A lot of trash piles up at our school. From food waste to single-use plastics to fast fashion, the dumpsters outside our dorms never seem to be empty. This isn’t exclusive to dorms either; off-campus housing also adds to the never-ending amounts of waste, recycling, and food. Tulane’s undergrad population constantly orders takeout, receiving cardboard and plastic packages, not to mention the number of red solo cups tossed to the ground on the weekends. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, to find out that New Orleans has previously been ranked among the top 10 least sustainable cities in the US (Bloomberg, 2017).
Acknowledging the problem is a great first step, but dealing with it is quite another. Together, our student body needs to address the many ways that we can reduce our impact and keep New Orleans clean!
Everyone’s favorite holiday, Mardi Gras, came and went, making it important to think about our individual effects on polluting New Orleans. Mardi Gras means joy and fun, but there are ways to partake in the festivities without clogging storm drains or creating health hazards.
It’s been normalized by students to order multiple new outfits, face glitter, sequins, plastic beads, etc. This, plus the amount of plastic used to for food and beverages, ends up making Mardi Gras one of the most destructive events of the year. It’s easy to think, “I’m only one person. I can’t change much….how bad can it really be?” This mentality creates a butterfly effect of ignorance. Many of us are guests in New Orleans, so we need to start acting like it. These examples are just a few of many – you can read more about the environmental effects of Mardi Gras here:
Making a Difference After Mardi Gras:
Mardi Gras is something that will likely never go away. Millions of beads and throws will continue to be handed out year after year. Aside from Muses shoes and Zulu coconuts, these throws are primarily manufactured in China. They litter the streets and clog storm drains, leaving many of us unsure about what to do with our beads when the holiday ends. Luckily, ArcGNO is an organization that collects and recycles beads year-round. They station bins across the city where you can drop off bags of beads and throws. This incredible organization makes a huge difference in reducing the environmental impact of Mardi Gras week.
Check out their website for drop off locations: https://arcgno.org/mardi-gras-beads/
It’s A Year-Round Issue!
New Orleans trash pickup services have slowed down since Ida, causing trash to pile up. Recycling has also been inconsistent, resulting in families choosing to send their bottles and cardboard to landfills. And composting? it’s somewhat of a fairy tale in New Orleans. Luckily, there are places you can take your recycling to ensure it ends up in the right place. Many Tulane students work with Glass Half Full NOLA. This organization recycles glass for disaster relief and the creation of new glass products, sand, and more. They have drop off sites across the city, too.
Learn more on their website: https://glasshalffullnola.org/home.
New Orleans may not be the most sustainable of places, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make an impact. There is a minimal effort to encourage composting in the city, but it’s an incredible way to reduce your footprint. Compost NOW is an organization that collects food scraps at various locations across the city.
Find more information about where to drop off your compost here: https://www.compost-now.org.
Simple things YOU can do every day to help keep the earth green:
- Save old jars for potting plants (a bonus: it looks cute)
- Shop secondhand whenever possible (ensuring that you won’t be caught twinning) (https://tulanemagazine.com/second-hand-is-our-first-choice-nowadays/)
- Use bar dish soap/shampoo/conditioner, recycled household materials
- Limit paper towel usage
- Save plastic or glass bottles for your roadies (only glass if you won’t drop it though… safety first!)
- Bring reusable bags to the grocery store
- Volunteer for one of the organizations listed above (looks good on your resume!)
- Turn off the lights
- Walk places, or take the streetcar!
- Try going meatless one day a week or more
- Buy/sell your furniture from Facebook Marketplace
At the end of the day, the main way to reduce environmentally detrimental behaviors in New Orleans is through direct action. Like anything, every-day environmentalism is a spectrum: you can go full-blown vegan, or you can make the switch to reusable spoons over plastic. Even the smallest of choices every day makes a difference.
If you have any ideas for how we can improve sustainability at Tulane, please reach out! We’d love to add to this list so it’s as comprehensive as possible.
Cover Photo: Grace Grottesman
Grace Gottesman is a junior from Seattle, WA who enjoys film photography, traveling, and cooking! Through the Crescent, Grace wants to share her love for art, mental health and wellness, sustainability, and her favorite city, New Orleans.