Recycled Mardi Gras Beads Inspire Community

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Give Beads a Second Chance

Carnival 2011
Creative Commons License photo credit: dsb nola

Many people like to keep Mardi Gras beads as a colorful souvenir, as they are an important tradition for the city and community in New Orleans. You may not have thought to recycle them after the parades, but there are some great opportunities in place to make a difference by recycling Mardi Gras beads.

As part of their annual fundraising efforts, The Arc of Greater New Orleans (GNO) will collect Mardi Gras trinkets, and resell them after repackaging them as recycled beads. The Arc of GNO is a chapter of a non-profit that promotes and protects the rights of  people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Starting out as an idea by a group of concerned parents in 1953, the Arc of GNO provides job training and support services to adults with disabilities. Participating in the Mardi Gras Recycling Center program or other services operated by The Arc of GNO are great ways to help this organization continue to make a difference in their members’ lives. Check out their site for more information.

Incidentally, many people are surprised to find out that Hurricane Katrina put a stop to curbside recycling for over five years in New Orleans. As part of the revamped garbage contract with Metro Disposal in late 2010, residents were able to take part in free curbside recycling at their homes again. Remember that items like plastic cups and bottles can easily be recycled, which saves energy overall and many cities also save money for not having pay to haul garbage to a landfill.

Team Up for Recycling

Another inspiring way that this community promoted recycling is the efforts of their local basketball team, the Hornets, whose Planet Rebound initiative encouraged fans to donate their Mardi Gras beads at their home games. Incentives included a voucher for a pair of tickets to a game if you drop off a bag of beads at all major entrances at the New Orleans Arena.

Art With A Mission

New Orleans artist Stephán Wanger creates incredible mosaics out of discarded Mardi Gras beads. Since 2006, Wanger has been working on an exhibit entitled “A Million Greetings from New Orleans,” a collection of beautiful bead mosaics recreating scenes and icons of Louisiana.

According to his website, Galeria Alegria, his mission is, “To bring attention to the prevention of global warming through re-using old materials. New buildings and new furniture take energy to build. Utilizing old buildings and salvaged materials saves energy. Mardi Gras parades generate about 2,000 tons of trash – every year. Most of the trash is beads, lots of beads.” In addition, Wanger hopes,”To inspire the people locally by demonstrating and emphasizing that through art, ‘trash’ can make people happy. The more trash a civilization creates, the less room there is for living things. It takes energy to manage trash. Nature and garbage can co-exist if we, as a society, take the time to evaluate items that we usually throw away. As is the case of Galeria Alegria utilizing beads and unique forms of ‘canvases.'”

This Mardi Gras season, Wanger is working on a piece for the exhibit that will attempt the Guinness World Record for a mosaic made out of Mardi Gras beads. The piece, Skyline will depict just that- a scene of the river featuring the skyline of downtown New Orleans. When complete, it will be 8 feet tall, 30 feet wide, and made of 97% recycled Mardi Gras beads. You can be a part of this amazing endeavor by donating your Mardi Gras beads to Galeria Alegria at 1914 Magazine Street or at St. Michael Special School at 1522 Chippewa Street.

“A Million Greetings from New Orleans” will travel around Europe in 2012 to promote Louisiana and New Orleans and increase tourism.

Read more about Skyline and visit for more about “A Million Greetings from New Orleans”.

What community events do you have in your town where you can go the extra mile to recycle?


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