Leave Only Footprints on Alabama’s Coast: Anti-litter Campaign

by Desiree Miller on November 14, 2017


The smell of salt in the air. The sound of the waves, gently crashing on shore. The sight of the sun sparkling off the water, like a dancing light display.

An aluminum can…cigarette butts…or plastic bottle.

beach garbage

They just don’t fit into that peaceful picture you have of the beach, do they?

That’s because they shouldn’t be part of the picture.

And they should never be left behind after you enjoy a day at the beach.


Neither should your beach gear. Even if you’re staying at a home on the beach, in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, you’re now required to clear your beach chairs, toys, fold and carry out your shade tent, and recycle or throw away all trash.

leave only footprints

As part of the Leave Only Footprints campaign, all abandoned items will be removed for the protection of our beaches, local wildlife, and the many visitors we want to enjoy our clean coast for generations to come.

If you leave anything behind, expect it to be tossed and taken away overnight.

The region now has laws in place that require you to remove everything. It’s intended to protect the beaches, local wildlife, and future visitors to the beach who are counting on a clean coast.

The Leave Only Footprints campaign is all about collaboration.

bird footprints on the beach

It’s a lifestyle along the coast, where businesses partner up with residents and visitors to protect the beach. Whether it’s recycling oyster shells that are served in the restaurants to planting new beach vegetation to hold the fragile dunes in place, everyone gets in on the action. Maybe you’re new to the beach and don’t know what’s required.

Well, here’s a quick rundown for you:

  1. Avoid walking on any beach vegetation. Plant roots hold the dunes in place.
  2. Explore away from bird nesting areas. Nests may be located in the ground and camouflaged to resemble the surrounding environment, so please watch your step!
  3. Consider the best type of transportation to see the island: your feet! Walking is not only a great form of exercise, but it’s an eco-friendly way to experience the Alabama Gulf Coast.
  4. Remember to take your memories . . . and leave only footprints. Pack up all the stuff you used on the beach all day and take it with you when you leave. 

During the first year of the Leave Only Footprints operation in 2016, more than 161 tons of materials were removed from the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach! That’s a lot of trash, right? Here’s a list of other numbers you might find interesting:

101.3 tons of trash collected in cans on four miles of beach

18.5 tons of aluminum cans collected (equivalent of 814,000 cans)

23.8 tons of plastic

18 tons of metal tent frames and chairs

For me, it all comes back around to respect for others. I find peace at the beach. Beauty. I don’t want that spoiled with someone else’s trash. Do you?

(Readers: Please note I was invited to spend the weekend at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, to learn more about the Leave Only Footprints campaign. My housing and food expenses were covered, but I was not otherwise compensated. As always, my opinion remains my own.)

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