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Making Carnival Environmentally Friendly

An original ©Mike Luckovich Cartoon for New Orleans Magazine.

To judge a parading krewe by the quantity of its throws is, to us, like judging the quality of a wine by the size of its bottle. The true quality is in the creation not in the numbers. Environmental friendliness should also be an issue.

There was a time when if a person came home from a parade having snagged a couple of pairs of beads and a trinket or two that was considered a successful experience. But with the advent of the super krewes, beginning with Bacchus in 1968, the emphasis, in an effort to make more of an attraction of Carnival, shifted to “bigger” not only in the size of floats, or the number of riders, but also on the throws. More was better, and also size, including lethal sized beads. Other krewes that might have otherwise staged visually nice parades began to realize that they were increasingly being judged by the tonnage of their beads more than the artistry of their events. With the burgeoning of an escalating Asian manufacturing industry, throws could be made plentiful by the millions.

In recent years, however, there has been an increased emphasis on throws that are environmentally friendly, or at least not environmentally harmful. Good work is being done in various ways including recycling, making throws from old paper products and even using some chemicals that are environmentally safe. Some small local businesses are trying to develop throws that are artistic and compatible to nature.

We know that there will be labor and cost efficiency issues. Cottage industries could never meet the demands of the really big krewes that toss throws numbering in the hundreds of thousands. But maybe Carnival can take small steps.
What if the big krewes would designate one of their units as a “green float” to throw nothing but regionally made, recycled and environmentally friendly throws. Its riders would not be expected to toss thousands of trinkets but a few hundred, which, if designed clever enough, could, because of the limited supply, be more of a collector’s item. Their future would be destined more for a display case than the gutter.

What if all krewes would agree to a maximum limit of throws per parade. There would be less litter and more people paying attention to the design of the parade. If floats were judged for their beauty rather than for their beads there would be more creativity in the parades.

We caution that there is something that we do like about bead proliferation: Only in New Orleans is there the year- round sight of beads dangling from oak trees, particularly along parade route. The image of beads growing on trees adds to the city’s magic. The effect, however, could be just as magical if the beads, like the leaves, were embraced by the environment. Ideally, in the world of Carnival, Mother Nature should be Queen.


 

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