Last updated on February 11, 2024.
If you read my article about my family’s weekend trip to Hilton Head Island last fall, then you already know how much we love the island. We recently returned from a week-long trip there, and inspiration was all around! Besides the natural beauty of the island and the gorgeous beaches, there are many environmentally conscious things I appreciate about Hilton Head Island.
Plastic bag ban in Beaufort County, South Carolina
They implemented a plastic bag ban last fall, and I am here to tell you that from a tourist’s perspective, businesses have not been hurt by this. People were shopping in all the shops and supermarkets and the plastic bag ban did not seem to deter anyone from spending money. I have not found any studies on the result of this ban in the last 8 months, but I imagine the impact has been huge!
Unfortunately, I read that Target and Walmart are using supposedly “reusable” plastic bags. However, since they are made of the same material as regular plastic bags, they defeat the whole purpose as far as plastic production goes. I did not happen to shop at either store while there so I did not witness this first hand.
At the other shops and stores I visited, I received only paper bags when I didn’t have my cloth bags with me. I love it! Can’t we do this everywhere?
There’s a lot of cherished and protected wildlife on the island. We saw all types of birds, including pelicans – my favorite! We saw dolphins, tons of fish, and several types of crabs. There are also bald eagles, alligators, and turtles living on the island but we didn’t personally get to see those this time. The local government’s website educates on sustainable living, the types of local wildlife, native plants, biodiversity, and ecosystems, and how everyone can help protect those things.
Sea Turtle Conservation Efforts
Although we did not see sea turtles this trip, we saw at least 7 cordoned loggerhead sea turtle nest areas. They were marked with orange signs provided by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, which alerts the public about the protection of this endangered species through federal and state laws.
Many Atlantic coast towns have laws, regulations, and organizations to protect sea turtle nests. On Hilton Head Island, lights on buildings and hotels cannot shine in the direction of the beach. People are only permitted to use red or “turtle-safe” flashlights on the beach between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. between May and October. They have a volunteer organization (Sea Turtle Patrol HHI) that patrols, monitors, and reports on sea turtle nests. They also clean up beach litter and plastics.
Recently, a Kemp’s Ridley turtle made a nest on Hilton Head Island, a first-time event for the most endangered of all the sea turtle species! Wow!
The Coastal Discovery Museum has an “Adopt-a-Nest” Program, which not only sponsors the protection of a sea turtle nest but also supports the museum’s educational programs. Of course, this idea excited me so I adopted a nest while writing this post! They emailed me to let me know that my nest will be the 277th one this year and that they’ll keep me informed on the progress of my adopted nest.
Can I inspire you to adopt a nest as well? Just use the link above!
UPDATE February 11, 2024: Since writing this article, I have been able to adopt a sea turtle nest in Hilton Head every year. It’s one of my ways of giving back.
Coastal Discovery Museum
The Coastal Discovery Museum on the island is a great non-profit and Smithsonian Affiliate, dedicated to educating and protecting the natural resources, history, and ecosystems of the region. Their mission “inspires people to care for the Lowcountry,” through their many programs, exhibits, talks, and tours. What a great organization.
We’ve visited several times in past years but this year we did a Dolphin and Nature Cruise with the museum and really enjoyed it. And yes, we did see dolphins! The museum docent provided a dolphin skull replica and spoke about the anatomy, diet, and lifestyle of the local dolphins. The captain provided a rich tour of the history and nature of the island. Both the captain and museum docent were very knowledgeable and kept the passengers engaged for the entirety of the cruise. They even let each of the kids drive the boat for a few minutes!
Hilton Head Island’s beaches are very clean and well-maintained. And there are both trash and recycling cans up and down the beach. Even so, I still picked up about 300 pieces of trash during my week there. Of course, I logged these through Litterati (see also my article on Litterati). My next article will be about the types of trash I found and what you can do to prevent beach trash and ocean pollution!
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