purple, gold and GREEN

Mardi Gras is arguably one of the greatest times to be in South Louisiana. (Though, I know some of you disagree, and to that I say "SHHH!") And it's only one week away! Of course, I always think by the time the actual day rolls around, I'm far too exhausted to go to another parade. Chalk it up to our innate talent to stretch a party holiday as long as possible. There's already been one great parade that's rolled through Lafayette, and it's only the beginning of many.

But Mardi Gras is also one of the worst times for litter and waste - especially since a big part of it involves throwing plastic made from China off of a giant glitter-covered vehicle for about four miles. If you walk down a parade route after one has passed, you'll see that it basically looks like a festive war zone - cups, bottles, plates, broken beads, plastic bags that used to hold broken beads, etc. It's awful!

To make Mardi Gras universally greener would be a monumental task, including trying to teach people not to leave their litter behind. But, starting with yourself, Mardi Gras can become greener.

One of the best things to do is recycle all those Mardi Gras beads you catch. Whether you save them to give to a friend riding in a parade (if you live around here, chances are you know multiple people riding in parades and asking for extra beads to throw), or you use them as seasonal household or office decorations, they can take on a new life year after year. You can also do a good deed and donate them to LARC or the Arc of Acadiana. They each employ workers with developmental disabilities to recycle and resell beads from parades. The process involves collecting used beads, detangling them and mending them. The beads are then sold the next year to start the cycle all over again. Goodwill of Acadiana also accepts bead donations, which they pass on to LARC.

When you go to a parade, be sure to leave the smallest impact on your area. Pick up your trash and throw it away or recycle it. Or better yet, don't bring items that have waste. Instead of a disposable cup for your beer, bring a reusable mug. If you can, ride your bike to the parade route, which saves on the hassle of parking and cuts down fuel emissions. Plus, you can then decorate your bike with beads! Pick up beads that fall on the ground. Even if they're broken, they can still be donated, or used as craft materials. If you see recyclable material on the ground (and it isn't too disgusting), pick it up and recycle it. Maybe you could even bring a plastic or paper bag to store everything in until you can get home.

If you catch random toys or other throws, don't just throw them away. Give them to a child around you, or save them to donate to charity. Someone will appreciate it! I believe last year my boyfriend caught a toy baseball and bat. And frisbee. And a watch. Who says we stop at throwing beads and doubloons?

By cutting down on disposable items and recycling while you're reveling, you're helping to put the green back in Mardi Gras!

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