Local Krewe, "Trashy Nuts" promotes Waste-Consciousness (Mardi Gras, Part 2)
I wrote Part 1 of this post for those unfamiliar with what Mardi Gras is, the history, or the negative ramifications of our use of plastic Mardi Gras beads. If you want to learn more, or want additional context, please check it out here.
Every year, we use approximately 25 million Mardi Gras beads in our festivities. In addition to plastic beads, other trash is created too: costumes, plastic cups for alcohol, parade decorations, and of course, throws. We have all grown accustomed to making trash, but there are many reasons why we should try actively to reduce the amount of trash we create.
When we send materials to a landfill, although we can’t see them any more, they certainly do not go away. The breakdown of plastics, household cleaning chemicals, and rotting organic matter in landfills causes methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases to be released into the atmosphere. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short term.” This contributes to decreasing our air quality, as well as accelerating global warming. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, landfills cause groundwater contamination, surface water pollution, fires, and negative effects on wildlife.
You may have seen the image of a turtle with a straw through its nose. This can happen when trash ends up in the ocean but sometimes this isn’t the cause of littering, these items are blown out of landfills by wind and into nature. Not only that, but if animals end up eating food from landfills, they often suffer from food poisoning which can be fatal in animals.
Decreasing our trash is good for our health, and the environment. But what does a waste-conscious perspective mean for celebrations like Mardi Gras? It’s simple: we rethink how we celebrate. We don’t have to stop having fun, stop partying, or stop celebrating to consider our impact.
In this year’s Mid City Gras parade in Baton Rouge, however, one krewe is making a point to do something about the shocking amounts of trash we create in these celebrations. In fact, they’re using trash to create every item for their march. The Mid City Gras Parade is dedicated to inclusivity, and sets the perfect stage for a new Krewe, Trashy Nuts, to join in the fun, and add to the conversation.
Three of the krewe’s organizer’s, Ruth Bowman, Emily Graves and Bonny McDonald, found themselves each personally interested in reducing their waste and raising awareness about single use plastics. When Bowman suggested the idea of forming a “trashy” krewe, everyone was immediately on board.
McDonald has spent the last few years thinking about the single use plastic problem which led her to direct a 2013 show in the HopKins Black Box at LSU called ‘Sacred Waste.’ This show addressed the plastic problem by using exclusively upcycled plastic as costuming. “I have hauled out quite a few of the costumes I kept from that show for the parade, costumes which represent hours of drilling holes and linking plastic bottle tops together,” McDonald remarked.
Each member of the krewe had to dedicate time to collecting trash and assembling their own costume and a few throws which helped each individual become aware of their own plastic consumption. Trashy Nuts also hosted “arty parties” in preparation for the parade where they formed an ssembly line to put together creative throws. McDonald said, “We also made some necklaces in place of beads that I'm really proud of. The part that goes around the neck is made from wheedwhacker plastic found in the trash, and each one has a little face made of a Playdough top. My four year old daughter Zelda designed many of the faces and I hot glued them on. Some have three eyes and horns. Some have tongues sticking out. They are precious. Like many of our throws, each one took at least ten minutes to hand-make.”
“I’ve been so inspired by some of the things I’ve seen,” Graves added, “We didn’t want to use trash to make more trash. We thought, ‘is this something we would want to catch?’ and Ruth made the decision early on not to reuse Mardi Gras beads in our creations even if they were reused because that reuse would get lost as there was no way to mark it.”
Their presence at the parade on Sunday will feature a variety of upcycled objects from melted forks, fertilizer bags, bottle caps to plastic grocery bags and more. This also includes an impressive 3-headed monster.
Finding motivation for assembling such a krewe in a desire to reduce single-use plastics, the bunch felt like Trashy Nuts was a good medium to share a message without a pushy agenda. Graves said, “We’re excited about recovering these materials. So, at least these materials have been salvaged or reclaimed. These materials won’t end up in a landfill while conveying the idea that materials can be reused and reclaimed. More than that, we’re actually attaching a little paper flag to each throw that has a message, ‘Reduce, Reuse, Refuse Single-Use Plastics!’ We’re hoping this message they are reading while they’re holding this cool thing is not so preachy because they’re still holding this thing we took time to make.”
Trashy Nuts is looking forward to participating in this particular parade for the first time. Although this is only the second year of Mid City Gras, with their dedication to diversity, intentionality, and even “greenness,” they’re sure to remain an integral part of Mid City’s yearly celebrations.
“Single use plastics are completely trashy - and not in a good way.” McDonald summarized, “The stuff is toxic and is ultimately bound to become micro-plastic in the ocean, polluting the water, the fish, and finally ourselves. We recognize that major change at the corporate level must occur for a significant shift in the production of single-use plastic plastic, but we don't think this absolves individual consumers of culpability in poisoning the earth, wildlife, and ourselves.”
McDonald continued, “The Trashy Nuts want to challenge everyone to think about reducing, reusing, and refusing single-use plastics - and we want to do it in a fun, silly way that's not terribly didactic.”
Mid City Gras Parade
1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24
North Boulevard, from 19th Street to Foster Drive
Look out for Trashy Nuts, 11th in the parade sequence.