As the historic tradition of Mardi Gras unfolds each year, the streets of New Orleans spring to life. Both uptown and downtown burst into a frenzy that shuts the city down in a glorious haze of bright colors and loud cheers. It’s an exciting time for locals and visitors alike. Sometimes it helps to think about the way we celebrate, especially in terms of wastefulness and sustainability.
There are many great ways to limit waste during this exuberant celebration. We’d like to share three simple ones for a sustainable Mardi Gras.
They come down in droves, and you know won’t keep them all. Many hang from balconies, powerlines and trees as “decoration” for the rest of the year. However, most beads are thrown away in tremendous heaps in the wake of parades. Instead of letting them go to waste, why not recycle them for next year?
Arc of Greater New Orleans collects, cleans and re-sells recycled Mardi Gras beads back to Krewes to raise money for their disability services. You can even throw your beads back at Arc’s catch and release float — an unmanned vessel pulled behind other floats, providing an easy way to harvest beads for recycling.
Along some parade routes, the Arc places purple and gold recycling bins for your extra throws. They’ll even collect your plastic and aluminum. After the parades have past, you can bring your unwanted beads to any Arc location or any of the following locations:
- Whole Foods on Magazine
- Clearview Mall near Semolina Restaurant
- Mardi Gras World near the Convention Center
- Rouses on Airline and S. Labarre
- The Green Project at 2831 Marais St.
Ride a Bike
New Orleans traffic during Mardi Gras season can be a nightmare. Besides negating all the risks associated with festive drinking and driving, biking allows you to avoid traffic, save time, get some exercise and have more fun. However, keep in mind that drinking and biking may seem safer, but is still dangerous and, yes, illegal. The rules of the road still apply, even if your contraption lacks a motor.
Grab some feathers, paint or something funky to add to your bike. Many cyclists create a bike that’s more of a costume extension than a transportation mechanism. New to New Orleans? Rent a bike from places like A Musing Bikes or Arts District Bike Rental, among others. You can even sign up for a bike tour in between parades.
BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)
In a city with liberal open container laws, come prepared with a reusable cup. While Krewe-themed commemorative plastic cups are wondrous spoils of a victorious parade, you shouldn’t immediately pour your favorite concoction into them. Take them home and wash them to keep your beverages sanitary, then reuse those for the next parade.
Reusable containers can take many forms: goblets, water bottles, thermoses or just your everyday plastic cup from home. Make a drink, claim your spot and enjoy the show, all without contributing to unnecessary waste.
Whether you’re on a float tossing beads or on the sidelines catching them, every parade is chance to help preserve the world around you.
Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)