While visiting, here are seven ways you can help the Outer Banks stay clean, beautiful, and safe for all residents:
1. Skip the Straw
The “Be Straw Free” campaign began in Vermont in 2011. At that time, 9-year-old Milo Cress estimated Americans used about 500 million straws per day. To put that number in perspective, he figured 500 million straws would fill 127 school buses.
Cress’s “Be Straw Free” campaign encouraged restaurant servers to offer straws with drinks rather than automatically handing them out. Local businesses jumped on board several years later and the “Skip the Straw” campaign was born.
Behind plastic bags, pieces of plastic straws are the second most common ocean contaminant for sea turtles to ingest. Add the fact that plastic straws are petroleum-based products, and you have two great reasons to skip the straws. You can do your part by saying “no thanks” to the plastic straw, using a paper straw, or bringing a reusable metal or bamboo straw with you when you visit.
2. Avoid Single Use Plastics
Single-use plastics include everything from paper coffee cups to Styrofoam takeaway containers. Yep, paper coffee cups are lined with plastic, and we throw 50 billion cups away in the U.S. each year.
Reserve a little space in your suitcase for your reusable water bottle, insulated coffee mug, reusable straw, and bamboo silverware. You can find collapsible water bottles online. And if you’re someone who can’t finish a meal but hate to waste great food, bring along a collapsible silicone food container with a lid. You’ll put it to good use in the Outer Banks where hearty portions of fresh and cooked-to-perfection food is the norm.
3. Use Reusable Bags
Here’s another estimate for you: Americans use about 10 billion plastic bags a year. Worldwide, 160,000 plastic bags are used every second of every day.
A plastic bag that doesn’t make it into a recycle bin or the trash can easily get blown into the water. Of all the garbage that makes it into the ocean, a plastic bag is the most likely to be eaten by a sea turtle. To a hungry sea turtle, a plastic bag looks like a jellyfish dinner.
If you plan to shop during your visit, you can bring a reusable bag from home or buy a reusable bag as a souvenir. Or you can leave your reusable bag in your vacation rental at the end of your stay so the next visitor can do their part to keep the Outer Banks clean.
4. Recycle like a local
If you use single-use plastic food containers, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, or paper bags, dispose of them in recycle bins. If you don’t see a recycle container in your hotel or vacation rental, you’ll find recycling centers in Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Manteo, and on Hatteras.
What can and cannot be recycled varies across the country and in the Outer Banks, as well. Pizza boxes, waxed cartons, wet paper, plastic bags, and Styrofoam aren’t recycled here. You can check the specifics at the link above.
5. Pack in, pack out
At the end of your day at any one of the Outer Banks beaches, pack out everything you brought, including your trash. If you happen to see litter, pick it up, too, and take it with you. For beaches that allow dogs (check here for more information of dog-friendly beaches), pick up after your pooch.
6. Tread lightly
Take stewardship a few steps further, literally. Walk or ride a bike rather than driving if you’re heading to a nearby destination. Enjoy eco-friendly activities. Consider taking a walking tour in historic Manteo, a coastal horseback ride with Equine Adventures on Hatteras Island, or a sunset sail with Dan and Katherine Bottjen of Sail Outer Banks.
And if you really want to make a difference, access the beach by way of the boardwalks and walk around the dunes rather than over them. Dunes may not appear very fragile, but they’re easily disrupted. Walking on them can destroy sea grass and breakdown the barrier they provide to adjacent buildings and streets.
7. Leave with more than you came with
There are no sad statistics or chores on this one. In fact, it is the Outer Banks’ gift to you: fond memories, full bellies, and a standing invitation to come back soon. We hope you take us up on the offer!