By Laura Stone, Mobile Baykeeper
It’s that time of year again… Mardi Gras parades and king cakes, which means Mobile Baykeeper is launching its second year of the Litter-Free Mardi Gras campaign!
Mardi Gras is our annual celebration with floats and throws parading the streets of several cities along the Gulf Coast. Carnival revelers enjoy lining the streets to watch parades and catch plastic beads, light up toys, and moon pies. What doesn’t get caught, however, ends up on the street and ultimately, in the storm drains that flow into streams, rivers, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
One Mile Creek is a two-mile tributary of the Three Mile Creek Watershed in Mobile, Alabama. The watershed served as Mobile’s main source of drinking water until the 1940s, but urban growth has gradually degraded water quality, as well as the ecosystem. Litter accumulation in One Mile Creek is a substantial problem, exacerbated by the 67 inches of rainfall that Mobile receives annually, the most among U.S. cities. The prevalence of concrete and other impervious surfaces and aging stormwater infrastructure causes mass amounts of runoff pollution, particularly during heavy rainfalls. Since One Mile Creek is part of an interconnected waterway that includes Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, debris removal from the watershed will decrease marine debris that reaches these critical estuarine and coastal habitats.
In 2018, with support from a NOAA Marine Debris Community-based Removal Grant, Mobile Baykeeper began the Litter-Free Mardi Gras campaign to remove parade debris, install storm drain screens along parade routes to prevent new litter in One Mile Creek, and generate an awareness campaign to encourage citizens to celebrate responsibly – party on, but pick it up!
To date, the campaign has reached 450,000 people through television, radio, and print media sources. “It is a great opportunity to educate the community on how streets connect to our waterways” said Executive Director Casi Callaway. “It’s easy to realize the impact when you see Mardi Gras beads scattered throughout the creek after a parade.”
Mobile Baykeeper is working to create public awareness of the environmental impacts from Mardi Gras so we may find ways to enjoy the festivities without harming our natural resources.
It’s Gulf of Mexico Week on the Marine Debris Blog! Tune in all week to learn more about our work in the states along the gulf.