Photo by Neil Cooler.

DRUNK PEOPLE OF NEW ORLEANS! We know you need that plastic flotsam in order to see some boobs, because of I guess longstanding tradition dating back to before you could see boobs on the internet without even trying. But it’s basically an ecological nightmare, so if you can’t find some ladies who are willing to take their tops off in exchange for tofu or offset credits or something else environmentally responsible, at least be mindful about how you dispose of your extra beads.

New Orleans plays host to a crazy 25 million pounds of plastic frippery every year, and traditional recycling centers can’t process Mardi Gras beads. So local nonprofits have launched some innovative recycling programs, like one that proposes to have people trade beads to businesses (which would collect and reuse them) in exchange for the use of a clean bathroom. And artist Stephan Wanger converts discarded beads into gigantic mosaic murals:

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In a slightly more conventional move, other organizations are collecting and reselling beads themselves or setting up bead collection bins.

Activists worry that the bead waste is a symptom of New Orleans’ larger indifference to the environment, even in the wake of Katrina’s destruction. So curbing the bead carnage might be an uphill battle, but maybe also a character-building one — sort of the Lent to New Orleans’ usual Mardi Gras attitude.

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