The Future of Mardi Gras is Now: Summary of Progress in 2019

The Urban Conservancy understands that the cultural and physical environments of New Orleans have an important relationship with Mardi Gras. When we began hearing about the growing concerns from the community of New Orleans surrounding the current state of Mardi Gras, we decided to host the “Future of Mardi Gras” forum in October of 2018 and talk about ways Mardi Gras can “green up” its act.

Current concerns

Current concerns are centered around the way Mardi Gras has evolved into having a negative impact on the environment and the way past traditions have been buried – some argue beneath all the waste of the approximately 25 million pounds of toxic plastic beads imported annually into our fragile ecosystem (see survey results here.)

Dozens of organizations and hundreds of individuals came out to and participated in the forum proving that there are people dedicated to making Mardi Gras greener and cleaner. We want to take a look at what has happened since the forum and how greening efforts have materialized this Mardi Gras season as we return to the question that started it all: what is the future of Mardi Gras?

Momentum is growing around a greener Gras

This Mardi Gras season, the growth of recycling efforts took center stage as a number of groups and organizations, including the Trashformers, ArcGNO, Young Leadership Council (YLC Recycles), and Grounds Krewe led creative initiatives to reduce the amount of trash to be sent to landfills collected by the city.

ArcGNO has been recycling Mardi Gras throws and creating jobs through their efforts for over 30 years, but this year, Jessika England said they were proud to have achieved an organized effort for the first time with the help of YLC Recycles and Grounds Krewe and hope to continue organizing collectively for future seasons. ArcGNO also created a “Throw ‘Em Back” float that rode at the end of four Jefferson parish floats to be included in future parades.

YLC Recycles was able to expand their recycling efforts from one parade last year to three parades this year: Krewe du Vieux, Freret, and Tucks. Urban Conservancy partnered with YLC Recycles to find volunteers to help recycle during Tucks! Rachel Skowyra from YLC Recycles noted that they plan to continue recycling efforts for these three parades and expand the recycling route past Uptown.

The Trashformers, an “innerkrewe” of krewedelusion, wore costumes to reflect their theme of “Revenge of the Storm Drains” and rode green bikes welded to grocery baskets while encouraging parade-goers to hand over their cans, beads, and other plastics for recycling. They also created a petition calling for the city of New Orleans to do away with plastic throws that collected 15,000 signatures.

Grounds Krewe, who partnered with Urban Conservancy, Entergy, ArcGNO and Republic Services, used this same grocery basket and bike fusion to hand out and pick up bags for parade-goers to fill with plastic throws, cans, and bottles for the Muses and Thoth parades. This collaborative initiative was able to collect 7,000 pounds of throws and 6,000 cans and plastic bottles during Thoth alone!

People are noticing

Not only did this Mardi Gras season see remarkable progress in the number of organizations working together to green Mardi Gras; there was also a proliferation of media coverage surrounding greening efforts. Dana Eness of Urban Conservancy was featured on two segments with WWNO discussing the past, present, and future of Mardi Gras and what attendees of the forum had to say about the future of Mardi Gras. Dana was also featured in the National Geographic article covering the current state of Mardi Gras along with many others who were present at the forum. And the media buzz does not stop here. Featured below is a collection of press both locally and nationally which highlighted the work of so many during this Mardi Gras season.

You can find most of these articles elsewhere on our website, but we thought it would be nice to collect them all in one place for you.

National Geographic article written about rethinking Mardi Gras without the plastic beads by Alejandra Borunda

Inside the Arts interview with Diane Mack about ways to parade responsibly (WWNO)

Coastal News Roundup with Travis Lux and Thomas Walsh about findings from the forum (WWNO)

Biz New Orleans spotlighting the “Future of Mardi Gras” forum and Grounds Krewe

Clip from WWLTV about Grounds Krewe recycling efforts 

Big Easy Magazine talks about amount of trash collected 

NOLA.com article by Maria Clark featuring forum participants. 

Trashformers featured in The Lens about their recycling efforts and petition: 

And don’t forget to check out the cover story for the Carnival Edition (February) of New Orleans Magazine!


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