Post-Mardi Gras Ideas

It feels like Mardi Gras was already a month ago, even though it's only been eight days. Too many holidays and festivities happening all at once!! I'm still not back to my normal (hectic) routine.

As the Mardi Gras celebrations wound down, and we made our final bike ride home, I started thinking of ideas to make the holiday more sustainable. The trash issue is so disgustingly apparent after five days, especially at Cajun Field. But it's not just festival-goers dropping their half-eaten funnel cakes or beer cans. A lot of trash comes from the floats, whether it's those darned plastic bags or unwanted broken beads.

City workers and cleaning crews do go through at night and sweep the streets following parades, picking up the majority of what's left in the middle of the road. (Here's a great Gambit article about New Orleans' Mardi Gras cleanup workers.)

We spent most of Mardi Gras in the same spot, and after each parade, my fiance and I would collect left-behind beads for donation to LARC, and I would pick up all the plastic bags nearby and bring them to the trash can.

I write a lot about what we can do as individuals to be more eco-friendly, but in times like Mardi Gras, it's apparent that sometimes, we just need a larger-scale effort. How can we really work to keep our city a little cleaner during our favorite time of year?


  • As I learned last year, a huge amount of trash is generated before the floats even start rolling. Krewe members spend a lot of time bringing and stocking their beads and throws on the float. Unfortunately, everything is packaged, leaving behind cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Could having extra dumpsters or recycling bins nearby at the parade start, or even the float garages, help? 
  • I actually don't know if most floats are stocked with trash cans, but they may help with the amount of plastic bags being thrown during a parade. At the very least, they can be thrown on the float floor to be collected and properly thrown away once the parade is over.
  • Once Mardi Gras is over, volunteers can assist in cleanup, similar to what Project Front Yard did last year. Maybe krewe members can volunteer, or organize external groups to help out.
  • Use the cardboard boxes from packaging as trash receptacles on floats.

Photo courtesy: Bill Riehl, who says: "The significant portion of the waste that I picked up this morning could have been prevented, if only the krewes would keep what is already on their floats in the first place. These bags are light and easily transported by the wind into areas where it is not picked up. Please! If you are in a krewe, practice good housekeeping by providing proper on-board trash receptacles that are appropriate for the activities you participate in."

Parade trash photo courtesy: Bill Riehl, via Facebook

The city/waste companies

  • City workers and cleanup companies already go through at night and sweep the streets following parades. Most of the trash left is found on the edges of the streets and on the sidewalks. Many times, it's difficult to find an available trash can (outside of the businesses along the parade route), so maybe extra bins can be placed directly along the route for the duration of Mardi Gras.
  • In addition to parade route trash cans, what about adding specialized bins for bead collection? As parade-goers leave, they can dump what they don't want directly into a bin, which would be emptied by volunteers or a company, to be donated and resold. It would also be easier for people to pick up beads on the ground and throw them into the bin, instead of leaving them behind.


  • Reduce the plastic bag packaging! It can't become litter if it isn't on the float at all.

Each of us

However, ideas don't always equal possible action, especially when looking to an organization or city government. There are understandable issues, from money, time, available resources, people or contracts, to deal with and work through.

But from this point, we have a year to take these ideas, talk to people in charge (from the krewes, the city and organizations like Keep Lafayette Beautiful or Project Front Yard), and see if/how we can implement some of them! What can we make happen for 2017?

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