Consumption & Production

Tips for a zero waste Carnival


15 Feb 2019

Written by

Larissa Copello


How to have more fun with less waste

One of the most colourful and fun celebrations of the year is coming up, and it is about time to get prepared for it! Carnival is celebrated in many places around the world, and it often includes music, dancing, parties, people dressed up with elaborate costumes and fussy accessories, colourful decorations all over, and spectacular ornate street parades. It is a delightful combo for the eyes, heart and soul! So, who does not like it, right?

Nonetheless, although it is an amazing festivity, Carnival is also the time when tons of garbage are generated all over the world, especially in those places holding  massive celebration. Usually, at the end of each day of celebration, the streets are completely dirty, covered with plastic cups, packaging, remains of costumes, accessories, and all the typical adornments of that time of year.

The good news is: we can be happy, have fun, and enjoy the celebrations while cutting on waste! Here is a (non exhausting) list of tips for a zero waste Carnival.

Upcycle your costume!

A beautiful outfit that is only going to be used once or a few times per year and will stay forgotten inside the closet for the rest of the year is a huge waste of creativity, resources, energy, and money, right? Here are some ideas to give your costume a new life:

Reuse/DIY: Why not making your costume with what you already have? If you have clothes that you do not use in your everyday life, Carnival is THE opportunity to get them out of the closet! Use your creativity, reinvent them, and create your own original and unique costume by upcycling your clothes, mixing pieces and accessories – or rescuing old outfits from previous Carnivals. Let your imagination drive you, and go wild!

Borrow/Swap: Another good alternative is to borrow clothes from friends. You can borrow or swap an already existing costume from previous Carnivals, or you can also piece together your outfits by matching and swapping clothes, accessories, etc. This is a good way to create a unique costume together, sharing materials and ideas, while having fun and helping each other!

Rent: If you are very busy and don’t have a lot of time to create your own disguise, or are just not feeling too creative at the moment, you can always rent a costume! There are many rental shops with a variety of beautiful costumes ready to be (re)used.

Glitter: a micro item with a macro impact

Don’t be mislead by its size, attractive shine, and beautiful colours: glitter is not as harmless as it looks like. Conventional glitter is made of plastic (crude-oil), contains toxic substances and takes a lifetime to decompose. Also, as it’s a tiny microplastic particle, it is impossible to collect it, ít can be easily spread out, and after it drips from people’s bodies, it will end up in our environment, seas and rivers, contaminating our ecosystem and affecting biodiversity, as many animals will confuse it with food and ingest it.

What’s more, scientists have recently expressed concern over plastic microparticles in the air and its possible impacts on human respiratory and circulatory systems.

Therefore, the use of conventional glitter is definitely a must not if you want to celebrate Carnival with a peace of mind. What are the alternatives?

DYI: In case you want to use something to spice up your look, or give a bit more of sparkle (on top of your own, of course!) you can make your own ecological glitter! A simple and easy mixture of salt or sugar with some drops of liquid food colouring will give a natural similar texture & effects of a glitter. There are many DIY natural glitter recipes, such as this one.

Eco glitter: In case you don’t have the time to make your own glitter, there are already many brands selling eco glitters made of natural ingredients, such as sugar or minerals (mica powder, for instance).

Avoid the false solutions: Be careful with the glitter brands labelling their products as eco/sustainable and claiming that their glitters are  biodegradable. This type of plastics can only biodegrade in some industrial facilities, but not in the natural environment, therefore don’t be fooled: they are not the solution to plastic pollution, as they are presented.

Keep in mind: Nothing shines more than you do! It is always good to remember that you don’t need anything to glow during Carnival.

BYOC: Bring your own cup!

Like many other big street and outdoor festivities, Carnival comes with a massive consumption and disposal of single-use beverage cups, mostly made out of plastics.

This poses a major challenge to our environment: single-use plastic cups are among the 10 items that are most frequently found in European beaches, they are frequently littered and contribute heavily to the plastic pollution crisis.

To avoid depending on throw-away plastic cups, get yourself armed with your favorite reusable cup when you go out partying. By carrying out your own reusable cup you do not need to use disposable cups when ordering beer, juice, water, or any drink. You can keep the cup or mug attached to your purse, or have it hanging around your neck as a necklace, for instance. Also, you could even pick up a nice cup that matches your outfit and have it as a stylish accessory as part of your unique costume creation!

At the end of the day you will notice that drinking out of your own cup is way more pleasant than sipping through a disposable plastic one.

The ultimate kit

Disposable cups are not the only single-use plastic item polluting our Carnival: single-use cutlery (forks, knifes, spoons) and straws pose exactly the same problem.

Therefore, to break free from disposable plastics items this Carnival, make sure to carry with you a small kit with some essentials, such as reusable cutlery and a reusable straw. You can just take with you the regular metal cutlery you already have at home, or you can get yourself bamboo ones, which are light and great for traveling. Concerning reusables straws, you can find many alternatives made out of glass, metal, or bamboo.

It is also always useful to carry out a tissue napkin, to wrap up some snacks or small bites, like a sandwich, cookies, nuts, or whatever you want to eat on the way.

These items can be easily squeezed into your bag, without taking too much space. An easy and simple trick so you won’t need to worry about disposables when you get hungry!

Last but not least: get the trash can right!

If you made the reading until here, you are certainly going to put whatever trash you generate during Carnival (and in your life, of course) in the right trash can, but it is always good to remember!

All in all, reducing your waste and environmental impact it is not too hard, it just requires a bit of planning ahead, and trying out new habits. If waste threatens to spoil your party, the good news is that many solutions are ready at hand.

We hope you enjoyed our tips, and we wish you an amazing zero waste Carnival!

The good news is: we can be happy, have fun, and enjoy the celebrations while cutting on waste!