Carnival is loyal to tradition (which it should be), but it has also been flexible to change when needed (which it must be). We see a major change coming, already in bits and pieces, but overwhelmingly so within a few years. A celebration that disperses “throws” to hundreds of thousands of people must find a way to make its bling greener. We are not talking about beads made out of tofu, but of items that can be recycled, that are biodegradable or that can serve other purposes or that have some lasting values. (A couple of years ago Muses tossed out Band-Aid type medal boxes filled with strips each wrapped in the Muses logo. We still keep a box among the emergency supplies in the desk.)

Despite much competition, beads remain the most popular throw item. From a rider’s perspective they’re easy to throw; for a spectator they’re easy to snatch from the air. There is the thrill of the hunt to catching them especially in competition with other outstretched hand. (We do maintain, however, that no one needs to be wearing more than 50 pairs of beads at one time.) We also find an only-in-New-Orleans charm to the sight of last season’s beads dangling from phone wires and trees as though they grow wild here like kudzu.

Imagine, though, if those beads were biodegradable, and that one day they could nourish the ground below them while making space above for the next season’s stash of throws.
Some of the smaller krewes and walking groups have already started looking for alternatives. For the bigger groups – such as the superkrewes, which are throwing machines – the challenge, and the expense, at least initially, will probably be greater, but it’s worth the effort.

Mardi Gras is already beloved for the joy it brings to the soul. Imagine if it could do the same for the environment.