It doesn’t take long for folks to spot him. And, at this point, he’s used to smiles and friendly conversations. He’s known on the Isle of Palms as Beach Santa and just by looking at him you can see why. Dressed in red with a snowy white beard and blue eyes, he carries around his business card … a candy cane.
“You can tell he must be Santa. He’s locally, world famous,” says Linda Rowe, a conservation assistant for the South Carolina Aquarium.
Today he’s on his normal trek. His mission - to fill his naughty bucket. According to Beach Santa, he would rather not have to fill the naughty bucket, but until beachgoers land on the nice list, he won’t stop. How do you land on the nice list? Well, Beach Santa says by leaving only one thing on the beach … footprints.
Beach Santa has spent the last few years collecting over 300,000 pieces of debris, cigarette butts and other litter items from beaches, boat landings and even streets. All of that debris would otherwise have landed in the ocean, potentially harming or even killing marine life.
“Beach Santa is an amazing steward for our planet,” says Susan Hill Smith, a city council member for the Isle of Palms.
Beach Santa isn’t the only one on this mission of making South Carolina litter free. He has a team of elves. The South Carolina Aquarium created an app called the Litter-free Digital Journal. It’s a tool anyone can download to track what and how many items you pick up. The app is important for spotting pollution trends to make needed changes within individual communities.
“In the litter-free digital journal we have over a million litter items documented that over 1,400 members have picked up. He [Beach Santa] alone has picked up basically 1/3 of that,” adds Rowe.
Beach Santa spotted a naughty trend on the Isle of Palms- an excessive amount of toxic cigarette butts. With the trend recorded, Beach Santa met with members of city council and passed a smoking ban on the beach.
“When you can see how much you’ve actually done, not only do you know you are being a citizen scientist and you are helping decision makers, but you see how much work you’ve actually done and it’s very rewarding in itself to do that,” says Dory Ingram, a conservation assistant for the South Carolina Aquarium.
To get on Beach Santa’s nice list, all you have to do is not abandon anything on the beach and if you see something that doesn’t belong to pick it up and throw it away.
“My message for the people of South Carolina is to be responsible. Let’s make the entire South Carolina beautiful. We need to do things now to protect the future,” says Beach Santa.
About Beach Santa:
His name is Howard Hogue, a retired teacher from up North who relocated to the Lowcountry. He spends up to 8 hours per day picking up litter from various locations in Berkeley and Charleston counties. You can find him in the South Carolina Aquarium Citizen Scientist app.