Hilton Head Island is an idyllic escape from neon signs and chaotic cities—and that wasn’t an accident.
Over the years, locals and generations of visitors alike have worked hard to preserve and protect the island’s natural habitats throughout the town’s stages of development. If it weren’t for the early visionary and developer of Sea Pines, Charles Fraser, and continued conservation efforts such as the creation of the Hilton Head Land Trust in 1987, the island would’ve looked very different.
Fraser’s use of strict land-use covenants and sincere respect for wide-open spaces started a trend that ultimately caused Hilton Head Island to be considered a leader in environmental activism. Additional public, residential, and tourist-driven communities all share the same respect for the island’s natural beauty. This desire to showcase Hilton Head’s natural landscape instead of buildings is the reason why you might drive past a shopping center ten times before you knew it even existed.
Preserving this natural paradise is always on the island’s mind, but in honor of Earth Day, here are a few ways to keep Hilton Head Island beautiful for generations to come:
Skip the Straw
In the summer of 2018, Beaufort County encouraged everyone to participle in something called a Strawless Summer. Four years later, local communities have continued finding ways to either replace plastic straws with greener options or encouraged people to just simply skip the straw. The next time you head out for your beach day, try swapping a to-go cup for an insulated, reusable cup so your drink can also stay colder for longer!
It might not seem like saying no to a plastic straw would make much of a difference, it’s not only an easy way to help limit single-use plastics, but it takes one of the most detrimental pieces of trash out of the ocean. The shape and size of a plastic straw make it more dangerous if consumed by wildlife.
Bring a Tote Bag
Efforts to reduce single-use plastic doesn’t stop at plastic straws in Hilton Head. Beaufort County started a plastic bag ban in 2018, so it’s always a good idea to bring a reusable bag or two when you’re in town. Having an extra bag while traveling is always a good idea as it is. From having a designated snack tote for your road trip to having an extra bag on hand to carry wet towels back from the beach, you will certainly find a use for reusable bags on your vacation even if a trip to the grocery store isn’t on your to-do list.
Leave Nothing but Your Footprints:
Now that you have that reusable bag handy, make sure that everything you’ve brought to the beach leaves with you. If you see trash that previous beachgoers have left behind, please do us a favor and pick it up! The island’s beaches have plenty of receptacles that make disposing of your garbage easy. The town has even added baskets at beach entrances to help those who want to help our beaches stay clean.
Not only is it important to pick up your beach toys and any trash you might have, but always remember to fill in any holes you might have dug. A hazard the entire year, filling in holes in the sand is especially important during the summer. During nesting season, sea turtles are deterred from laying their eggs in a safe location if they run into any barriers or holes in the sand.
The town has provided baskets at beach entrances in efforts to make picking up trash along the beach that much easier!
Attend Hilton Head’s Annual Beach Clean Up
Respect the Wildlife
Wildlife and their habitats are always considered a priority on Hilton Head Island. The entire reason behind conservation efforts, respecting local wildlife is necessary in keeping the island a natural paradise. The best way to show your respect is to leave them be! Feeding—and especially harassing–wild animals is never a good idea and could cost you a big fine! Take as many pictures of all the dolphins, deer, and alligators you’d like, just don’t put yourself or them in dangerous situations and give them plenty of space.
Not only should you let the wildlife alone, but you should also stay away from the dunes on the island’s beaches. The island’s beaches are large enough, so there really is no need for biking or walking through the dunes. Serving as important storm barriers, the dunes are also home to various native species and allow animals to navigate the island without having to cross any roadways. Dunes are also where many sea turtles decide to nest.
Speaking of sea turtles, the island has a saying during turtle season in the summer months—lights out for turtles! This simply means that all outside lights near the beach should be turned off. Baby turtles look for the moonlight reflecting off of the ocean, so if they were to see other lights in the opposite direction, they may not make it to the waterline.