Mardi Gras Beads: Sweatshops, Pollution, And Other Dirty Little Secrets

By | February 24, 2020

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Mardi Gras cleanup is a monumental task. (

If you've ever been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or if you've even heard of either one of those things, you know that part of the experience is catching colorful Mardi Gras beads. Little do these bead-chasers know, however, that whatever nefarious deeds they did to get them, the acts that brought the beads into being were far worse. Let's examine why people throw beads, the sweatshops that make them, the environmental hazard they present, and how on Earth we can solve any of those problems. (Obviously, canceling Mardi Gras is not an option.)

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Mardi Gras revelers on Bourbon Street. (

What You Should Know About Mardi Gras Beads

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a spectacle not often seen in these non-Roman times. Swarms of merrymakers, most of them drunk, line the parade route to see the bright and gaudy floats, and of course, to catch the beads thrown to the crowd by the floaters. The beads are highly coveted, so partygoers often take outrageous measures to persuade the beadkeepers to toss some their way, most of which involve some degree of indecent exposure. They might not be aware that they could just buy some beads from a street vendor or in any of the souvenir shops that dot Bourbon Street after the party is over, but maybe they just want to feel like they earned them. Whether skin or scratch, you're going to pay a price for your beads.