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Beyond Store Bought: Eco-Chic Gift Wrap

I belong to a group of conservers — environmentalists who hate throwing anything out. An artist friend is known to ask her husband to stop the car when she sees interesting trash on the side of the road. “Art supplies,” she explains.

When I realized that most gift wrap bought in stores was eco-unfriendly, I started exploring ways to wrap gifts in ways that looked good while leaving a light footprint. It was a great way to use up some of the paper and cloth supplies I couldn’t throw away.

Overall, it’s not so easy being green. We’ve all got our own long checklists of things we could (or wish) do: use solar panels, drive a Chevrolet Volt, grow an organic garden, for instance. These are big moves. But something as seemingly inconsequential as gift wrap can have a large impact on the world around us while adding pleasure to the gift-giving experiences for both parties.

Christmas morning

A familiar scene for many — Christmas morning after presents have been unwrapped.

For instance:

  • The U.S. generates an extra 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – 80 percent is wrapping paper and shopping bags.
  • If every American family wrapped three gifts in re-used materials, we’d save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • If every American family reused two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

And, remember, our landfills are getting full. The Los Angeles Sanitation District closed the Puente Hills Landfill, the largest in the nation on Oct. 31 — it had been operating since 1960. According to our research, the average expected life of landfills in Maryland, Virginia, and Massachusetts is 20 years.

Expanding your wrap repertoire is easy. It doesn’t take much time to do and you can save money on supplies. Here are some ideas.

Gifts wrapped in a wrapping cloth, shirt, scarf, a pillow case, gift bags and a towel.

Gifts wrapped in a wrapping cloth, shirt, scarf, a pillow case, gift bags and a towel.

Use cloth wrap, which can be reused — scarves, towels, pillow cases, shopping bags. Use traditional Japanese and Korean wrapping techniques or just fold the cloth and tie it with ribbon.

Gifts wrapped in Trader Joe's shopping bags, two different scraps of wrapping paper plus bands of scrap papers and old maps.

Gifts wrapped in Trader Joe’s shopping bags, two different scraps of wrapping paper plus bands of scrap papers and old maps.

Reuse last year’s wrapping paper. If wrinkled, press lightly with a cool iron. If one piece of paper doesn’t cover the package, cover one side and use another piece of paper in a different pattern for the opposite side. Or, use paper bags. If they don’t have a good design on the outside, turn them inside out.

Combine used materials if one source won't cover by itself.

Combine used materials if one source won’t cover by itself.

If you want to see additional examples for ideas and inspiration, check out our Eco-Gift Wrap Pinterest Board, which has over 1,000 examples of gift wrap for your reference and convenience.

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Mr. Busy

Most days, Tim Sway wears three hats. He creates one-of-a-kind furniture from carefully selected discarded pallets, bowling alley floors and other wood castoffs; looks after his two children while working in his home-based studio in Connecticut and in the evenings plays double bass in Jamie’s Junk Show, a professional pop/rock band.

Sway’s affinity for wood runs in his family. Both his great grandfather and grandfather were professional carpenters. His dad, a businessman, spent a lot of time fixing up their antique home and involved young Tim in the process. That’s how Tim learned to appreciate the beauty of older buildings and furniture and where to find just the right pieces to repair or restore them.

Drum chair and bowling alley coffee table by Tim Sway

(Left) Drum Chair (made from a broken bass drum, used drum sticks and maple wood) (Right) Tables made from a wood bowling alley floor, tinted light red. The left one is mounted on used bowling pins. The low coffee table is mounted on salvaged steel legs.

One career wasn’t enough for Sway, who studied jazz composition in college. He channels abstract ideas and feelings through music and satisfies his visual side by creating unique, functional furniture from found materials “to make worthless things priceless.” Supplies come from the local dumpster, architectural salvage stores, shipping pallets and a network of people who pick up interesting trash for him. He salvages nails, hinges and hardware from his projects but goes to hardware stores when necessary.

Bike Entry Table by Tim Sway

This Bike Entry Table is made from discarded bike wheels, a broken Rose of Sharon bush and a walnut top by Tim Sway.

He takes his kids with him on dumpster trips and, like his father, lets them work in the studio so they can learn to fix and reuse broken objects rather than toss them out and buy new ones.

Hairdryer Chair by Tim Sway

Hairdryer Chair. Made from a chair Sway picked up from the side of the road. He cleaned up the chair, instilled a 150-watt iPod docking station in the chair and turned the dryer into a reading lamp (with a green lighted storage area where the dryer element used to be.)

Sway creates furniture made to order with materials brought by his clients and/or with repurposed materials he has on hand. He also sells furniture of his own design in his Etsy shop.

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Vollis Simpson, Found Materials Artist, Dies at 94

Vollis Simpson working on a whirligig. Photo by Burke Uzzle.

Vollis Simpson working on a whirligig. Photo by Burke Uzzle.

Vollis Simpson, a self-taught artist who lived in Lucama, North Carolina, died at his home on May 31, 2013. He was internationally known for his idiosyncratic, wind-powered whirligigs (he called them windmills) made from old fans, washing machine parts, recycled steel, aluminum and other industrial salvage. “I had a lot of junk and had to do something with it,” he once said.

Simpson started out fixing things that broke down on the farm where he grew up. A self-taught engineer, he built his first windmill using a junked B-29 bomber to power a washing machine in Saipan, where he was stationed during the WWII. He worked in the equipment repair business after he returned from the service.

Close up of a whirligig decoration by Vollis Simpson

Close up of a whirligig decoration by Vollis Simpson.

Simpson started a house-moving business in 1985, building his own tow-trucks to move the houses. He also began using junked equipment parts to build huge wind-powered machines — some up to 60 feet tall — in his spare time. One windmill powered a heating system for his home.

Simpson’s work became known to a wider world when Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, founder of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, invited him to provide a permanent outdoor sculpture for the museum’s opening in 1995. He came up with one you can’t miss — three stories high, it weighs three tons and is covered with highway reflectors so it can be seen both night and day.

A group of Simpson's kinetic sculptures.

A group of Simpson’s kinetic sculptures.

Subsequently, Simpson’s client list extended to include four sculptures for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta; a Christmas window for New York City’s Bergdorf Goodman department store to design in 2009; a shopping center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

All work remaining on his farm will be moved and exhibited in the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, scheduled to open in November in Wilson, North Carolina, about 10 miles from his home. The North Carolina legislature has approved a measure making whirligigs the state’s official folk art.


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Dumpster Artists

While a growing number of craftsmen are working with other people’s discards, Recology, a California resource recovery company, actually pays artists to turn trash into art.

<em>Crazy Quilt</em> by Remi Rubel.  1991. Built from bottlecaps and other metal objects

“Crazy Quilt” by Remi Rubel. 1991. Built from bottlecaps and other metal objects.

In 1990 Recology began a unique art and education program. The company selected artists to work full time for four months in a large, well-equipped studio next to its transfer station in San Francisco. The transfer station is located within a 46-acre property that includes several recycling facilities and the public disposal area (aka “the dump”). Most of San Francisco’s garbage  is temporarily stored at this site before moving on to a landfill elsewhere in California.
Recology changed its name from Norcal Waste Systems in 2009 to reflect its corporate culture and values. More than a private, employee-owned waste management company, the company wants to encourage people to reuse material, think about new ways to conserve resources, and support local, professional artists.

Mum - Sea Breeze 2012 by Karrie Hovey

“Mum — Sea Breeze” by Karrie Hovey. 2012. Made from books, latex paint, particle board, and a metal table ring.

Artists are selected by an advisory board of environmentalists, artists and curators; each recipient receives a $1,000 monthly grant to cover basic personal bills.

<em>Audrey Hepburn Dress</em> by Estelle Akamine. 1993. Made from foam sheets, plastic bags, six-pack holders

“Audrey Hepburn Dress” by Estelle Akamine. 1993. Made from foam sheets, plastic bags, six-pack holders.

At the end of each residency, the company holds a free public reception and exhibition of the artist’s work in the company’s studio. As visitors enter, they are confronted with a mountain of trash. They then see how imagination turns discards into meaningful objects. 
The artists roam the  public disposal area with shopping carts, collecting different types of trash. One may look for furniture, trinkets, photos and other personal objects, for found object collages, while another looks for raw materials such as wood, painted metal or wire for assemblage.

3711 x 13510 by Zachary Royer Scholz. 2010. Constructed from pine and paint

“3711 x 13510” by Zachary Royer Scholz. 2010. Constructed from pine and paint.

Some of the trash art is exhibited permanently in Recology’s three-acre sculpture garden atop a hill overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The garden is located between the garbage and recycling facilities and the Little Hollywood neighborhood. Many pieces from the program are also exhibited in office buildings, schools and other public or private spaces in the city. The garden is a stop for students on one of the 160 tours held throughout the year. 

A new exhibit, “The Art of Recology” can now be seen in the United Terminal at the San Francisco International Airport. Celebrating the Recology San Francisco Artist in Residence program, it presents over 100 works by 45 artists, made during the time they worked in the studio at the Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Facility. It will be on public view through October 27. Below are images of art included in this exhibit.

Styrofoam Hummer H1 by Andrew Junge

“Styrofoam Hummer H1 (low mileage, always garaged)” by Andrew Junge. 2005. Constructed from styrofoam, lumber and steel.

Last Dive at the Farallones by Ethan Estess

“Last Dive at the Farallones: 100,000 marine mammals killed per year” by Ethan Estess. 2012. Created with wood, Styrofoam, wood flooring adhesive, super glue, screws, and rope.

To learn more, visit the Recology website.

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Wardrobe Gift Wrapping Roundup

Charissa Pomrehn loves to wrap gifts. She sends them to friends and family throughout the year for any reason or no reason at all. Fortunately for the rest of us, she photographs and notes the story behind every gift she sends on her entertaining and informative “The Gifted Blog” which is now 3-1/2 years old.

She also reads other people’s blogs on gift wrapping and compiles news ideas in a “to-try” file. This week, Charissa shared ideas she had collected for creating gift wrap from clothes and accessories in our closets.  As the seasons are changing and many of us will rearrange our closets, I thought it would be a good time to pass this information on — in case something outdated could be transformed into the cleverest gift wrap ever.

This is a good one! Here are 5 gift wrapping ideas straight from the closet.

gifts wrapped in tights

Photo by Brit & Co.

See full article from Brit & Co.

Cut up fishnet or lace-pattern tights and stretch over gifts for a trim that's feminine yet edgy.

Cut up fishnet or lace-pattern tights and stretch over gifts for a trim that’s feminine yet edgy.

See full article from House to Home

Wool sweater sleeve tied into a bow.

Wool sweater sleeve tied into a bow.

See full article from Boxwood Clippings

Wrapping paper, string and fabric scraps make a colorful, one of a kind package.

A shoe box, wrapping paper, string and fabric scraps make a colorful, one of a kind package.

See full article from Meeha Meeha

Glittery silver and gold Miu Miu booties used for gift decorations.

Glittery silver and gold Miu Miu booties used for gift decorations.

See full article from Ambrosia Creative

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Off The Rack but Not Into the Landfill

Even those of us dedicated to recycling and reuse have to get rid of things eventually. So, as I was cleaning out my closet for the fall season, filling the bag for charity, I suddenly thought: What if nobody wants my old clothes? Will they wind up as my share of the average 68 pounds of textiles per person that go into American landfills each year?

Clothes from closet ready for recycling

Clothes just emptied from a closet and ready to move on.

Depends on the clothes — and the charity. Blue jeans are always in demand at your local Goodwill; those that are too far gone can be turned into building insulation. Even Levi Strauss Co., which knows a little something about denim, used the insulation in the renovation of its San Francisco headquarters.

Other fabrics can have a second life, too. Schuykill Women in Crisis, a nonprofit that works with victims of domestic violence in rural northeast Pennsylvania, collects clothing for distribution to its clients. If no one picks out a piece after a certain period of time — and seriously, we all know the unfortunate fashion selections we’ve donated — it is given to The Grateful Thread, a SWIC initiative. TGT volunteers turn any unwanted fabric into rags, and then weave and sew them into attractive rugs, coasters, purses and other items for sale in its webstore, and at craft sales throughout the region.

“We make some money for SWIC programs, and the ladies who do the weaving —either in one of our safe facilities or out of their home — find it very therapeutic, too,” said Darla Troutman, communications director for SWIC.

Sampling of rugs by The Grateful Thread

Sampling of rugs by The Grateful Thread.

Reusable grocery bag manufacturer Chico Bag in California has a limited inventory of the handwoven rugs for sale on its website. All proceeds go to The Grateful Thread.

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Aliza Lelah’s Figurative Fabric Moments in Time

Aliza Lelah (born 1982) is a painter and photographer who has exhibited her work across the U.S. and Europe. By accident, she developed a unique approach to fabric collage when working on an MFA in painting at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007.

"Time Makes History Of Us"

“Time Makes History of Us” by Aliza Lelah. 2007. 27” x 16”.

For her thesis, she originally planned to paint a series of portraits of relatives — most of whom she had never met — but decided to change the medium. She discovered painting “wasn’t achieving what I needed it to achieve,” she said. Instead, she developed impressionistic compositions from old family photographs realized with bits of cloth used like brush strokes.

"Drowning Brother (I Saved Him)" plus detail

L: “Drowning Brother (I Saved Him)” 2008. 36” x 18” R: Detail: “Drowning Brother (I Saved Him)” 2008. 36” x 18”

Forms were developed by hand-stitching small strips of recycled fabric scraps from her personal collection and old clothing from friends. She created depth on her figures by sewing pieces of cloth on top of one another.  “The fabric brings its own memories and nostalgia to my projects,” she said.

"After the Wreck"

“After the Wreck” by Aliza Lelah. 2011. 27” x 28”

When each image is finished, Lelah traces the shape on ¼-inch thick wood backing and cuts it out with a jigsaw. She stretches the collage over the frame and stitches cotton backing to it.

"The Stinkier Cheese"

“The Stinkier Cheese” by Aliza Lelah. 2008. 12” x 12”

Although the technique is time consuming, Lelah, who now teaches drawing at Metropolitan State University in Denver, continues to explore the medium of shaped fabric collages and develops new works from personal photographs or pictures found on eBay.

"L anc C"

“L and C” by Aliza Lelah. 2011. 14” x 13”

While working on the images, she discovers a personal relationship to each and develops different techniques to reveal the subject.

To learn more, visit her website.

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New Life for Britain’s Red Telephone Boxes

As an armchair traveler, I always like to read about offbeat, seldom-visited or forgotten destinations. That’s why I like Urban Ghosts Media, an e-magazine “about abandoned places, hidden history and alternative places.”

The writers consider art to be a component of the urban landscape and often discuss works “created from discarded objects” in Britain (their home base) and abroad. This fits into their coverage of “the abandoned and the repurposed” – which neatly fits with our interest in art made from recycled, repurposed and natural materials.

Urban Ghosts recently published a story about what has happened to Britain’s iconic red telephone boxes since they were replaced with a more utilitarian model. When the booths were separated from their phones, they began to fall into decay but some enterprising recyclers have found new and imaginative uses for them. The editor of Urban Ghosts has kindly permitted us to reprint their findings.

When Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s red telephone box was introduced in the 1920s, few could have known that it was destined to become an enduring icon of Britishness.  But almost 90 years later, the colourful kiosks have largely become a thing of the past.  Of course, the upside is that many have come up for sale, some creatively recycled and repurposed in surprising ways, others transformed into urban art exhibits.

Repurposed Kiosks – Libraries, Cash Machines, Art Galleries and … Toilets!

red telephone box library Urban Art, Libraries & More: Recycling Britains Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

(Images: David Hillas; Geoff Pick; cc-sa-3.0)

Years ago, country folk weren’t impressed by the bright red boxes, lobbying local councils to tone them down.  But times change and several communities have gone to great lengths to preserve what they consider a part of their heritage.  One of the most celebrated examples is the kiosk in Westbury-sub-Mendip (above left), transformed into the smallest library in Britain, and open 24/7, 365 days a year.

red telephone box art gallery Urban Art, Libraries & More: Recycling Britains Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

(Image: John Grayson, cc-sa-3.0)

According to the BBC: “BT has received 770 applications for communities to ‘adopt a kiosk’, and so far 350 boxes have been handed over to parish councils”.  In addition to libraries and book exchanges, abandoned red telephone boxes and found new leases of life as ATM cash machines (below) and possibly Britain’s smallest art gallery (above).

red telephone box atm cash machine Urban Art, Libraries & More: Recycling Britains Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

(Images: John S. TurnerChristine Matthews; cc-sa-3.0)

And while some kiosks have been recycled into miniature art galleries – others have themselves become urban art installations.  Check them out below, and don’t miss this article about a Somerset pensioner who converted a kiosk into his personal toilet.

Red Telephone Boxes as Recycled Art Installations

red telephone box art Urban Art, Libraries & More: Recycling Britains Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

(Images: Steve FarehamOast House Archive; cc-sa-3.0)

From the local and the homemade (above) to grand designs and professionally commissioned installations (below), these recycled artworks reflect the popularity of the red boxes in the national psyche.

red telephone box urban art Urban Art, Libraries & More: Recycling Britains Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

(Image: Don Swanson (see website), cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Whether artistically symbolising the decline of an icon, the graffiti and vandalism such objects inevitably endure, or simply using this denizen of Britishness as a departure point for a truly offbeat creation, Gilbert Scott‘s distinctive design remains an integral part of the street-scene.

urban art red telephone box Urban Art, Libraries & More: Recycling Britains Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

(Images: sharkbait (website); Pete Jordan (website); yoga mama; Katy Stoddard (website); cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Finally, an example (above right) outside Archway Tube station in London has been recycled as a flower box, adding a splash of green and yellow, as well as red, to this utilitarian public square.

The red telephone box, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, is as quintessentially British as fish and chips, the Shipping Forecast, eccentric place names and – sadly – doomed pubs.  But after years of dedicated service, this icon of cities, towns and villages throughout Britain and her former colonies has largely become a thing of the past.

red telephone box 3 Decaying Red Telephone Boxes: An Abandoned British Institution

(Image: Garry Knight, cc-sa-3.0)

The popular red kiosk was the result of a 1924 competition initiated due to widespread dissatisfaction with the original K1 (Kiosk No. 1) design across London.  The winning design, in the classic tradition, was submitted by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Liverpool Cathedral and Battersea Power Station.

red telephone box 4 Decaying Red Telephone Boxes: An Abandoned British Institution

(Image: rofanator, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

Scott had intended his K2 kiosk, with domed roof likely inspired by Sir John Soane’s tomb in St Pancras’ Old Churchyard, to be painted silver.  But the Post Office selected red to ensure the boxes were noticeable.  This stirred a public outcry at the time, and boxes located in areas of natural and historic beauty were painted a more subdued grey with red glazing bars.

red telephone box 5 Decaying Red Telephone Boxes: An Abandoned British Institution

(Image: pauldriscoll, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

Ironically, it wasn’t strictly modernisation that led to the demise of the red telephone box, as the classical K2 model gave way to the definitive K6 in 1935, commemorating the silver jubilee of King George V.  The death blow was dealt by privatisation in the form of British Telecom, which, from the 1980s, installed the more utilitarian KX100 in place of thousands of traditional kiosks.

red telephone box 6 Decaying Red Telephone Boxes: An Abandoned British Institution

(Image: Jon Burney, cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Around 2000 red phone boxes have historical listed status, but many stand neglected, vandalised, or simply abandoned, with a lucky few re-purposed.  In an ironic twist, the public outcry that had accompanied the introduction of the red telephone box was matched by protests over its demise, as many who had originally opposed it campaigned for the preservation of their beloved kiosks.

red telephone box 2 Decaying Red Telephone Boxes: An Abandoned British Institution

(Image: Rick Harris, cc-sa-3.0)

Its appearance in various urban art exhibits reflects the kiosk’s cult status, while adaptive reuse and popularity with collectors underscores its enduring legacy as an eccentric symbol if Britishness.  But the all-too-common sight of decaying red phone boxes are perhaps the most poignant reminder that things have moved on, and that eras always come to an end.

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Dumpster Divers Mark Two Decades of Turning Trash Into Art

If you go looking for the roots of the Art Eco movement, you will soon run across the Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia.

Twenty years ago, a half-dozen artists who were already working with found objects were getting together informally in diners around town, sharing ideas. Joel Spivak, Neil Benson and Leo Sewell were part of the group, which has since grown into a collection of 40 artists, a pop up gallery, events, eco-education programs for school-aged kids, exhibitions up and down the East Coast, and inspiration for the next generation of environmentally conscious artists.

Isaiah Zagar standing in front of his mural surrounding the Magic Garden. He placed trashed mirrors, bottles, bicycle parts and tile into the walls. The Garden turned into a labyrinth with tunnels and alcoves filled with his murals.

Isaiah Zagar standing in front of his mural surrounding the Magic Garden. He placed trashed mirrors, bottles, bicycle parts and tile into the walls. The Garden turned into a labyrinth with tunnels and alcoves filled with his murals.

An original Diver, Isaiah Zagar, began transforming a vacant South Philadelphia lot into the fantastical mosaic Magic Gardens in 1994 with detritus from the South Street corridor, just after the monthly meetings formalized into an organization (albeit without bylaws or dues). Zagar’s efforts reflect the Divers’ philosophy of creating beauty out of what other people call “trash,” and helped revitalize the entire neighborhood.

Benson said what brought the Divers together originally was an aversion to paying for art supplies.

“My motto is ‘Trash is just a failure of imagination’,” he said in a 2011 video interview.

That imagination was on display in 2006, when 25 of the Divers all took the same 25 objects and created the now legendary “25 x 25” exhibit.

"Moter and Cild" by Burnell Yow

“Moter and Cild” by Burnell Yow, which was displayed in the “25 x 25” exhibit. He said “It would have been ‘Mother and Child’ but I didn’t have any Scrabble™ pieces of the letter ‘H.’” (Photo by Yow)

Untitled sculpture by Betsy Alexander, which was displayed in the “25 by 25” exhibit. (Photo by Yow)

Untitled sculpture by Betsy Alexander, which was displayed in the “25 by 25” exhibit. (Photo by Yow)

The Divers also have an aversion to paying for gallery space. Benson said they have worked successfully with several landlords to fill otherwise-empty commercial spaces for no rent, with the understanding that the gallery would move as soon as a paying tenant surfaced. It’s a way to keep neighborhoods from becoming derelict, and the arts have been keeping the lights on for business during the real estate bust in locations around the country.

Group photo of the Dumpster Divers taken at The 2012 Annual Diver Awards Banquet at the Famous Deli (Photo by I. George Bilyk)

Group photo of the Dumpster Divers taken at The 2012 Annual Diver Awards Banquet at the Famous Deli. (Photo by I. George Bilyk)

For their two-decade dedication “to raise the consciousness of art lovers and heighten awareness of taking a creative approach to support a more sustainable city, country and world,” the Dumpster Divers received an official Tribute from the Mayor of Philadelphia Michael A. Nutter. He recognized April 1-7, 2012, as the 20th anniversary of the group, and urged all citizens to be aware of their ongoing efforts “to ensure Philadelphia’s future as a green and sustainable city through recycling…”

To see what the Dumpster Divers are up to now, visit their website.

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Where Mardi Gras Beads Go for Lent

Back in the day, the City of New Orleans measured the success of Mardi Gras by the amount of garbage left to scoop off Bourbon Street on Ash Wednesday. But even the excesses of Carnival season are becoming more eco-friendly, slowly.

An estimated 22 million pounds of cheap plastic beads, most of them imported from China, are tossed to crowds lined up for the pre-Lenten parades. Only about 2 percent of those are recycled, but Arc Enterprises in New Orleans is working to increase that ratio. It places recycling bins along the parade routes and its “Catch and Release” trailer follows some of the floats.

To reduce waste, Arc Enterprises devises places for Mardi Gras revelers to pitch their beads and baubles for reuse.

Revelers are also encouraged to toss their throws back into the trailer for recycling and resale to next year’s float riders. Last year the organization, which employs the disabled, sorted through 100,000 pounds of reclaimed beads.

My Beauty Underneath by Stephan Wanger

“My Beauty Underneath” by Stephan Wanger is 88" x 66" and created with 60,000 reused Mardi Gras beads glued to a trashed front door.

Artist Stephan Wanger knows just what to do with a lot of those beads: He created the world’s largest mosaic ever made entirely out of the colorful little baubles. “Sanctuary of Alegria — Home of Happiness” is 8 feet tall and 30 feet wide, and contains more than a million individual recycled Mardi Gras beads. The mosaic, which depicts the New Orleans skyline, took over 14 months to assemble, with help from volunteers. It will be auctioned off in March to raise funds for the Lower Ninth Ward, devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Detail of Wanger’s “Sanctuary of Alegria” created to mark the 200th anniversary of Louisiana’s statehood as the 18th state in the Union.

Wanger has been creating works of art from recycled beads with a mission – to help rebuild the city – since 2005. He also teaches classes in his Galeria Alegria on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

There’s even a new krewe that brings the green message to the parades themselves. Made up of local performance and visual artists, The Ancient Krewe of Kolossos paraded for the first time on Feb. 16, with a host of bicycle-powered floats, marching bands, street performers and eco-friendly handmade floats.

Co-founder Karina Nathan hopes her Art Eco-focused krewe can help established parade groups bring more eco-consciousness to the biggest party on earth.

Laissez bon temps rouler!

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