It's Mardi Gras! How to Celebrate the Holiday Sustainably

Did you know they make biodegradable Mardi Gras throws?!

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Feb. 13 2024, Updated 10:18 a.m. ET

Sustainable Mardi Gras
Source: Getty Images

Between the beads, masks, glitter, and confetti, Mardi Gras can be just as wasteful as it is fun. Case in point: in early 2018, a massive four-month cleanup of storm drains along a Mardi Gras parade route in downtown New Orleans resulted in the recovery of 7.2 million pounds of trash, 93,000 pounds of which were Carnival beads, according to Reuters.

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There's no time like the present to try to make your Mardi Gras a bit more environmentally sustainable than it was last year. Keep reading for our best tips for keeping Mardi Gras 2024 as zero-waste as possible, while still enjoying Fat Tuesday in all its glory.

Have a sustainable Mardi Gras with reusable and biodegradable throws.

Mardi Gras beads and accessories are also known as throws — because they are thrown into crowds during Mardi Gras parades and celebrations. So for that reason, simply reusing beads year after year isn’t always an option, and it’s imperative that people start using biodegradable alternatives to plastic-based beads.

In 2019, Louisiana State University Professor Naohiro Kato made headlines for inventing biodegradable Mardi Gras beads and doubloons made from algae. His creations have had a long and expensive development process. Fortunately, there are plenty of other options you can still score before the big day.

Get Grounds Krewe’s edible Mardi Gras beads.

The organization Grounds Krewe sells Throw Some Local Flavor throws, which are biodegradable, reusable jute bags filled with coffee beans, red beans, and a mix of jambalaya beans. If you have beans left after the celebrations, you can cook and then eat or brew the beans!

Check out Epiphany Throws' throws and beads.

Epiphany Throws makes a number of handmade Mardi Gras accessories.

For example, the company's Demeter Necklaces are handmade using fair trade practices in Peru, using dyed açaí seeds and cotton cord.

Epiphany Throws also makes the handmade Ceramic, Acai & Bombona Seed Bracelet, which is also made in Peru and uses açaí, bombona, and ceramic seeds bracelet on a waxed cotton cord.

Atlas Handmade Beads makes throws using recycled magazine paper.

Atlas Handmade Beads makes a few eco-friendly Mardi Gras accessories.

The Mardi Gras "Big Bead" Necklaces and Mardi Gras Bracelets are made from recycled magazine paper, and crafted by women in Uganda.

Atlas also handcrafts Mardi Gras Earrings, the Mardi Gras Standard Necklace, and more.

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Get these earrings made from upcycled wood tokens.

Etsy seller TurtleAndTree makes Hand-Painted Mardi Gras Earrings out of rescued wood tokens, and finishes them off by painting them in a Mardi Gras color scheme. Each unique pair is $12.50, and they’re certainly something you can wear at Mardi Gras each year.

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Buy natural, reusable decorations.

This Mardi Gras Burlap Banner by Etsy shop cardstaylormade will bring a pop of color to your home on Fat Tuesday. The handmade banner is made from burlap and twine, and can be reused year after year.

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Make your own Mardi Gras confetti and decorations.

Paper confetti on a white background
Source: iStock

This year is a great time to get crafty, especially if you’ll be celebrating Mardi Gras at home. Check out our guide to making eco-friendly DIY confetti; if you’re handy with cardboard or wood, try creating and decorating your own doubloons; you can also make your own Mardi Gras garland with paper, thread, scissors, glue, and a sewing machine thanks to this tutorial by the blog Vicky Barone.

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Donate leftover beads to ArcGNO.

The organization ArcGNO collects donations of leftover Mardi Gras throws, and employs individuals with intellectual disabilities to sort and repackage them. You can donate your leftover throws to ArcGNO, donate funds to the organization, buy repurposed throws from ArcGNO, or, if you live in New Orleans, you can even volunteer at ArcGNO’s Mardi Gras Recycle Center.

This article, originally published on Feb. 11, 2021, has been updated.

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