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.
Building — and rebuilding — has been at the forefront of New Orleans' agenda since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. And as the Associated Press
earlier this year, "the hurricane created a testing ground for [sustainable] ideas and initiatives."
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
sells "high-quality, salvaged building materials at low cost to the community," and Green Coast Enterprises
designs buildings that are both storm-resilient and environmentally friendly.
From promoting the city's first "edible schoolyard" to teaching residents how to compost or
Go Green NOLA
is the city's go-to online resource for environmental ideas and resources. The site also features a running list of upcoming local eco-events in the area, like the
Westwego Farmers' Market
Thirty-nine buses in New Orleans' fleet are
, thanks to a $15 million federal grant. The buses run on a combination of biodiesel, gasoline and electric power. And while many New Orleans residents still get around by car, biking recently became significantly more convenient. The number of bicycle routes in the Big Easy doubled in 2008, from 10 to 20 miles.
The New Orleans Bike Club
promotes bicycling for sport and hobby, while
Rusted Up Beyond All Recognition Bikes
is a volunteer-run organization and bike shop founded in the Ninth Ward. According to RUBARB's website, the organization began in 2006 as an effort to rescue, repair and reuse "flood bikes."
While some foods in New Orleans are intensely seasonal (crawfish for example) the Big Easy is not known for a green restaurant scene.
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.
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.
College-bound students can take advantage of many environmental programs on the city's three primary campuses. Tulane features degree programs in
ecology and evolutionary biology
, and coursework ranging from historical ecology to urban environmental law. Loyola boasts a
Center for Environmental Communication
Center for Environmental Law and Land Use
, and offers courses in topics such as preservation studies, spirituality of nature writing and tropical biology. University of New Orleans students have a number of opportunities to study
urban planning, and can select from classes including geomorphology and environmental geology of coastal Louisiana. Isn't college life grand?
Greenspace in New Orleans is abundant.
offers a place to relax and picnic among old oak trees and a diverse population of birds including egrets, blue herons and black-bellied whistling ducks. (Avid people-watchers can also spend hours observing the bird-watchers observing the birds.) The park is also home to the
In addition to being home to a
New Orleans Museum of Art
New Orleans City Park
boasts 1,300 acres of green space. Sadly, the park was
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
works with residents to preserve and beautify the city's green spaces, parks, community gardens and playgrounds.
What to see and do in New Orleans
Nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina, it's getting easier to be green in the Big Easy.