What the People Want for the Future of New Orleans – A creative mapping project of the Love Your City Awards

On Thursday, January 25th, 2018 I volunteered at the Love Your City Awards Gala, where I engaged with participants in a map that consisted of sustainability and resiliency features of New Orleans. Together, we discussed current features both existent and nonexistent but hoped to be achieved in the future.

It was pleasing to learn about the many aspirations people have for the future of New Orleans. These were the most popular topics:

  • waste management (recycling, trash)
  • infrastructure (bike lanes),
  • social diversity
  • green vegetation (urban gardens, trees, urban forests)

As a result of interacting with these participants, I began to feel very proud of the city of New Orleans and amazed at how socially and environmentally-conscious the business and impact leaders of this great city are.

Multiple individuals hoped for more and better recycling, specifically of glass. It is clear that we have insufficient glass recycling in the city and must improve the waste management system to incorporate this important aspect of sustainability.

One thing that really stood out to me was that, although extensive, changes are necessary and desired. Small-scale, simple alterations can have immense effects and are sometimes just as effective. I realized that sometimes people have the misconception that these simple ideas are not actually effective and can even be a waste of time to pursue. For example, one woman had a great idea to change labels of bins from “trash or “garbage” to “landfill” to help remind people that our trash does not simply disappear and to make them think twice about throwing out materials that could potentially be avoided, reused, or recycled. I think these small-scale, simple measures, in combination with large-scale changes, are vital for sustainability and social success.

Almost everyone had a strong opinion about green spaces and were advocating for an increase in vegetation, trees, and urban gardens. Planting more trees is an easy task that can have huge impacts on CO2 levels, and, consequently, climate change. Furthermore, urban gardens were arguably the most popular topic amongst participants. It was generally agreed upon that urban gardens have the potential to improve dietary health (especially with the proper use of organics), improve food security, facilitate community interactions, absorb flooding, reduce CO2, and global warming. Moreover, the actual act of gardening improves human wellbeing and creates a culture of environmental education and connection to nature. Green spaces also provide a valuable contribution to managing surface water run off and floods, which is especially important in New Orleans.

To my surprise, an intricately planned out bike line was drawn out on the map, from uptown all the way to the Bywater. As the number of cyclists in New Orleans increases, bike lanes are becoming more desired and practical. Pursuing this will create more efficient transportation and reduce the amount of fossil fuel combustion pollution emitted from vehicles.

– Ethan Szerlip