How to be Eco-Friendly During Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras Traditions Differ from State to State
Ah yes, Mardi Gras. The images that are immediately conjured are certainly exuberant. The floats rolling down the streets of New Orleans, the masks, the beads. Delicious cake! (Maybe a touch more alcohol than absolutely necessary... )
Mardi Gras is a part of Carnival, which is celebrated intensely in countries with a heavy Christian influence around the world such as Brazil. When it comes to Mardi Gras traditions in the US though, most people think it started in Louisiana, and we can see why.
Of course people think of New Orleans when they think of Mardi Gras - They are certainly the biggest and loudest celebrations, but they aren’t the oldest in the country. That title belongs to another port city on the Gulf of Mexico, and even a former capital of Louisiana, but it may not be the city you’re thinking of (unless you already know!). We’ll get into the history of how that came to pass, but first:
What is Mardi Gras?
For readers who aren’t yet familiar with what Mardi Gras is or where it came from, Mardi Gras is French for ‘Fat Tuesday’. It is a tradition that can be traced all the way back to the pagan
Times with roots in medieval Europe. These traditions survived the ages through to the 17th century, in France. The tradition of boeuf gras - French for fat calf is the grandfather of Mardi Gras as we know it.
It’s a Christian tradition that was especially popular among Catholics. It takes place on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, according to the Christian calendar. It is also known as the annual Carnival celebration. It wasn’t until it landed in America that it would become the pop culture phenomenon that it has, however.
The Origins of American Mardi Gras
Knowing where Mardi Gras originally came from, it is not surprising that it was French settlers who brought it to this continent. What may be surprising, however, is that the first celebrations that were held in America, were in Mobile Alabama, not New Orleans.
Among the first to bring this tradition to the US was also a French Canadian with a very long name: Jean Baptist Le Moyne de Bienville. He also happens to be the one who founded the settlement which is now known as Mobile Alabama, so the history between Mardi Gras and this city has deep, deep roots.
Familiar Gras Traditions, Born in AlabamaThe Masked Ball
Until 1704, Mardi Gras was celebrated with feasting, much like a Thanksgiving celebration, though in a different spirit. That year, the first masked ball: Masque de la Mobile began this tradition!
The First Parade
The first parade was in 1711, but it looked only a little bit different, with 16 men pushing a cart upon which as a paper maché model of a cow's head! The raucous version of celebrations that we now associate with Mardi Gras has its roots in the 1830s, when a group of revelers went parading with hoes, rakes, and cowbells making a racket!
Mardi Gras Beads
Another tradition that is closely associated with Mardi Gras is the beads. They are usually in the traditional colors of Mardi Gray - Green, Purple, and Gold. in 1892 these were deemed to be symbolic. Purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Of course, today the now plastic Mardi Gras beads have an unfortunate environmental downside.
With a tradition that runs so deep, there must be a way to celebrate without causing harm to the incredible ecosystems of Alabama, Louisiana, and elsewhere. Well, it just so happens that we have some tips!
How to be Eco-Friendly During Mardi Gras
There are actually a number of ways that you can celebrate Mardi Gras that are eco-friendly so you can party hearty and keep a clean conscience at the same time!
Recycle Your Beads
There is an organization that recycles Mardi Gras throws. ArcGNO also employs folks with disabilities so it’s a great program all around.
You can also source out biodegradable throws and beads, so no matter what, you know they won’t cause much harm to the environment.Ride Your Bike to the Parades
One of the best ways to get around the festivities is by bike - and hey, it’s better for the environment.
Start a Compost Bin and Grow a Garden of Food
Composting is one of the most rewarding practices you can pick up, and the leftovers from a massive feast make a great start! You can use a beautiful, smell-proof countertop Noaway compost bin to create compost and fertilize your new garden. You will, however, need to learn what goes in the compost bin and what doesn’t.
Can You Compost King Cake?
The short answer is probably not. While starting a compost and a garden, or even just taking up composting makes a great way to have a more eco-friendly mardi gras, it’s not a great idea to put any kind of cakes in your compost. They can mold and attract pests, so, do yourselves a favor, and keep the King Cake out of the compost bin!
Mardi Gras is a fantastic Southern tradition and a fun celebration, no matter which city you are celebrating from. We hope you enjoy an eco-friendly Mardi Gras this year!