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Throw Me Something Green!

Three companies that are renewing, reusing and recycling, beads this Carnival.

 

When the city’s big vacuum trucks took a turn around town after last year’s Mardi Gras, many were surprised by the haul of 46 tons, or 93,000 pounds of Mardi Gras beads and Carnival debris that were lodged in the drainage systems. And although the city installed a team of “gutter buddies,” mesh drainage bumpers that hopefully will work to let rainwater flow, but keep out trash and other objects, many carnival krewes and entrepreneurs feel that it’s time to think outside the box with a new look at old throws.

We’ve found three alternative solutions that might lighten the carbon load in style this Mardi Gras season.


 

REDUCE the use of plastic with Atlas Beads

Atlas handmade Beads are uniquely made from recycled magazines.

Kevin Fitzwilliam created Atlas Homemade Beads in 2016, with the idea of bringing handcrafted arts to the Mardi Gras celebration. What he got was a bigger return than expected with a company that has big global impact.

“I really started getting involved with the overall idea of greening Mardi Gras six years ago when the artist Katrina Brees (who is not related to our Saints’ own Number 9) hosted a public event on the topic,” he said. “At that time I was hosting a Saturday morning radio show focused on environmental topics, and we would discuss and promote efforts like hers on the show. Then about two and a half years ago I just started researching online different artists and artists’ groups all around the world that could possibly provide a handcrafted alternative to Chinese plastic throws for people who want their specialty throws to be meaningful with a positive social backstory.  I reached out to about 40 different groups or artists, including some in the United States.”

Each strand of beads is handmade and unique, crafted out of recycled magazine pages by a women’s art collective in Uganda. Atlas offers a fair wage that is well above what the artists could normally make, leading to an improvement in not only their lives, but the lives of their children and families.

In addition to having a financial impact on a community far away from the Crescent City, Atlas aims to broaden the appeal of unique, handmade and green Mardi Gras throws, something Fitzwilliam has seen reflected in carnival conversations throughout the season.

“There is overwhelming support for Mardi Gras to be less wasteful, from both locals and tourists,” he said. “All you have to do is have a conversation with someone who lives in New Orleans about plastic waste at Mardi Gras, and the odds are that they’re going to say that they’d like to see a more environmentally-friendly Mardi Gras in general.”

Partnering with ArcGNO and working to provide his recycled Atlas Beads to krewes of all sizes, Fitzwilliam takes carnival clean-up seriously, and encourages others to get involved as well.

“Last year I was a part of a team which organized the largest and most successful, volunteer-driven recycling effort in the history of Mardi Gras,” he said. “This effort was done on the Uptown route, and it proved that there is tremendous support for having more recycling options for aluminum and plastic and for supporting other mission-driven organizations like the ARC of Greater New Orleans. And as for the tourists, I know firsthand that there are tourists who love New Orleans but who told me that they choose to come to the city at other times of year because the plastic waste on the ground leaves them with a sick feeling. Having ridden in parades myself, I also know the feeling of watching parade goers dodge the plastic beads that I was throwing. So, the necklaces from

Atlas Handmade Beads provide an alternative offering a more meaningful specialty throw.”
Atlas Handmade beads are available year round in carnival colors, as well as Saints black and gold. Krewes can also purchase beads in bulk directly through the company’s website. “A growing number of riders in a variety of parades will be throwing them this year,” Fitzwilliam said. “I’m in talks with several krewes and floats within krewes about partnering. I want to help riders and the krewes themselves to be able to tell the story behind these necklaces and to feel the connection to the women on the other side of the globe who supply them.”

Fitzwilliam stresses that the new partnership between Atlas Handmade Beads and ARC GNO, is another way to help support each company’s efforts to bring green to the season. “[We] are partnering to provide packages to riders who want to support both missions,” he said. “The necklaces and bracelets are now being sold at the ARC location on Labarre in Metairie, and riders can also purchase mixed-item packages at costs of $250, $500 and $750. These packages will consist of a majority of throws from the ARC with a sampling of specialty throws from Atlas Handmade Beads.”

For Fitzwilliam, getting involved in global and green efforts is not only a personal mission, but one that all of Carnival and the city can benefit from.  

“I think that every creative-minded and entrepreneurial person in New Orleans who loves Mardi Gras should consider getting in the game of helping Mardi Gras to move in the right direction,” he said. “Mardi Gras is about creativity, performance art, color, and fantasy.  We can retain all of that while at the same time helping the city to have less plastic waste lying on the ground or heading into our storm drains.”

Atlas Handmade Beads, AtlasBeads.com.


 

RECYCLE beads from ARC Greater New Orleans

ArcGNO participants sort and recycle more than 62 tons of beads each year.

ARC Greater New Orleans has been in the green Carnival business for decades, helping Carnival goers recycle their catches and krewe members have an affordable and eco-friendly option for bead purchasing, while also providing jobs to New Orleanians of all abilities.

“ArcGNO has been recycling beads for a couple of decades, but the project was greatly ​expanded ​after Hurricane Katrina,” said Ann Christian, ArcGNO Public Relations and Grant Coordinator. “The recycle center is one of three social enterprises that ArcGNO manages in order to employ individuals with intellectual disabilities. The recycling of Mardi Gras items has become our most successful social enterprise over the past few years. That’s why we continue to invest more in it, including opening last year a retail store and this year an online boutique, both of which allow folks to view and purchase all of our products on a year-round basis.”

The numbers back up ArcGNO’s success, with the group selling more than $280,000 in beads and throws last year, according to Christian. Additionally, the efforts resulted in saving tons of products that otherwise would have ended up in the trash or in the streets.

“This year for the first time we were able to weigh our intake,” she said. “Since Mardi Gras 2018 we collected 62.3 tons of raw product, all of which we hope to sell before Mardi Gras 2019.”

ArcGNO employs two full time staff members, five associates, and more than 80 participants and crucial volunteers across five parishes. When asked why the bead recycle is so important, Christian emphasizes impacts beyond beads.

“ArcGNO’s mission is to secure for all people with intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, and cerebral palsy, the opportunity​​​​​ ​to develop, function, and live to their fullest potential,” she said. “For a lot of our participants, that means finding employment so they can earn money for themselves and their families.”

While ArcGNO has nine donation and support services locations across the area, the group’s packaged beads are a readily available option for people in New Orleans and way beyond.

“Mostly riders [purchase our beads], both locals and out-of-towners,” Christian said. “For example, there’s a group that drives in from Galveston every year to buy a trailer full of beads for the Galveston Mardi Gras. We also provide beads to the airport for guests who arrive. We also have customers who buy beads for themed parties or for local Mardi Gras events. In truth, with our new e-store, we’ve begun to see folks purchasing from all over the country for all sorts of reasons.

ArcGNO.org


 

REUSE and repurpose beads with Bayou Throws

Bayou Beads’ throws can be repurposed and reused Above and beyond fat Tuesday.

Bayou Throws has been creating handmade, eco-friendly throws since 2015, with kid and craft-friendly beads that can be reused throughout the year.

Aron Medders has been at the helm since the beginning, leading a team that hand strings each set from their headquarters in Metairie.

“We’ve found ways to make [our necklaces] efficiently and suppliers that could get us materials at reasonable prices,” he said. “Being green wasn’t our original goal but it’s actually worked out in our favor. We’ve found a way to make beads that are reasonably priced making us competitive with the larger bulk metallic beads from China.”

Each necklace is made of 100 percent recyclable plastic beads, made in the U.S., that can be taken apart and reused in a variety of creative ways, according to Medders.

“Our beads are made from kids’ craft beads, 100 percent virgin polystyrene plastic [the same material used in food-safe packaging and kids’ toys],” he said. “While plastics aren’t ‘green’ in the traditional sense, our beads are fully recyclable using the city recycling program, which puts us worlds ahead of the metallic beads. They can also be taken apart and used in craft projects, hair styling, or tons of other fun uses.”

For Medders and Bayou Throws, going Mardi Gras green means a return to a bygone time, when bigger wasn’t necessarily better, and keeping things local was key.

“In this case, ‘green’ inherently means a return to more quality throws over quantity,” he said. “There are the obvious reasons for being green and helping to save the planet, but even more so, finding ways to employ local people, making a local product, makes us all better off. Besides, parade-goers don’t want to catch plain old, bulk metallic beads any longer. Why would we keep spending our hard-earned throw money on something nobody wants?”

Bayou Throws beads are available in more than 50 colors, for ultimate customization options, and bulk orders are accepted.

“Our operations can be scaled very quickly and to order,” Medders said. “Each person we hire can make 4-6 dozen necklaces per hour. The more orders we get, the more people we can hire. We absolutely want to partner with any krewe that will have us. We have a very good relationship with the Krewe of King Arthur already and would very much like to expand our footprint.”


 

Float On!

2019 Carnival Parade Calendar

 

Saturday, Feb. 9

Krewe of Chewbacchus
7 p.m., Marigny

 

Friday, Feb. 15

Krewe Bohème
7 p.m., French Quarter

 

Saturday, Feb. 16

Krewe du Vieux
6:30 p.m., French Quarter

 

Krewe Delusion
7 p.m., French Quarter

 

Sunday, Feb. 17

Krewe of Little Rascals
12 p.m., Metairie

 

‘tit Rx
4:30 p.m., Marigny

 

Friday, Feb. 22

Krewe of Cork
3 p.m., French Quarter

 

Krewe of Oshun
6 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Cleopatra
6:30 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Excalibur
7:30 p.m. Metairie

 

Saturday, Feb. 23

Krewe of Pontchartrain
1 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Choctaw
follows

 

Krewe of Freret
follows

 

Knights of Sparta
5:30 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Pygmalion
follows

 

Krewe of Ceasar
5:30, Metairie

 

Sunday, Feb 24

The Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale
11 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Carrollton
follows

 

Krewe of King Arthur and Merlin
follows

 

Krewe of Alla
follows

 

Krewe of Kings
5:30 p.m., Metairie

 

Wednesday, Feb. 27

Krewe of Druids
6:30 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Nyx
7 p.m., Uptown

 

Thursday, Feb. 28

Knights of Babylon
5:30 p.m., Uptown

 

Knights of Chaos
6:15 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Muses
6:30 p.m., Uptown

 

Friday, Mar. 1

Krewe of Hermes
6 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe d’Etat
6:30, Uptown

 

Krewe of Morpheus
7 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Centurions
6:30 p.m., Metairie

 

Saturday, Mar. 2

Krewe of NOMTOC
10:45 a.m., Westbank

 

Krewe of Iris
11 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Tucks
11 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Endymion
4:15 p.m., Mid-City

 

Krewe of Isis
6:30 p.m., Metairie

 

Sunday, Mar. 3

Krewe of Okeanos
11 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Mid-City
11:45 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Thoth
12 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Bacchus
5:15 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Athena
5:30 p.m., Metairie

 

Krewe of Pandora
6:30 p.m., Metairie

 

Monday, Mar. 4

Krewe of Proteus
5:15 p.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Orpheus
6 p.m., Uptown

 

Tuesday, Mar. 5

Krewe of Zulu
8 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Rex
10 a.m., Uptown

 

Krewe of Elks Orleans
follows

 

Krewe of Crescent City
follows

 

Krewe of Argus
10 a.m., Metairie

 

Krewe of Elks Jefferson
follows

 

Krewe of Jefferson
follows


 

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