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How 2 Louisiana groups are working toward a more environmentally-friendly Mardi Gras

Buttons for the Krewe of Tradition based in Houma.
Kezia Setyawan
WWNO/Kezia Setyawan
Buttons for the Krewe of Tradition based in Houma.

With the return of in-person Mardi Gras, some organizers and advocates are pushing toward a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly Carnival season.

In 2020, the year before Mardi Gras parades were nixed due to the pandemic, city officials said more than 1,000 tons of trash were collected in New Orleans. For two groups — one based in New Orleans and the other Houma, the reduction of harmful trash post-parades starts with changing the throws.

New Orleans-based Grounds Krewe is one of several nonprofit organizations working to reduce trash and environmental impact caused by Mardi Gras festivities.

“It's basically a teaching moment, turning Mardi Gras from this huge embarrassing wasteful moment into a way to educate people about throws and what they could be and the vision for a local throw economy,” Davis said.

The group was formed in 2017 by Brett Davis, where they have expanded to multiple ventures including TrashFormers, a marching krewe that collects waste as they pass by parade crowds, to building a local throw catalog.

In collaboration with ArcGNO, GroundsKrewe volunteers are collecting throw donations and setting up recycling stations on parade routes this weekend.

“We found if we work the first weekend, people actually are still enthusiastic about keeping their throws,” Davis said. “But by the second weekend, they've seen so many parades, they're happy to donate stuff.”

Davis has seen the expansion in the group’s local throw catalog. This year, the group has sold over 17,000 individual throws to riders and various parades across the state, compared to 2020 when more than 2,000 food throws were sold.

“The interest has been really good considering that we're still sort of recovering from the interruption and cancellation from last year,” Davis said.

This year, the group prepared 1,000 throw packages for the Krewe of Iris, which rolls Saturday morning and is getting the first Krewe-branded collection of eco-friendly throws. Items include red beans, bamboo toothbrushes, jambalaya mix and more.

Davis, who said the group's throws are both functional and made by Louisianans, is hopeful to see more krewes and parades take part in the local throw economy.

In Houma, the Krewe of Tradition started in 2013 with the goal to revive the tradition of masquerading on Mardi Gras Day. The group will host their annual foot parade and costume contest on Feb. 27 in Houma and encourages all participants to come in costume and bring eco-friendly throws to hand out during this walking parade.

The Krewe of Tradition 2022 Tableau event.
Kezia Setyawan/WWNO
The Krewe of Tradition 2022 Tableau event.

The group started handing out their signature pecan throws after it was suggested by longtime krewe member Sally Gautreaux, who suggested something local and plentiful to the area. Organizer Shannon Eaton said krewe members create each handmade throw to share with attendees.

“And we recently started attaching pin backs to them so that they’re wearable art and also magnets so that they're functional instead of just a pecan and that sits on your mantel or coffee table,” Eaton said. “We want it to actually have a function in the partygoer’s life.”

This year, the krewe has also been invited to speak at the Jazz Fest’s Folklife Village for their throws. Eaton said that the push towards an environmentally friendly carnival season is all just a part of a bigger trend in which more and more people are participating.

“I want people to know we didn't invent the concept of sustainable throws — we just jumped on the bandwagon,” Eaton said.

Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.

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