Have you ever wondered what Santa does in the off-season? Does he spend the evenings fireside, swapping stories with the elves? Is he taking advantage of his snowy surroundings and enjoying some sledding or skiing? Or, does he take this time to schedule a well-deserved vacation away? Well, if you think you’ve spotted the man in red on Isle of Palms, you’re correct – Beach Santa is here! We’re excited to know Santa finds South Carolina as appealing as we do, but it isn’t all sunbathing and relaxing swims for him. Beach Santa is hard at work helping the environment, collecting and logging litter in the Litter-free Digital Journal, a project of the South Carolina Aquarium Citizen Science app.
We met up with Beach Santa to get a little insight on what he’s been up to over the past few months!
First off – what other “alias”, or name, do you go by?
You can also call me Howard!
What was your former profession(s), before Beach Santa became your title?
I am a retired middle and high school industrial arts teacher. I also worked in retail sales, and managed a restaurant.
How long have you lived in the Lowcountry, and where was home before that?
I am originally from upstate NY, but I lived for nearly 40 years in Maryland. I moved here in 2016.
How often are you at Isle of Palms collecting litter? When did your litter sweeps start?
I started picking up trash in spring 2017. I probably average picking up litter about three times per week. During the busy months, I go to Isle of Palms five or six days per week. I started documenting my litter sweeps in the Litter-free Digital Journal (on the South Carolina Aquarium Citizen Science app) on July 16, 2018. Prior to that I would pick up, then recycle or dispose of the litter.
What’s been the strangest item, or items, you’ve found?
The strangest items I find are fishing hooks, lures, credit cards, driver’s licenses, cell phones, car keys and even gold! The gold was a charm off a bracelet.
What are the most common litter items you find?
The most common litter items are cigarette butts, food wrappers, sand toys, paper and Styrofoam.
You collect litter, and you log it in the Litter-free Digital Journal. What’s been the biggest benefit to logging your data?
The biggest benefit is that I can tell people exactly how many items I’ve picked up. My numbers are staggering. Hopefully, this information will be viewed by many people, and they can understand that there is a problem with people littering. I think this will bring possible changes in rules and policies at IOP.
If there’s three tidbits you want beachgoers to take away from you, what would they be
1) Please keep IOP beautiful, don’t litter. 2) The beach is not a trash can or an ash tray. 3) The only thing you should leave on the beach is your foot prints.
Santa is always the one giving gifts – but what’s something Santa is asking for this year?
I would like signs put up at the two driving entrances to IOP saying, “Please keep IOP beautiful! (Sponsored by Beach Santa)” and including a picture of a sea turtle and a sea gull!
Beach Santa has been instrumental in helping us collect data for the Litter-free Digital Journal. He has logged more litter observations and data than any other user (230, can you believe it?!)
Since he joined, Beach Santa has removed nearly 100,000 pieces of debris from the natural world – incredible! Sadly, 30,000 of those pieces were cigarette butts, the greatest source of marine debris on beaches across the world.