Pull out the tri-colored garb, beads and feathered masks: Mardi Gras is in full swing. A 10-day celebration marked by extravagance and no-holds-barred indulgence, participants enjoy countless parades and parties before ushering in Lent – a six-week period where Christians engage in repentance, restraint and reflection.
Before you make plans to observe Mardi Gras, be aware that some traditions can wreak havoc on the environment. But just because this festival is known as a celebration filled with excess and consumption doesn't mean you can't practice eco-friendliness and encourage others to follow suit. If you're planning to revel in all of Fat Tuesday's glory, take it easy on the environment by following these simple tips.
Bring your own reusable cup
Part of a traditional Mardi Gras celebration includes guzzling copious amounts of beverages, whether they be cocktails for toasting or water to stay hydrated. But there's a downside: The number of plastic cups or bottles used for these drinks can take their toll on the environment after hitting the landfill, taking up to 1,000 years to break down.
If you're observing Mardi Gras in a city with lenient open container laws, such as New Orleans, the festival's mecca, bring a reusable cup to hold your celebratory libations. Opt for a plastic one for safety's sake – you don't want broken glass littering the parade streets. If you really want to show off your commitment to the environment in style, customize your cup by decorating it to fit your taste.
Walk or ride a bike
Whether you're celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans or somewhere else, walk or ride a bike instead of driving a car when you need to get from Point A to Point B. Not only will this help prevent carbon emissions from entering the environment due to idling in heavy festival traffic, it'll save you money on gas.
If you must use a vehicle, plan to carpool and always make sure you have a designated driver behind the wheel.
Recycle your beads and "throws"
According to the Environmental News Network, an estimated 25 million pounds of plastic beads make their way to New Orleans each year. These strands of beads, after being tossed off parade floats, often end up in the landfill and don't biodegrade for centuries.
Instead of traditional plastic beads, opt for greener alternatives, such as recycled paper bead necklaces or other eco-friendly throws. Zom Beads, a socially conscious company based in The Big Easy, is committed to helping preserve the environment by selling products made from locally sourced and recycled materials, such as strands of beads made from recycled magazines, specifically created for celebrating the Mardi Gras season.
If you can't get your hands on post-consumer beads, make sure you recycle the plastic ones after Mardi Gras instead of throwing them away.