By James Haralson While thousands will make their way to New Orleans this week for Mardi Gras and pump money into the City’s economy, the festivities do add a large burden to the environment. According to a 2012 LA Times article, an estimated “25 million pounds of plastic beads make their way to the city every year,” mainly imported from China and other countries with cheap production costs. This glaring statistic is what prompted local organizations like Arc Enterprises and Verdi Gras to put together a “Catch & Release” float last year, which allowed parade-goers to throw their beads into the float instead of trashing them. (Watch out for the "Catch & Release" trailer this year at Argus in Jefferson Parish!). The Catch & Release trailer was also the winning idea of LifeCity's Green the Gras: A Mardi Gras Business Competition. One key way to reduce the environmental impact of Mardi Gras throws is to shift the production to locally-based vendors. In December, local organizations met to discuss strategies that would streamline the production process and make the festivities more environmentally-friendly for the city. Companies like Zombeads and I Heart Louisiana are taking this idea to the next level by manufacturing throws locally with recycled materials and local food products. Conference organizer Katrina Brees told The Advocate “local buyers import the beads from China by the millions of pounds.” Brees also noted that the beads are “made from oil," a highly polluting production process. Another problem that the festivities pose for the environment is the amount of automobile traffic in New Orleans. While tourism will bring a boost to the City’s economy, Jennifer Day, The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau, told Bloomberg that an estimated one million people “will jam the city’s streets” during the Mardi Gras holiday. One key way to help reduce the amount of automobile traffic during Mardi Gras is to utilize the city’s public transportation system. Residents can choose bus or streetcar routes instead of bringing their car to the parade area. Mardi Gras New Orleans also suggests that residents bring a bicycle. This form of transportation can be especially useful when parking is full around the parade route. While Mardi Gras poses challenges to the environment, residents and local business owners can help lessen this impact by recycling and opting for more environment-friendly forms of transportation. Join us a the Mardi Green Ball on Saturday, February 9th after the Endymion parade to give back to our favorite Holiday and support local organizations that are making it greener.