Supporting a Greener Mardi Gras

It's the Thursday before Mardi Gras and the parades are underway in cities across South Louisiana. I love the revelry and spirit of Mardi Gras season, although in the past few years, it's hard to unsee the sheer amount of waste the holiday generates.

However, things seem to be turning around a little, thanks to some dedicated organizations and groups of volunteers.

My column in this week's Times of Acadiana takes a look at these groups and what they're doing to make Mardi Gras a little more sustainable.

Krewe de Canailles 

Krewe de Canailles' slogan is "A Parade Without Barricades" and it's exactly what you'd expect. There are no motor vehicles or powered floats. Throws are sustainable and some of them are handmade with care. In last weekend's parade I "caught" a hand-painted oyster shell that now sits on my desk at work, an alligator cookie made by one of my closest friends, a Polaroid photo, Tony Chachere's packets, a cardboard crown and painted pecans. I was much more excited about these throws than a neck-ful of plastic beads.

Photo via Project Front Yard

Photo via Project Front Yard

Project Front Yard

Project Front Yard partnered with the Krewe of Carnivale en Rio to work on diverting their float waste to recycling and keeping the parade route cleaner. The partnership began in 2015 (check out my blog post on that here!), with Project Front Yard volunteers walking in parade as the last float to pick up beads and other waste left behind. Starting in 2018, Project Front Yard assisted Rio with float prep, helping to divert a lot of the waste before the parade even rolls.

If you went to the Rio parade last weekend, you likely saw Project Front Yard volunteers (my people!) out in full force. The weather was pretty crappy, but the volunteers were dedicated, and the trailer was loaded with trash and beads that otherwise would've ended up in the landfill.


In the past few years, LARC has gained a lot of attention for its diligent work collecting, sorting, packaging and reselling Mardi Gras beads. Their Beads N More store gladly takes bead donations year-round, and LARC individuals get to work sorting the beads by color, size and length. Proceeds from the resold beads support LARC’s initiatives. Back in 2017, I visited the store and met with the director to see the operations firsthand. It was one of my favorite blog posts to write!

This is one of the best ways we can all keep beads out of storm drains, landfills and trees. Plus, beads get a chance to be reused two, three or even dozens of times. Donate all the beads you catch at the parade, support LARC and purchase the recycled beads to throw in later years. The cycle could really go on for years.

Atlas Handmade Beads

This new company out of New Orleans creates Mardi Gras jewelry using recycled materials. The jewelry is handmade with recycled paper by women in Uganda who earn a fair wage for their work. The jewelry can be bought as individual pieces and bulk pricing is available for krewes.

I'm familiar with the recycled paper bead jewelry and was excited to see the Mardi Gras spin with these beads. I'm in love with my new necklace and look forward to wearing it for many years to come. 

Photo via YLC Recycles

Young Leadership Council

YLC Recycles is a project through the Young Leadership Council that engages volunteers interested in helping New Orleans become a greener place to live. For the past few years, they’ve participated in parades by cleaning up litter. This year, YLC and the ARC of Greater New Orleans joined forces for the Mardi Gras Recycling Initiative, which includes volunteers who will distribute bags for recycling waste and beads to parade goers along a portion of the Uptown route prior to the start of the first parade each day. In 2018, after just one day of parades, the Mardi Gras Recycling Initiative kept 10,000 aluminum cans, 2,000 plastic bottles and 1.25 tons of beads out of Louisiana landfills and catch-basins.

Photo via Kevin Fitzwilliam


A group of New Orleans residents recently formed the Trashformers, who made their parade debut this season. Some of the Trashformers will be walking and others will be riding on distinctive neon green-decorated contraptions that fall somewhere between a tricycle and a shopping cart. Trashformers will encourage parade-goers to load hybrid vehicles with cans, plastic bottles, go-cups and unwanted throws.

To make an even bigger impact, get involved on your own! Minimize your single-use containers (especially Styrofoam) when heading out to parades, instead choosing reusable containers, and be sure to pick up all of your litter once you leave. Don’t leave any trash behind! Collect all of your beads and donate them to be reused in future Mardi Gras seasons.

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