Verdi Gras, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting a greener Mardi Gras, is holding a conference this evening that will bring together carnival krewes, local artists and environmental experts to brainstorm about ways to reduce the carbon footprint of Mardi Gras.
They're also trying to keep more of the money here, by providing local alternatives to foreign throws. "Pretty much all of our throws are lower cost than is currently being paid for Mardi Gras beads. It's very, very competitive. Literally our Mardi Gras beads are cheaper than their Mardi Gras beads," says organizer Katrina Brees. And it's not just that the money is flowing out of this region for the millions of dollars spent on throws, as she says, "The research is showing that they're (Chinese beads) very dangerous to children, to adults. The type of plastic that is used is like a very cheap, unhealthy plastic."
Brees says Verdi Gras' motto is "It's the show not the throw," meaning they're also encouraging krewes to focus less on the beads and more on the drama of the costumes and floats.
Kirk Groh, a co-founder of the organization says, "While we appreciate the tradition of throws, we hope to discourage reliance on foreign, petroleum-based plastics and move toward more locally created, environmentally friendly throws."
Several local carnival organizations are participating in the conference organizers say, including the Krewe of Rex, Krewe of Kolossos, ARC of Greater New Orleans, Bucket Brigade, Zombeads and Life City.
Verdi Gras is also inviting representatives from all parading krewes to attend.
The conference will feature a report on the environmental and economic impact of the reliance on foreign throws, a presentation on the art of float making and samples of alternative throws crafted by local artists, including locally produced beads, low cost craft items, and edibles like small bags of Jambalaya mix.
"This is a great economic opportunity for the local artistic community," Groh says. "It's not just an issue of environmental sustainability but of helping to sustain the local arts community."
Greening Carnival: A Conference on Environmental and Economic Transformation will be held from 5:30 PM-7:30 PM Tuesday, Dec. 4, at Cafe Istanbul in the Healing Center, 2372 St Claude Ave.