Hilton Head goes green: How the island is adjusting to a sustainable lifestyle

Hilton Head Island has been a leader in environmental activism since the 1950s, when Charles Fraser and his partners built Sea Pines Plantation, one of the country’s first ecoplanned communities. Today, the island and its resorts, marinas, golf courses and businesses are honoring that legacy by finding new and innovative ways to go green every day.

The road to sustainability is long, but the benefits are many. In addition to being responsible, of course, research has shown that “more consumers are considering environmental issues when making travel plans and purchases,” according to the South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance. Here’s how the island is adjusting.


After a lengthy series of starts and stops, islandwide recycling becomes a reality on April 1. Here’s how to get on board.

Rejoice! Recycle! Hilton Head's islandwide program launches in AprilWhen the garbage truck pulls up to your Hilton Head Island home to pick up your recyclable trash on April 1, it won’t be an April Fool’s prank: It’ll be Republic Services inaugurating its new franchise agreement on a timetable that coincides nicely with Earth month.

That day, Republic will begin its franchise with the Town of Hilton Head Island for garbage and recyclable trash pickup, a contract that will take its customer base from 4,000 to about 14,000, according to site manager Chris Frost.

For years, Hilton Head Island has lacked a bona fide outdoor farmers market. Rebecca Smith and Pamela Ovens have helped change all that.

Rebecca Smith, left, and Pamela OvensFor a place so reverent of natural beauty that even the stop signs used to blend in with the landscape, the absence of a bona fide outdoor farmers market on Hilton Head Island seemed downright ludicrous to islander Rebecca Smith.

“Everybody’s going green, and Hilton Head’s getting lost in the dust. We need to jazz it up,” says Smith, who is doing her part by spearheading the new Farmers Market Hilton Head Island at Honey Horn, set to open April 1.

Take a look behind the scenes of the construction of Tanger Outlet Center I, the first LEED-certified shopping center in Beaufort County

Tanger Outlet 1 in Bluffton: Recycled, and reopeningIf Tanger Outlet Center Hilton Head I looks brand new to you, it isn’t. Sure, you may have seen the mall completely leveled last winter. You may have noticed it being totally rebuilt, from the sewer ines to the buildings to the parking lots. But those involved with the $50 million transformation will tell you — quite proudly — that’s it’s far from new.

The 22-acre center, set to reopen March 31, is being called the first LEED-certified green shopping center in Beaufort County, which means, among other things, that quite a bit of the old center was recycled for the new one, including 100 percent of the old concrete, most of the steel and gravel and close to 100 tons of landscape material.

Make your own T-shirt bagThe preceding pages covered large-scale lifestyle changes, which, admittedly, can be hard to make. So here’s something easy instead: Repurpose an unwanted, underused old T-shirt by turning it into a reusable tote bag, with just one quick seam and some quick scissor work.

STEP ONE
Collect a heavy cotton T-shirt, pencil, dinner plate, scissors (you’ll be happier if you have a nice sharp pair) and sewing machine.

STEP TWO
Turn the T-shirt inside out. Make sure it’s flat, and that all your seams line up nicely.

Artist Pam Johnson Brickell teaches workshops in nature journaling as a means of remembering ‘time spent in places you love, soaking up the slower side of life.Artist Pam Johnson Brickell teaches workshops in nature journaling as a means of remembering ‘time spent in places you love, soaking up the slower side of life.

A group of budding artists sets up its chairs in the Sea Pines Forest Preserve, paper and watercolor pencils in hand. But though the work they produce will be works of art, these aren’t experienced artists — just people drawing and creating nature journals for themselves, and the joy of it.

Artist Pam Johnson Brickell, a Clemson University-certified master naturalist, teaches a series of nature journal workshops at the Society of Bluffton Artists Gallery and at Coastal Art Supply in Beaufort. Creating a nature journal is a way to capture the bounty of the world, she says, a way to relax and take in the essence of the environment, a means by which you can record and hold onto images that inspire.

For six years, the Daufuskie Island Conservancy has been standing guard over the quiet, fragile paradise

It’s like taking a step back in time when you step off the ferry onto Daufuskie Island. There are no cars, no skyscrapers, no mad rushes to get to the next appointment. Most of the island’s roads are unpaved. There are only white beaches, a rich abundance of flora and fauna and a variety of animal species, including graceful snowy white egrets and soaring bald eagles. “The natural beauty here inspires the solitary artist, photographer or bird watcher. It can even inspire a gathering of friends just to watch the sunset,” says resident Karen Opderbeck.

But the environment, of course, can be easily disturbed. And for Daufuskie’s 400-plus full-time residents, the 8-milesquare island is a fragile treasure that needs to be protected.

Teresa WadeDo you buy local and organic? Turn the water off when brushing your teeth? Compost food and yard waste? How do you know when you’re living green?

What does it mean to be green? Sure, you might recycle, eat organic and use only reusable shopping bags, but does that mean you’re living a green lifestyle? With all the labels and messages floating around in the marketplace and media these days, it can be confusing to determine what “going green” really means — and when to know if you’re doing it.

As our world shifts to meet the reality of stressed resources, living green is becoming the new norm, but it can be challenging to balance living well with living green. The good news is that every green action, no matter how small, moves us forward on the journey to sustainability. There’s no one-practice solution or “easy button,” but each new commitment to integrate green products, services and technologies into our daily lives and businesses deepens our shade of green. Think of it in terms of Beaufort County: One action, multiplied by 150,000 (the rough number of residents in the county), adds up.

crabbingEnjoyable waterfront activities span a large spectrum, from thrilling sports such as surfing and riding personal watercrafts to leisurely afternoons sunbathing on the beach. For those who prefer relaxing by the water but still seek engagement, a perfect answer for you or a group is crabbing.

Crabbing is easy, simple, and fun for the individual or the whole family. With minimal equipment, crabbing can be an inexpensive, but satisfying outing.

Around Hilton Head Island, the easiest places to crab are at the numerous public piers or near harbors, according to Carly Mourer, captain of Crabber J II, a local crabbing charter boat.

0610_summerfun_beachWhen you get down to brass tacks, there is one major reason Hilton Head Island is a beautiful Southern oasis. And lucky for us, we own it and it’s free, making it not only the best, but also the most economical source of summer fun.