, but is currently at its maximum limit.
See all of Arizona's plates, here.
Arkansas offers a plate supporting its Department of Conservation Districts, which features an image of a natural landscape and the words "For Love of the Land." A full list of specialty plates, each costing an additional $35, is available online.
For such a welcoming home to environmental causes, California's license plate options are rather limited. The most beautiful is probably the California Coastal Commission plate, depicting a whale fluke protruding from the water, with the words "Protect Our Coast and Ocean" across the bottom. Initial fee is $50, with $40 renewals.
Colorado offers special plates supporting the Carbon Fund. Like most Colorado plates, they feature mountains in the background, but these specialty plates include the words, "Advancing Clean Energy" across the bottom. In addition to the $50 registration fee, the Colorado Carbon Fund requires a $25 donation to be eligible for the plates, and suggests donating more to offset your vehicles emissions. Other specialty plates are available, and the terms and fees vary.
The Constitution State offers a pair of "Protect Wildlife" plates — one featuring a bald eagle, the other a bobcat — for $50. There are also plates supporting greenways and the preservation of the Long Island Sound. Bobcat is the way to go, here.
The Delaware DMV offers a few environmental plates, benefitting organizations such as The Delaware Center for Inland Bays, The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and The Marine Education, Research, and Rehabilitation Institute. They cost $50, with a $40 renewal fee. The Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Rescue & Conservation Plate is especially cool. See the entire list of organization plates here.
It's no surprise that Florida offers plates that support marine life. More specifically, the Save the Manatee plate is about as Florida as you can get. The state offers a huge selection of other environmental plates benefitting wildlife including sea turtles, dolphins, whales, panthers, as well as protecting oceans, reefs, the Everglades, wildflowers, and trees. Way to go, Florida.
Like Arizona, Georgia offers an "Alternative Fuel" license plate. Other specialty plates support the Department of Natural Resources and other environmental and conservation groups, including the Georgia Sea Turtle Center at Jekyll Island. That one has an initial fee of $25, plus annual fees totaling $55.
In the Aloha State, drivers can choose from several different license decals that support various organizations. The "Protect Our Native Species" decal features the image of an I'iwi bird (also known as the Hawaiian honey creeper) and an Ohia Lehua blossom. Funds from the special plate decal go toward the state's Division of Forestry and Wildlife. There are also decals for the Hawaiian Humane Society and Honolulu Zoo. The decals fees total $30.50 with annual renewal fees of $25 of which the organization gets $20.
The Gem State is home to beautiful forests. You can help preserve them with the Timber plate. For an initial fee of $35 and annual renewals of $25, you'll be helping to plant trees and fund education programs. Other Idaho plates can be found here.
Support Illinois state parks with the Environmental plate. It features images of a Cardinal (the state bird) standing in big bluestem (the state prairie grass). It costs an additional $40, with a $27 annual renewal fee. Illinois offers a slew of other specialty plates, but environmental causes are quite limited.
As of January 2016, the Indiana Recycling Coalition has its own specialty license plate, supporting recycling programs and education throughout the state. Like most of Indiana's specialty plates, it costs an extra $40 per year above your vehicle's standard registration fees. There's also an "Environment" option, officially called the "President Benjamin Harrison Conservation Trust plate."
Iowa offers various specialty license plate designs supporting the DNR's Wildlife Diversity Program. For $45, plus a $25 renewal fee (of which the DNR gets $10 and $15, respectively), you can choose between images of a pheasant, a "majestic" eagle, a buck, a brook trout ("Iowa's best indicator of water quality"), or a goldfinch (state bird) with a wild rose (state flower).
Kansas offers a pretty wide selection of organizational plates, most of which you must be a member or donor to obtain. In terms of environmental offerings, it's slim pickins. Like many other states, Kansas offers a Ducks Unlimited plate ($35 a year). While blasting birds out of the sky isn't necessarily a great green cause, Ducks Unlimited, like many hunting organizations, devotes considerable resources toward conservation of habitat.
While the Bluegrass State is lauded for its horses and bourbon, it's also home to an abundance of natural beauty. Kentucky's "Nature's Finest" license plates ($31 a year) help purchase and manage natural areas and wildlife habitat through the Heritage Land Conservation Fund. Image options include a cardinal (the state bird), a viceroy butterfly (state butterfly), and our old friend the bobcat again.
The Bayou State, like Florida, offers an impressive spread of specialty plates supporting environmental causes. If you champion coastal conservation, wetlands preservation, forestry, endangered species, environmental education, wild dolphins, bobwhite quail, or the Louisiana black bear, there's a unique plate design for you. Even the humble honeybee gets its own metal rectangle, because pollinators are essential to life on Earth. The Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles website can help you calculate the cost of switching to one of these environmental plates.
In Maine, you can show your support for state parks, as well as the Endangered and Nongame Wildlife Fund, with the Conservation Plate, decorated with the image of a loon. It costs an additional $20, plus $15 for a yearly renewal. The Maine Environment Trust Fund gets $14 of that every year. If you really want to go full Maine, though, there's also a Lobster Plate that supports the Lobster Research, Education, and Development Board.
The Old Line State is another that boasts a tremendous amount of available specialty plates, particularly when it comes to showing support for various organizations, many of which are for car, motorcycle, and yacht clubs, firefighters, and sporting and professional groups. The most popular and attractive plate, though, is the "Treasure the Chesapeake" plate. At $20, it supports the Chesapeake Bay Trust and its efforts to preserve the bay and its ecosystems. Even better, many businesses offer perks, mostly in the form of discounts, to plateholders.
For an extra fee of $40, you can get one of three plates supporting the Massachusetts Environmental Trust. Image options include a mill on the Blackstone River, a brook trout leaping from the water, or roseate terns flying above the fluke of a right whale, each with the words "Preserve the Trust" across the bottom.
No matter where you are in Michigan – on either peninsula – you're never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. Additionally, the Wolverine State boasts almost 65,000 inland lakes and ponds and more than 36,000 miles of streams. Water is as much a part of life in The Mitten as the automotive industry, so it only makes sense that residents can exercise stewardship of its most precious resource with their cars. The "Protecting Our Waters" plate ($35, with an extra $10 in renewal fees) may not be as pretty as the "Conserve Wildlife Habitat" plate, but it is no less important. The full list of plates is available here.
In addition to collegiate, military, and collector plates, Minnesota has a series of Critical Habitat Plates, for a minimum contribution fee of $30, on top of other fees. The newest – and most unusual – of these is the Moose Plate. Proceeds help the DNR research and manage the drastically declining moose population in Minnesota.
Of the nearly 200 available specialty plates, there are several that support conservation and environmental efforts in Mississippi. In addition to a handful of wildlife plates, there are ones for dolphins, delta waterfowl, and soil conservation. Proceeds from the recognizable "First In Forestry" plate goes to the Mississippi Forestry Association. (Interestingly, North Carolina also offers a "First in Forestry plate).
The Show Me State offers a few conservation plates that cost $15 with proof of donation to the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, but the Cave State plate is particularly cool. Also $15, it requires proof of donation to the Missouri Caves and Karst Conservancy to place an order. This organization provides stewardship to these interesting geologic features, which serve as a glimpse into natural and human history, as well as ecosystems for animals that depend on their preservation.
Montana offers specialty plates from a variety of categories, with lots of colorful designs to choose from. Two of the many environmental foundations supported by plates are particularly interesting, though. The "Sustainable Communities" plate helps the Alternative Energy Resources Organization in its mission to promote self-reliance through renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and environmental quality. Second, the "Inspired by Nature" plate supports the Biomimicry Institute, which emulates nature's designs and systems to foster innovation in a number of fields. Interested? Read the organization's "Biomimicry Primer" from its website. Both plates require a $20 donation to the organization, $20 administration and production fees, and a $20 annual renewal donation.
Nebraska offers just a handful of organizational plates, none of which are specific to environmental causes. Your best bet is to opt for a vanity plate and devise dome sort of brief alphanumeric message denoting your green leanings.
Nevada has a few charitable plates that support wildlife causes and certain natural spaces. A great example is the Horse Power plate, which costs $62, with a $30 renewal fee. Funds from this plate – which depicts a rearing horse with the phrase "Wild & Free" across the bottom – go toward preserving the wild mustang and burro populations.
The Granite State has a plate to support moose conservation ($30 per year), a plate for state parks ($85 per year), and the Conservation Parks Plate, which supports both causes. The charitable double-whammy has an annual fee of $115 of which $85 goes to the parks, and $30 goes to the moose. As a bonus, both of the parks plates get you free entry into day-use state parks so you can get out there and enjoy the nature you're helping to preserve.
Included among New Jersey's various cause plates ($50, with a $10 renewal fee) is the "Treasure Our Trees" plate, which helps fund the Shade Tree and Community Forest Program. The Garden State also offers plates that support the critical Pinelands, Meadowlands, and coastal ecosystems, as well as a "Conserve Wildlife" plate that helps save endangered species.
The Land of Enchantment's "Share With Wildlife" plate supports wildlife species that don't receive funding through other programs. The plate costs $27, with a $12 renewal fee, and the owner has the choice of either a Gambel's quail or a mule deer image.
Perhaps the most beautiful example on this list, the Empire State offers the handsome "Bluebird Environmental" plate for $53.75, with an annual renewal fee of $25 (on top of registration renewal fees). Supporting the state's Environmental Protection Fund, the plate's left side depicts a bluebird gliding past a cherry blossom tree, with the phrase "Conserve Open Space" along the bottom. See New York's other cause plates here.
Among North Carolina's numerous plate options is a unique "Protect the Coast" plate. Choosing this plate (assuming you can pass up the delicious looking watermelon license plate) means that $20 of the $30 annual fee will go toward the North Carolina Coastal Federation and its environmental protection and education programs.
Kind of like Kansas, North Dakota's environmental plate options are limited to hunting-focused conservation groups. The two on offer here are Ducks Unlimited (again), and the North Dakota-specific Pheasants for the Future.
Most Ohio organizational plates require a contribution on top of the $10 fee to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The "Nature Preserves" plate's $15 donation helps the DNR update facilities and trails and offer education for visitors to the state's 136 preserves. The plate features a monarch butterfly atop a purple coneflower.
In addition to multiple wildlife conservation and state park plates, the Sooner State offers a pair of Environmental Awareness plates. For $38 (which includes optional personalization), plus a yearly renewal fee of $36.50, you can order the plate with either the Rolling Hill or the Indian Blanket (state wildflower) image. Of the fee, $24 goes to environmental education grants for Oklahoma students.
While Oregon has plates that benefit the worthy efforts of the Watershed Enhancement Board and Crater Lake National Park, there are many in the Beaver State who value getting around by bike as much or more than motoring (by the way, have you heard of the Zoobombers? Good people). The "Share the Road" plate benefits Cycle Oregon and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. It costs $10 for two years, or $20 for four years.
Who doesn't love otters? You can put one on your car in Pennsylvania in support of the Wild Resource Conservation Fund, which supports nongame animals and native plants (including a program to reestablish the river otter). Of the $35 fee (totally worth it for the image of the aforementioned otter), $15 goes to the fund.
In South Carolina, you can spend $65 every two years for a license plate supporting the Surfrider Foundation. Those funds will be used for environmental programs and education focused on protecting the country's oceans and beaches, which the group calls "vital recreational, economic, and ecological treasures."
Greenies in South Dakota can opt for a license plate with a Nature Conservancy decal. While each organization determines their own fees for the decals, the Nature Conservancy will provide one with a donation of any amount, sent in to their Western Dakotas office (their contact information is located on the state's Organizational Decal Guide. Getting a specialty plate with a space for decals is no extra cost during your renewal period.
Too busy to volunteer for your favorite cause in the Volunteer State? Tennessee offers a selection of environmental plates to help fund and spread awareness for your favorite cause. For instance, the "State Parks" plate helps to fund the planting and care of native flora, represented on the plate by the image of wildflowers. All of Tennessee's environmental plates require an annual fee of $56.50, of which $35 goes to the sponsoring organization.
Texas offers a variety of plates that support environmental and conservation programs in the state. The "Save Texas Ocelots" plate funds efforts to conserve and protect majestic, endangered cat by the Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Wild ocelots used to roam across several US states, but are now only found in the deep south of Texas (a 2014 National Geographic article put the remaining population at just 50 cats). Of the $30 fee, $22 goes to the ocelot program via the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
If you want to help conserve wildlife habitat in Utah, there are several license plate options. They each feature the phrase "I Support Wildlife," but only one features a super patriotic image of a bald eagle in front of the Stars & Stripes. The Utah wildlife plates come with a $15 special plate fee, plus a yearly contribution of $25 supporting the Division of Wildlife Resources.
In Vermont, three different Conservation Plates help support the Non-Game Wildlife Fund and Watershed Grants Program. The images are pretty common fare, with the choice of a deer, loon, or brook trout. The cost is $23 a year on top of standard registration fees.
While a few states offer specialty license plates support the Appalachian Trail, Virginia's features the somewhat more exciting image of a backpacker standing precariously close to a ledge. And while there certainly are dangers to be found on the trail (Viginia's bear plate is a reminder of that), the famous hike offers an absolutely fantastic way to get in touch which nature. That's why preserving it through programs like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy – which this plate supports – is so important. It costs $25 per year, of which the organization receives $15.
Of Washington's several parks and wildlife license plates, the "Endangered Wildlife" plate is the most unusual. With an image of an orca (also known as the killer whale) leaping from the water, $28 of the plate's fees ($72.75, with $30 renewals) is used specifically in efforts to help recover populations of Washington's endangered species.
The Mountain State offers three different wildlife plates at $45 a year. The images include a black bear, a whitetail deer, and a rose-breasted grosbeak. They provide about $350,000 a year for conservation an education through the Wildlife Diversity Program, according to the DNR.
While the state's badger plate is sadly no longer available, Wisconsin offers two other "Endangered Resources" license plates that support the DNR's Endangered Resources Fund. The current image options are a bald eagle or a grey wolf. Funds help restore endangered populations, while managing other wildlife populations to prevent them from becoming endangered. It also helps preserve wildlife ecosystems and provide environmental education. Plate costs include a $15 issuance fee, plus a yearly donation of $25 (in addition to annual registration fees).
While Wyoming has a few different specialty plates, none are specific to environmental causes.
Our nation's capital offers a specialty license plate that supports the preservation and restoration of the Anacostia River. It features the silhouette of kayakers and waterfowl on a river scene, and retains the iconic phrase "Taxation Without Representation" across the bottom. The extra fees for the plate are $25 to order, and $10 to renew.