Mardi Gras. The very nature of the celebration is excessive. There are parades with beads and trinkets being thrown everywhere, lavish food and desserts, and of course alcohol! Today is Fat Tuesday, the last day of the weeks-long Mardi Gras celebration. Tonight at midnight, the party will shut down until next year.
In case you’re not familiar with Mardi Gras, here is a great infographic to provide some insight on the size of the celebration and its impact on the city of New Orleans:
Fat Tuesday is the most indulgent day of Mardi Gras, in which people enjoy many rich fried foods, po’ boy sandwiches, sweet pastries, and of course king cake. It is also the last day before Lent, a Christian holiday in which people generally take on some type of fasting practice.
I feel like I had my own Fat Tuesday celebration before I started this journey into minimalism, especially before starting my 30-day shopping diet. I bought two new black shirts, because the six in my closet might not be sufficient for 30 days. I also bought one more pair of Lularoe leggings and a new lip gloss, because, well….
Um…Don’t judge me.
On a grander scale than my pre-diet shopping, Mardi Gras is known for its extreme excess. In 2014, the last 10 days of Mardi Gras generated over 1,700 tons of trash and cost the city $1.5 million in sanitation(1). That’s equivalent to trash produced from over 750,000 Americans combined for a whole year (2).
That’s a lot of trash.
Of course, one of the biggest contributors to the trash are the beaded necklaces that have become a symbol of Mardi Gras. These plastic beauties are non-biodegradable and some even contain lead. Although there are recycling bins for beads located along the parade routes in New Orleans, and year-round recycling bins throughout the city (1), many of the beads still end up in landfills.
Some companies, such as Zombeads, are leading the way in the “less is more” attitude. They create beads from recycled and locally sourced materials, not only creating less of an environmental footprint, but also supporting local businesses in the process.
The academic world is also getting involved in minimizing the negative impact of the beads:
Plenty of other organizations and schools are also involved in recycling, repackaging, and reusing the beads. There are even artists, such as Stephan Wanger that use the beads to create art and awareness for recycling.
Photo credit: http://www.stephanwanger.com/artworks.html
No matter if you’re celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama (My Alabama friends might disown me if I don’t mention that Mobile is the home of the first Mardi Gras), or in your own town, we all have the opportunity to lessen the impact on the environment. I’d love to hear how you are doing your part! Leave me a comment or find me on Twitter!