by Joanna Eng
If you headed to the Gulf Coast or had your own Carnival celebration this year, the whole shebang probably involved lots of colorful plastic beads. Mardi Gras beads are tons of fun, but they can also create a lot of waste. Rather than throwing them away or letting them collect dust on your dresser, never to be used again, try some of these methods of reusing, "upcycling," or even crafting your own beads.
Where to donate beads
If you're in New Orleans, you can head to local nonprofit Arc of Greater New Orleans after the party's over. They'll take your used beads and re-sell them at next year's festivities to raise money for their mission to serve people with intellectual disabilities and delays. There are four different bead drop-off locations.
Elsewhere, consider giving your beads to children's after school programs or senior centers or recycled art supply centers, or anywhere else where colorful crafts are likely to bring people joy.
Want to do the crafting yourself or with your kids? Those shiny beads can star in all sorts of DIY projects. Use them to decorate masks, sunglasses, or costumes for next year's Mardi Gras. Around the holidays, they can turn into wreaths and ornaments.
Once you start to think about it, you'll realize there's almost nothing that couldn't be spiced up with a few strands of Carnival beads. Planetpals highlights homemade chandeliers, lamps, mosaics, jewelry, and even a bead-covered piano.
Make your own beads
Avoid the plastic beads in the first place by creating beads from scratch. It's especially fun to do with the kids or at the beginning of a party. Alphamom suggests making them out of strips of magazine paper, glue, and paint.
Or if you want to get really advanced, take a class in glass bead making and fashion your own line of colorful beads. After the initial investment of time and materials, you'll end up with beads that will last longer, draw more compliments, and use less plastic than the ubiquitous, cheaply made kind.
Here's to a greener, more creative and generous Carnival season!
Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.