Tomorrow is one of the biggest celebrations in New Orleans… Mardi Gras! As much fun as the holiday is, with parades, floats, picnics, and of course a whole lot of flashing for purple, green and gold beads, the sustainability of Fat Tuesday is something that seems to be forgotten.
One particular non-profit group, VerdiGras, is taking it upon themselves to work towards a greener future for one of the largest carnivals around the country.
The grassroots organization unites all types of people in support of the environment. Their mission includes preserving Louisiana culture, empowering others to embrace a greener, cleaner carnival and reducing the dependence on foreign materials.
In 2011, the founders of VerdiGras, Kirk and Holly Groh, realized the environmental state of their town remained the same during the biggest carnival of the year, even after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina.
Nothing had changed,” Holly Groh told the Los Angeles Times. “We were astonished, and just kind of dumbfounded.”
One particular effort the group focuses on improving is the mounds of plastic beads that plague The Big Easy. According to VerdiGras, an estimated 25 million pounds of trash covers the city. It seems unreal that something hasn’t been done sooner to stop this hazardous action.
Beads are a huge contributor to the heaps of garbage. Yes, the beads are part of a unique tradition, but when the streets of such a historical town contain piles and piles of trash, a change is needed. That’s where VerdiGras walks in.
On Feb. 11th, they tested a pilot recycling project by implementing bead collecting bins along the route for just one of the parades, Krewe of Pontchartrain, to make their recycling efforts a success. They gathered plastic, aluminum cans and the infamous beads within six blocks of the parade route. Doesn’t sound like easy work, but they sure are trying.
Even though traditional recycling centers cannot process the beads, the “throws” can be collected, reused and resold instead of being thrown in the street and ending up in landfills.
“Mardi Gras has been going on for 150 years, and the extent of plastic and waste is a relatively new phenomenon,” Kirk Groh told an ABC News affiliate. “So it isn’t necessarily tradition that we trash the city to enjoy it.”
The official day of Mardi Gras may be on Feb. 21, but the celebrating goes on for 12 days. That’s a lot of drinking, eating, flashing and trashing! Recycling isn’t that hard and would be a great step in the right direction to green the festivities.
It also says a lot when New Orleans topped a Travel + Leisure list of America’s dirtiest cities in 2011. VerdiGras is striving for a cleaner, greener holiday and who can criticize an organization that is trying to do the right thing?
We can still have fun, while keeping the planet clean.