New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras and Mardi Gras is known for beads (among other things.)
Today was a day when two things that are important to me came to the forefront of our work here: the environment and opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities.
The Mardi Gras Recycling Company is one of several projects run by the Arc of Greater New Orleans. Tens of thousands of pounds of the beads thrown from parade floats during Carnival Season are put into collection bins and sent to the Arc. There, workers who have intellectual disabilities sort, band, and bag them. Then they sell them back to the krewes (groups) that run parades. Today, a number of us helped them for a few hours.
This isn't really recycling, it's reusing. That's even better for the environment, as recycling takes significant energy and can put things into the environment that might be better left out. It's worth noting that even with this project and a similar one in the city, most of the beads still end up in landfills. Since the beads are plastic, they'll stay there forever. Quite sad, really.
Another thing to note is that the workers at the Arc get at least minimum wage, not the piece or percentage rates of sheltered workshops. They also receive training so they can get better jobs later.
We also toured the French Quarter today and learned a new word. More on that tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, we learned that while the unsavory or risque aspects of Carnival & Mardi Gras get tons of press, much of it is very family friendly.
What programs do you know of that do well helping the environment or people with disabilities or both? What causes are important to you?