NewsNew Orleans Mardi Gras Beads Cast A Plastic Shadow

New Orleans Mardi Gras Beads Cast A Plastic Shadow

New Orleans, steeped in the vibrant tradition of Carnival season, is grappling with environmental concerns.

NPR reports that New Orleans, steeped in the vibrant tradition of Carnival season, is grappling with a less festive aftermath as environmental concerns rise. The age-old practice of flinging strings of colorful beads to the cheering crowd has inadvertently turned into what environmentalists call a “plastics disaster.”

“The waste is becoming a defining characteristic of this event,” said Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator and president of Beyond Plastics. The city’s parades, which culminate on Fat Tuesday’s Mardi Gras, leave behind a spectacle of trash, despite rigorous daily cleanup efforts.

Uncollected beads persist, hanging from trees and adding to the waste problem. “The waste is becoming a defining characteristic of this event,” Brett Davis, a native involved in waste reduction efforts, told NPR.

In response to the environmental challenge, organizations like the Arc of New Orleans encourage the donation of caught beads for repackaging and resale, funding services for individuals with disabilities. The city and tourism organization New Orleans & Co. have also set up collection points for recycling beads and other materials along parade routes.

Davis’s nonprofit, Grounds Krewe, is championing sustainability by introducing over two dozen non-plastic alternatives for parade riders. These include headbands made from recycled T-shirts, beads crafted from paper, acai seeds, or recycled glass, and consumable items like locally-made coffee or jambalaya mix. The initiative aims to offer useful, eco-friendly alternatives to reduce waste and environmental impact.

Despite the prevalence of plastic imports, there’s a growing movement toward greener Mardi Gras celebrations. Christy Leavitt of Oceana sees these efforts as crucial in mitigating environmental damage. Enck, advocating for biodegradable alternatives, believes it’s possible to revel in the festivities without causing harm to the environment.

New Orleans faces a pressing challenge: finding a balance between preserving cherished traditions and addressing the environmental consequences of this annual extravaganza.

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Source: Black Enterprise

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