Throw Me Somethin' Sustainable Mister!
A Glance at Our Parade Waste
For a sustainable brand that cares for both the environmental protection of Louisiana and the incredible culture, Mardi Gras can conjure up some conflicting emotions. On one hand, the parades, the music, the community, and the joy of Mardi Gras is second to none. On the other, the sheer amount of waste, plastic, and trash strewn about the streets in the aftermath of a Super Krewe rolling down St. Charles Ave can be really a distressing sight.
The excessive waste from parades is not only an environmental issue. It's an infrastructure issue too, as every year tons of beads and trinkets clog our storm drains. Additionally, it’s a taxpayer issue. We spend millions of taxpayer dollars during the 2 weeks of parades for the sanitation department to pick up the mess.
Brett Davis, the founder of Grounds Krewe, one of our non-profit partners, is out to create some change. Grounds Krewe was founded in 2018 as a non-profit whose mission is to lower the waste impact of Mardi Gras on our beloved city of New Orleans. We interviewed him to learn more about the Grounds Krewe initiatives and to kick off our collaborative giveaway. Read to the end to get the details on how to enter to win some awesome goodies!
A New Orleanian Environmentalist
Brett grew up in New Orleans, a few blocks away from the Uptown parade routes. For those who are wondering (and we know there are a few), Brett went to Newman High School but explains that "socially, I'm a Ben Franklin person". He has spent his whole life going to Mardi Gras parades, it's an integral part of who he is, just like any other New Orleanian. Another integral part of his life is the outdoors. He spent his weekends fishing and hunting at his family's cabin on the Little Tchefuncte River. This is where he cultivated his connection to nature and his identity as a lifelong environmentalist.
A few years back, while running his own architectural design business, he had a nagging feeling that he needed to do something big, something more for the environment.
The decision to tackle environmental issues can seem really daunting, we know a little bit about that here at LAYA Active. So, he turned his gaze locally to New Orleans and started volunteering for recycling programs at local festivals. Thus the seed was planted for Grounds Krewe with a simple question:
"What about Mardi Gras?"
For their first two Mardi Gras' in 2018 and 2019, the goal was simple: supply people with bags at the start of the parade to be filled with extra throws, beads, or recyclable trash, and pick up the bags at the end of the parade. This offered a service to parade spectators who usually only have the option of either throwing what they don't want on the ground or lugging a huge mass of plastic throws home. It also allowed Grounds Krewe to engage with spectators and spread their message. It was a success, public support was overwhelming and they even got some media coverage.
However, it quickly occurred to Brett that this was only a short-term solution. Super krewes rely on the mass production of plastic trinkets made quickly and with cheap labor overseas. That's a lot of plastic for something with such a short shelf life. The throws serve to capture the attention of spectators for the day, maybe the season, and then all too often they get left up in the attic to collect dust with the beads and bobbles from seasons past. I know I have a bag or two of beads in my attic right now doing just that.
Enter the long-term goal for Grounds Krewe: to create a local Mardi Gras throw economy. In January 2020, Grounds Krewe created their first sustainable throw catalog, complete with throws from Camellia Red Beans, Jambalaya Girl, and New Orleans Roast. They paid individuals from their partner non-profit, Arc of Greater New Orleans, to complete the low-skill labor of packaging the throws.
"It was a hit! But then..."
In 7 weeks, they sold out of 16,000 throws for the Mardi Gras 2020 season. They were "pumping on every gear" with news coverage and plans for the coming year. And then, well...we all know what happened next. As Covid became an inescapable reality, all of their momentum "evaporated over night."
Ripe with the New Orleans spirit of resilience, Grounds Krewe is back at it with Mardi Gras 2022. They have expanded their sustainable throw catalog to include cups made from recycled plastic, bamboo toothbrushes, soap from a soap-maker in Port Allen, and palm tree seed beads from a co-op in Belize. Their goal is to create a local Mardi Gras throw market that supplies cost comparative throws to the super krewes. These throws are made from small businesses, they have cultural significance, and they create seasonal packaging jobs for local workers.
And, some krewes are already catching on! Krewe of Iris has outfitted their entire parade with sustainable throws for their 2022 ride.
How You Can Help
As Grounds Krewe continues their efforts to supply the big Mardi Gras day parades with sustainable throws, they also have their sights set on implementing sustainable practices at our many festivals throughout the year. Stay up to date on their initiatives by following their instagram here.
Additionally, you can donate to Grounds Krewe directly while purchasing LAYA Active! Simply select their cause from our "You Shop, We Give" section found on each product page and 6% of the proceeds from your purchase will automatically be donated to their cause.
With all these awesome initiatives, we are thrilled to announce a collaborative giveaway! We are giving away a matching set from our 2022 Parade Collection (made from recycled water bottles) and a goody bag filled with sustainable Mardi Gras throws from Grounds Krewe. To enter to win on instagram, click this link here!
Have a happy Mardi Gras season y'all!
Stay safe, and we hope that this gets the wheels turning on how you can make your Mardi Gras a little bit safer for our beautiful Louisiana.