New Orleans is known for its revelry and excess — during Mardi Gras, of course, and just about any night in the French Quarter. While the city's joie de vivre ("joy of living") attitude ensures good times, environmental consciousness can get lost beneath the carpet of plastic cups littered across Bourbon Street. Still, underneath the beads and booze, the Crescent City has a heart of green.
Actor-turned-philanthropist Brad Pitt became an icon of New Orleans' green development movement by spearheading the Make it Right Foundation. Partnering with leaders in environmental design, sustainable redevelopment and community organization, Pitt's foundation works for rebuilding a more sustainable Lower Ninth Ward — arguably the hardest hit neighborhood in the city.
Meanwhile, several other organizations continue to champion the green building cause — the Green Project sells "high-quality, salvaged building materials at low cost to the community," Green Coast Enterprises designs buildings that are both storm-resilient and environmentally friendly, and Bio Liberty LLC focuses on biodiesel and renewable energy, along with green building projects.
This past March, more than 400 sustainability-minded students and young professionals met at Historic Green, a 10-day event focused on volunteerism, historic preservation and community redevelopment.
Green Light New Orleans helps low and fixed-income residents switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. The organization's goal is to change each of the city's 3 million bulbs, reducing CO2 emissions by 600,000 tons.
For produce lovers, however, there are plenty of options to buy — or grow — fresh, local grub. The New Orleans Food & Farm Network works for equal access to nourishing food, and fosters farming and gardening within city limits. This November, it will host a series of agricultural trainings called Grow Mo' Betta, designed to expand the number of New Orleans growers.
The Mid-City Community Garden welcomes neighborhood members to grow and sell food and added value products (like pickles!). Local food lovers can also stock up at the Hollygrove Growers Market and Farm, a nonprofit retail store that sells locally grown and organic produce. Meanwhile, plans are in the works to open a food cooperative in town by the end of 2010.
For nonmatriculating students, the design association AIGA hosts the Green Salon — an all-day event that features discussions and presentations about the "nature of sustainability" in New Orleans, along with plenty of food, music and Big Easy-style celebration.
In addition to being home to a botanical garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans City Park boasts 1,300 acres of greenspace. Sadly, the park was seriously damaged by Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed most of its older trees. But plans to restore the park and its forest canopy are under way — with the help of volunteers, park officials are working to restore the area, double the size of the former forest from 33 to 60 acres.
Established in 1982, the nonprofit organization Parkway Partners works with residents to preserve and beautify the city's greenspaces, parks, community gardens and playgrounds. Its Urban Tree Project will help replant the 50,000 trees lost around the city's public spaces during Katrina.
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