project front yard | krewe of rio parade cleanup 2.7.15

Also known as:
Back Dat Trash Up
Show Me Your Trash
All About That Trash

This year, Project Front Yard kicked off the first initiative to create a cleaner Mardi Gras in Lafayette. With the first big parade to roll down the streets, the Krewe of Carnivale en Rio, a group of about 25 volunteers tied up their sneakers and gathered behind the last float armed with trash bags and a trailer. The mission? Walk the route, pick up as much trash from the parade as possible, pick up parade-goers' trash that would otherwise have been litter, and inspire the community to leave less waste behind.

Yes, the street sweepers do clean up the parade route, but they do not get a lot of the trash on the sides of the street, nor do they recycle anything.

Our group was gathered at the start of the parade route for about an hour before the parade rolled, so we had some time to clean up the initial float trash - mostly boxes that held beads, plastic bags that held beads, beer cans, daiquiri cups and jello shot cups. Along the entire 3.9 mile route, I found that the worst litter was from the floats before they even started rolling. It was a sea of trash, and it felt like we barely even made a dent. The awkward part is cleaning up the trash while the riders are on the float getting ready to go. But I don't think half of them even noticed us. Case in point? I was minding my business picking up boxes and plastic bags when I felt beer land on my head. Not a can...just liquid beer. Another rider apologized for the person who spilled it, but it just served as an example of the carelessness that happens at Mardi Gras.

Once we got started, we turned our cleanup focus on the small plastic bags in the street that would probably fly away before the street sweepers got there, and on the Mardi Gras beads, broken or not. LARC, a local organization, accepts Mardi Gras beads and has their residents work on fixing the strands and then reselling them in future years. All the beads the Project Front Yard crew picked up will be donated to LARC instead of being thrown away.

And we picked up A LOT of beads. (Super factual statistic there.) At least a few hundred pounds' worth. Beads that never even made it to the parade-goers behind the barricades.

It was a long walk, and all our legs hurt like a motha' today, but we all had a really great time. Before the last float's generator died, we had music while we walked and cleaned up, which made us get real silly. Our Project Front Yard sandwich sign guy, Blake, did the Macarena in the style of the Katy Perry Left Shark. Who knew picking up trash (and not getting paid for it) could be so entertaining!? We filled up our Project Front Yard trailer before we even left, thanks to the float trash, so we emptied as much as we could at dumpsters before we really took off. And then we filled that trailer again.

In what I thought was a great commitment to Lafayette, Mayor Joey Durel showed up, donned a Project Front Yard t-shirt, and walked the entire route with us, picking up trash the whole way. Lots of parade-goers were amazed to see him out there working, and he also picked up and threw good beads to the crowds.

The most rewarding thing to me was hearing SO many people thank us for what we were doing, and cheering on Project Front Yard. The fact that people were appreciative and took notice of our efforts really gave the work a bigger impact. I only hope that it inspires people to try a little harder in their own lives, and support Project Front Yard as well. There was only one negative comment I heard along the route, and it didn't even faze me. That man can just keep on believing the street sweepers will handle everything.

One bonus is that, while the parade route is 3.9 miles long, I clocked my cleanup at 5.8 miles, thanks to all the walking back and forth along the way. 14,500+ steps in almost 3.5 hours. I earned my post-parade margarita and cheeseburger, alright.

Another bonus is that, in my boyfriend's and my first time at a bar in ages, someone played MMMBop twice on the jukebox. Call it delirium, blame it on the margarita, I don't even care, but I very happily sang along twice and fangirled all over the place. Perfect ending to a REALLY great day.

Thanks to the Katherine, Carlee and Kevin, Mayor Joey Durel, the Project Front Yard crew, the Right Angle staff, and all the volunteers who came out to give their time and energy. Y'all made it amazingly fun and worthwhile.

Tomorrow I will have a blog post on how you can go green at Mardi Gras - so you've got all week to set your eco-friendly gameplan before the onslaught of parades next weekend. 

If you go to a Mardi Gras parade, pick up your own trash. It's the least you can do. Be proud of your city. Care enough not to leave it on the street. SOMEONE still has to deal with it.

Visit Project Front Yard on Facebook to stay up to date on their efforts all year long.

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