Sure, the barricades are a pain in the ass. The crowds can be overwhelming. But to me, the worst is the trash. Thousands of people flock to the four-mile parade route (in Lafayette alone...so multiply this by every city that puts on at least one parade), and after the last float has rolled past, you can't miss what's been left behind.
Beer cans. Soft drink and water bottles. Fast food containers. Pizza boxes. Toys. Stray bits of clothing. Plastic bags. And tons of broken and nonbroken Mardi Gras beads and throws that didn't make it from the float into the hands of a reveler.
Every year, I notice more and more how the streets look like a trash bomb has gone off. As I've gotten more dedicated to my own environmental passion and gotten more involved in my community, I've become that much more aware of how Louisiana's most celebrated time is also our most wasteful.
- If you're able, ride your bike or walk to your favorite spot on the parade route. It will help tremendously with traffic and parking, you'll get some extra exercise, and you'll save a little gas.
- If you're heading out with a group of family or friends, carpool instead of driving separately.
- Bring only what you need for the parade. Instead of bringing a ton of single-use food packaging out to the parade, either eat beforehand or pack food and snacks in reusable containers. Especially on days with multiple parades, pack snacks in lightweight reusable containers that can be put back in your vehicle or your bag.
- Do NOT bring glass bottles out to the parade. If your glass becomes litter, it can be dangerous to car and bike tires, and someone’s feet. Pour your beer or other cold beverages into a reusable bottle.
- Addtionally, skip the Styrofoam or other single-use drink cups. If you’re stopping to pick up a drink on the way to the parade, ask the bar if they can pour it into your reusable container instead of a single-use cup.
- Don't forget a reusable bottle filled with water.
- If you don't want to bring your own drink cup, choose the better option on the waste totem pole, and bring drinks in aluminum cans. Don't: leave them on the street or toss them in somebody's front yard. Do: save and recycle those cans.
- Use cloth bags or plastic bins/baskets to hold all of your beads and throws.
- Be responsible for what you and your group hauls to the parade. Bring an extra bag to keep your trash and/or recyclables in, or use your ice chest to hold your trash. If you bring it, you make sure it leaves, whether you throw it away or take it home to recycle.
- Pick up extra beads around you and put them in your bag. All beads, including broken ones, can be donated and recycled for cleaning and repair and resale in future years.
So, about those Mardi Gras beads! Do some good, and keep beads out of the trash and the street, by donating them to LARC or Arc of Acadiana. Both nonprofits repair and resell beads, which brings them much-needed funding for the services they provide.
This weekend, LARC will have a trailer behind the Carencro and Scott parades, and next weekend in Youngsville, where parade-goers can toss their beads back for LARC to collect.
In Lafayette, you can donate any of your beads to LARC by depositing them in the bed of a truck located at Le Festival De Mardi Gras a Lafayette. The truck will be located near the stage.
If you are near Downtown Lafayette, head over to the LAFAYETTE sign in Parc Sans Souci and drop off your beads in the wire Y for donation. This is the third year the wire Y has been out for Mardi Gras, and it's been a very successful collection point.
There will also be bead drop-off points at area Goodwills.
Get your Lafayette Mardi Gras information here, and don't forget to download the Lafayette Mardi Gras app (keep up with the parade schedule and band schedule, and use the super-handy GPS Float Finder during the parades).
- Do your own part to reduce your waste and litter, which helps LCG Public Works.
- Show the Mardi Gras Association that you support a cleaner Mardi Gras (and let's get float waste cleaned up!)
- Show your support for bead recycling by donating your piles to a nonprofit organization - and then, by purchasing your beads from them next year to throw.