GVSU HTM Prof. John Lipford Interviewed on Tourists' Environmental Impact at Mardi Gras
February 20, 2019
Posted on February 20, 2019 by John S. Kiernan | WalletHub
For a closer look at all Mardi Gras has to offer and how it can get even better in the future, we posed the following questions to a panel of leading experts in the fields of personal finance, government and environment.
How can we reduce the environmental impact of Mardi Gras, particularly with regard to the plastic beads handed out during the celebration?
There are many ways which partygoers at Mardi Gras can reduce their environmental impact this year and beyond. From finding “used” or “recycled” beads (although imported from China and most produced with hazardous chemicals to both humans, flora, and fauna alike), to more environmentally-friendly, biodegradable, locally sourced beads, attendees and guests to New Orleans can engage in the event’s customs and ritual in a more sustainable way. Certainly, the local government will need to help develop the proper infrastructure for efficient waste management during the event. Recycle containers should be everywhere, but with more narrow openings so that people refrain from throwing garbage in them or using them as a “consequential” receptacle. Likewise, the onus is on vendors and food service establishments, to be 100% committed to this cause. This would, of course, require proactivity, perhaps government willingness, and certainly budgetary support, but messaging is most key when seeking to enhance guest awareness of issues. This would also require that these entities practice their own operations in the most sustainable way possible. For example, restaurants could serve food items in more sustainable packaging and encourage guests to recycle by having plenty of receptacles available. In addition to sourcing and serving local product at restaurants, bead and souvenir vendors can provide discounts on goods manufactured in the Gulf region. Tourists should be encouraged to REFRAIN from buying goods made from animals, as well (alligator claw keychains, etc.). Increased attention should be brought to the environmental (and social justice) aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as a form of Dark Tourism (just one of New Orleans’ many offerings). Overall, the psychology of environmentalism is the most powerful tool we can harness for people to truly reduce their individual footprint, while always trying to find ways to support the local community, as well as the Gulf ecosystem. This means we must make crystal clear through messaging and behavioral modeling, city-wide, of more eco-friendly behaviors.
How can local authorities in New Orleans and elsewhere promote safety and reduce alcohol related accidents during Mardi Gras?
In some ways similar to my statement above, this is all about messaging and proactivity. Discounts given at alcohol service establishments need to be closely monitored by the local and state authorities. To the extent able, some incentive should be given to local bars and restaurants to develop creative messaging centered around more responsible consumption and more “if you see something, say something” messaging. Considering the event and its magnitude, this is much easier said than done. But, again, it is all about behavioral modeling by those who serve attendees; both government and commerce alike. Although New Orleans is notorious for its open container laws, this does not give one license to behave in a drunk and disorderly fashion. Ideally, law enforcement will maintain constant vigilance (as I am sure they do), but law enforcement can also perhaps begin to utilize drone technology to grab a “birds-eye view” of Bourbon Street and neighboring areas. Although some presence on the ground is required, officers who are also able to monitor drone feeds can point out areas or persons who appear to have the potential of crossing the line from regular party-going to downright dangerous behavior. In this way and certainly in other arenas - e.g., increased surveillance and monitoring in places of public accommodation - efforts to gauge the foreseeability of events “happening” are the key to preventative management. Increased presence of emergency medical personnel, refillable water stations, focused training sessions on conflict avoidance and service distraction/mitigation techniques for hospitality employees, and distributing nasal spray Narcan through appropriate industry and service channels, can also be effective for preventative management.
Legally, many of the negative impact, drug and alcohol issues that occur during Mardi Gras are a result of more conservative legislation in the state when it comes to both liquor vendor and social host liability. My understanding is that Louisiana has not yet passed legislation that holds social hosts or alcohol vendors liable for damages resulting from providing alcohol to an inebriated individual, minor, or other person. This is a significant issue, because the lack of a real legal deterrent hinders efforts at increasing accountability. As in my home state of Michigan, and many others, those who suffer injury from alcohol-related accidents may use the dram shop or social host liability laws to seek remuneration via compensatory and (sometimes) punitive damages. While, in Louisiana, it is really only possible to bring a personal injury claim based on negligence against the individual who causes damages (and many may not be collectable, to begin with) . This does not mean that social hosts or an alcohol vendor cannot be sued in Louisiana for damages stemming from an inebriated customer; they still run the risk of a customer being hurt under a premises liability claim or perhaps other novel theories.
What tips do you have for a person that wishes to enjoy Mardi Gras while on a budget?
I think I will defer to the experts on this one. The only advice I can give is anecdotal and it is to try and stay in accommodations that are owned by members of the local community. This may include motels, bed and breakfasts, and AirBnB’s and other vacation rentals. There are also a number of campgrounds in the New Orleans vicinity... Either case may mean having to stay outside of the city, but that is what Uber is for :) If going with a rental car, Hotwire Auto usually has some fairly impressive deals. Buy drinks and food that have been discounted for the event and compare prices on souvenirs. Oftentimes, one may be able to find the same souvenir from a different vendor at a drastically different price. Personally, I would set aside a monetary budget in cash each day, so I have a handle on how much I am spending while out at night. I also rely heavily on TripAdvisor reviews (particularly those with 100+ reviews) and do my homework ahead of time.