Litter free Mardi Gras

As the sun peeked over the Mobile, Alabama skyline, cars pulling kayaks drove down the street toward One Mile Creek. With a winding trail that leads downtown, One Mile Creek is infamous for its litter. What better way to kick off National Estuaries Week this past September than to host an event to cleanup this site and restore it to its natural beauty. Alabama Coastal Cleanup is a statewide effort to clean up our waterways, and this year, Mobile Baykeeper adopted One Mile Creek as its own site – giving downtown residents the opportunity to clean up close to home and connect to their local waterway.

Volunteers both old and new, and even a little boy who wanted to celebrate his thirteenth birthday cleaning up the environment, arrived and were ready to get to work. One by one they loaded into kayaks and paddled down the creek with pickers and bags in hand. For hours they trudged through the thick mud and paddled to get the debris, brandishing their pickers like swords, ready for the battle to take back our clean water from litter. They shuttled with kayaks filled to the brim. At the end of the day, approximately 2,480 pieces of trash were collected by 58 dedicated volunteers.

Everyone left with a smile on their face and a feeling of accomplishment, all eager to come back soon to help remove more litter and tell others about the importance of this creek to the health of our Mobile Bay.

With Mobile being the birthplace of Mardi Gras, every February brings a party to the Bay. During this carnival season, Mardi Gras throws (beaded necklaces) are the local currency. Revelers toss Moon Pies, cups, and beads galore. There is only one problem – most Mardi Gras throws are not biodegradable. Every year the streets of downtown Mobile are peppered with beads and toys that parade goers leave behind. These items enter our storm drains and eventually enter our creeks, streams, and the Mobile Bay.

Mobile Baykeeper created the Litter Free Mardi Gras campaign to get all the unwanted throws off of the streets and, hopefully, out of local waterways. We’re working to educate the community on the harmful impacts of litter on our waterways during the biggest party of the year. We want Mardi Gras revelers to have fun and party responsibly so we can prevent further pollution of our waterways.

Mobile Baykeeper will continue to highlight our estuaries and all the important creeks flowing into them by providing opportunities to cleanup these resources and educating the community to prevent future impacts.

Laura Stone is program & grants coordinator at Mobile Baykeeper.