The Greentrepreneur: ZomBeads

DSC_0119ZomBeads is a socially conscious, community-driven business that is working to green Mardi Gras, one throw at a time. ZomBeads sells locally-produced Mardi Gras throws that are made of repurposed and recycled materials by artists from the community – raising the quality of throws while decreasing their environmental impact. As a for-benefit business, ZomBeads actively measures and tracks its social and environmental impacts on New Orleans, leveraging partnerships and collaborations to move their mission forward. Profits from ZomBeads go to support the work of the local environmental and social justice non-profit organization, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

Rie Ma, Project Lead, answered some question about her experience as a leader of ZomBeads and how the organization is contributing the Greening Mardi Gras movement in the City:

Q1. What are some of your proudest moments as leader of ZomBeads?

“One of the proudest moments that I have felt as a leader of ZomBeads was having the opportunity to meet with director David Redmon, of Mardi Gras: Made in China fame. That movie has been a huge gateway for many people in terms of their initial recognition of the issues facing our current Mardi Gras traditions, so it was fantastic to meet with him and help support his future projects.”

Q2. How would you describe the Greening Mardi Gras movement in New Orleans and how ZomBeads fits in with it?

ZomBeads paper beads - a recycled alternative to plastic throws.

ZomBeads paper beads – a recycled alternative to plastic throws.

“The Greening Mardi Gras movement in New Orleans is definitely young, so we are thrilled to have ZomBeads be a part of its foundation. Especially with the impending formation of a green Carnival roundtable, we look forward to building the movement by contributing information and offering sustainable throw alternatives. Through this roundtable and other efforts, we are also looking forward to seeing the Greening Mardi Gras movement begin to support the overall green movement in New Orleans and Louisiana.”

Q3. How does your organization go about improving your social and environmental impacts?

“From the outset, ZomBeads has aimed to have up-to-date social and environmental metrics against which to measure our products and policies. We have had success developing some initial measures, including wages and production location to judge our social responsibility, and product lifespan and recyclability to assess our environmental impact. We are looking forward to building out this accountability with LifeCity!”

Q4. What partnerships have you formed in order to leverage sustainable impact as an organization?

“To leverage our sustainable impact, we have formed partnerships with LifeCity, Verdi Gras, the ARC of Greater New Orleans and Ubuntu At Work, among others. With these organizations, we are working to form a roundtable group to build out the sector on all fronts: for- and non-profit, retail, services, and awareness. Furthermore, all of ZomBeads’ profits go to support the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental and social justice non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Louisiana’s air from industrial pollution. As part of the wider green movement across the state, ZomBeads is proud to extend our sustainable impact beyond our immediate business.”

zombeadsQ5. If you had a magic wand to change one thing that would make it easier for your company or other companies to promote a more sustainable New Orleans, what would that thing be?

“If I had a magic wand that could change one thing to better promote a sustainable Mardi Gras in New Orleans, I would remove the unspoken mandate that krewes need to throw the MOST, rather than the BEST stuff. Everyone knows that no one wants the cheap plastic beads, but we have been trapped in a catch 22 of quantity over quality: riders don’t want to move away from quantity for fear of being called “cheap,” but the audience actively dodges the cheap beads getting thrown.”

Q6. What advice would you give to other businesses who are trying to improve their internal practices to benefit their city and state?

“I would advise other businesses trying to improve their internal practices to commit to moving the paradigm away from the lowest common denominator. Whatever your business is, take the paths that will bring the best to your community, whether it’s by using environmentally sound materials, hiring local labor, or highlighting your community’s culture or history.”

Q7. Anything else you would like to tell our community of Green Card members and Green Businesses like special promotions or events coming up?

“We would love to highlight our interest in working with creative krewes to develop unique customized throws for their particular themes.”

To learn more about ZomBeads, check out their website.