Urban Conservancy’s Future of Mardi Gras Forum

The Urban Conservancy and a broad coalition of stakeholders including riding and marching Krewe members, throw vendors, Mardi Gras Indians, Baby Dolls, city staff, and nonprofits participated in “The Future of Mardi Gras” Forum on October 18th, 2018.

The UC’s Future of Mardi Gras Forum was an opportunity for “parade goers and parade throwers” to come together to brainstorm about everything from waste reduction along parade routes to locally made throws, and leave inspired to start new Mardi Gras traditions that will make their Carnival experience even better. While the spirit of carnival season is all about letting the good times roll,  we continue to look to each other for inspired ways we can do just that without trashing the city we live in and love.

This community conversation acknowledges that Mardi Gras is one of the key economic drivers of the city, and one that also has an enormous environmental impact. 


Future of Mardi Gras Forum

Where: Carver Theater, 2101 Orleans Ave.

When: Thursday, October 18, 2018

Schedule of Events

5:30 – 6:00 PM Doors open; Networking

6:00 – 7:15 PM  Panel discussion moderated by Errol Laborde

7:15 – 9:00 PM Interactive roundtables; Mardi Gras services/products expo 


More Details

Moderated Panel

A discussion on tradition and innovation in Mardi Gras; What is your ideal Mardi Gras? Hosted by Errol Laborde with District B Councilmember Jay H. Banks (and past Zulu King); Judy Boudreaux (Threaux, Inc.); Antoinette de Alteriis (Costume Director of the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc and the President of the Gulf Coast International Costumers Guild); and John Magill (noted author and Mardi Gras historian).

Round Tables

Tables hosted by topic area experts to share ideas and take action. Table topics and lead facilitators are:

Mardi Gras Civics (Dana Eness): How do the various parts of city government that help Mardi Gras happen operate? How do sanitation, permitting and parade fees work? How do Krewes organize and operate?
Waste Reduction and Prevention (Brett Davis): How can the public and businesses along the parade routes and Krewes be better stewards of our streets? What options and ideas are out there for throw and disposable waste prevention and recycling?

Crafting in Community (Antoinette de Alteriis): Krewes as maker spaces- How do groups create sustainable, repurposed, upcycled, and unique items that express their identity and message with minimal packaging? How has this changed the face of Mardi Gras? How does this translate to a year-round fostering of community and creativity? Can this be scaled up to encompass the larger Mardi Gras experience?

Off the Beaten Path: Neighborhood Traditions (Cherice Harrison-Nelson): What shared challenges can be tackled together by those participating in traditions which don’t include throws but are the product parade goers are coming for (walking/dancing Krewes including marching bands, social aid and pleasure clubs, Baby Dolls, Mardi Gras Indians, and others)?
Open Discussion (Marla Nelson): What topics are not covered by the other round tables? Proliferation of Mardi Gras ladders and other “reservations” on public space for personal use? Parade routes? Bead toxicity? Everything is on the table here!

Learn about the latest in Mardi Gras-related goods and services, including “Mardi Gras throws worth catching.”



LCI Workers Comp, WWNO, Grounds Krewe, Krewe Delusion, The Okra Inn

Collaborators and Expo Vendors

Life City, No Waste NOLA, Atlas Handmade Beads, Sierra Club, Arc GNO, Republic Services, 3D Beads, Throw Me Something Green, NOLA Craft Culture, Bayou Throws, No Straws NOLA, The New Orleans Costume Center, Elektra Cosmetics, Gilda’s SHUZ Suite



Update 7

Mar 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!

Update 6

Mar 2019

Entergy Newsroom

The community-driven recycling effort focused on reducing the adverse environmental effects of Carnival season. Beads, throws and other recyclable materials were collected during a Mardi Gras recycling initiative conducted through a new sustainability partnership between Entergy Corporation, Grounds KreweThe Urban ConservancyArcGNO and Republic Services. Volunteers and workers from the Youth Empowerment Project distributed and picked up recyclable bags that were filled by parade goers along the Uptown parade route on Sunday, March 3.

“It is my hope that incorporating recycling into Mardi Gras helps expand New Orleanians’ perceptions of what is possible when it comes to protecting and sustaining the environment,” said Kathryn, a volunteer and manger in Entergy’s ethics & compliance department.

Through this community partnership, volunteers walked 30 city blocks and collected 3.5 tons of Mardi Gras beads & throws and 7,000 cans & bottles following three parades.


Read full article.  03/28/2019

Update 5

Feb 2019

As seen in Biz New Orleans:

NEW ORLEANS – Parade goers can take advantage of more recycling options this Carnival season, thanks to several initiatives underway. Some of those initiatives were a result of The Future of Mardi Gras forum, hosted by local organizations the Urban Conservancy and Grounds Krewe. Participants of the forum, which took place last fall, shared details in a press release.

“The forum brought 300 New Orleanians together to discuss ways to reduce the adverse environmental impact of Carnival season while growing the local economic impact,” says Dana Eness, Urban Conservancy’s director. “It encouraged New Orleanians to continue to share their ideas for more sustainable practices on and off the parade route and launch initiatives that shift the focus away from trashing the city and toward uplifting more local, ethical, green traditions. This Carnival season, we’re seeing the results of connections made at the forum.” Read Full Biz New Orleans article. 

Update 4

Feb 2019

Green groups are urging revelers to recycle, reuse, and reconnect with the pre-plastic soul of a great celebration.

This National Geographic article features the voices of several individuals who planned and participated in the Future of Mardi Gras forum.  The Urban Conservancy organized the forum in partnership with Grounds Krewe in October 2018.


Update 3

Feb 2019

The Grounds Krewe has partnered with Entergy, Urban Conservancy, Republic Services, and ArcGNO to organize its second annual “on the route” throw and disposable waste recycling program!

Click here to volunteer during the Muses parade this carnival season.

Update 2

Nov 2018

by Jesse Baum

Uptown Messenger (November 5, 2018)

Parade throws, one the biggest draws of the Carnival season, have become one of its biggest sources of controversy, with a growing push to move Mardi Gras away from the waste and excess symbolized by the all the plastic beads filling our streets and catch basins after every parade.

An Urban Conservancy conference held at the historic Carver Theater on Oct. 18 was titled “The Future of Mardi Gras.” Its focus was on sustainability and culture; panelists and environmental advocates discussed how to return the focus to the local artistry that creates Mardi Gras’ most memorable floats, throws and costumes.

Read the full article.

Update 1

Oct 2018

The historic Carver Theater on Orleans Avenue was the venue Oct. 18, 2018, where eclectic groups of people shared their passion for Mardi Gras traditions and concerns about how to make the biggest free party on Earth more Earth-friendly. Urban Conservancy director Dana Eness and co-host Brett Davis with Grounds Krewe led discussions around recylable throws (ARC of Greater New Orleans began recycling beads last year and needs more volunteers to help sort and expand); biodegradable materials, including glitter and paints; beads created from recycled magazines; and education for krewes and the public about how  they can change the throw-away culture.


Full article

Future of Mardi Gras Forum Report

On Wednesday, September 12, 2018, over 300 community members attended the Future of Mardi Gras forum. Attendees were asked to fill out a brief survey about their current participation and future vision for Carnival, and 76 did so. Read the full Mardi Gras Forum Report.


2013 Bead Toxicity Report

The Chemical Hazards in Mardi Gras Beads & Holiday Beaded Garlands Full Report



National Geographic

Local ‘green’ groups featured in Nat Geo! | 2/22/19

Sustainable Mardi Gras Beads

Atlas Handmade Beads featured on WWL | 2/21/19

Throw Me Something Green!

In this Carnival Edition of New Orleans Magazine, Ashley McLellan and Theresa Cassagne showcase three companies providing eco-friendly Mardi Gras initiatives.

Biodegradable Mardi Gras beads face cost hurdle

The Advocate gets us familiar with the latest developments in biodegradable bead technology by scientists and professors at LSU.

Recycling program returns to Uptown parade route for Mardi Gras 2019

Kevin Allman spotlights the recycling efforts of the Young Leadership Council and the Arc of Greater New Orleans in this Gambit article.

Can Mardi Gras value artistry over excess?

Read Jesse Baum’s coverage of the forum in the Uptown Messenger here.

Melinda Shelton covered the forum for nola.com and got some great photos of our vendors.

Future of Mardi Gras Forum