Filed under: eco-friendly, green, organic, sustainable, travel, vacation | Tags: architecture, california, compost, ecostiletto, environment, katrina, los angeles, louisiana, new orleans, organic, recycle, sarnoff, sustainable, vintage
I spent last week with my family in New Orleans where people still feel the wake of Hurricane Katrina. That was five years ago but there are areas where the city looks like some kind of Potter-esque villain pointed a wand and waved a swath of nothingness across a neighborhood. No cars. No trees. No people. Not even a stray dog. Just empty houses, and the scary-crazy hidden squatter-y things that go on in them.
But for the most part, the central city feels to me pretty much as it always has—air so thick you could wear it, smelling faintly of sweet flowers and sewage, the buildings gracefully aging, brightly-painted plaster crumbling away to reveal patches of brick like some kind of architectural peep show. You can walk down the street in the Marigny and simultaneously listen to six different types of music spilling out of the doors of six different no-cover bars—and each musician will be better than the last.
Now that the media focus is over, life goes on like it always has: People get up, go to work, grumble about the weather and glory in the fact that they live in one of the most frustrating and soul-inspiring cities in the world.
Because even though they’re still dealing with impacted social services and roads that never get fixed and levies that still aren’t secure even though hurricane season began July 1st, the people who live in this city—even the transplants or, as they call them down there, expatriates—are a different breed. New Orleans is more than just a city where they live. People here know the streets better than a New York taxi driver knows Manhattan. Ask them what they’re doing this weekend, and they’ll reel off a litany of options—from an out-of-season parade to a festival to a concert in the park. They love New Orleans like they love a mother, or a grandmother: They’re loyal to her. And proud of her, despite all of her failings.
And they’re industrious, especially those environmentalists who made it through the storm. On my first day, I assumed that the recycling truck would pick up glass and plastic, until my sister-in-law explained that in the city where perhaps more bottles are consumed per capita than any other city in the world, the recycling center there no longer accepts glass. She pays an extra $15 a month for the truck to come at all!
People here are environmentally conscious in different ways. They plant expansive kitchen gardens and compost their trash to feed them. My family keeps two heirloom chickens, which consume an amazing amount of their leftovers, and lay enough eggs for their family of three, as well as many of their friends and neighbors. You see fewer hybrids than in California, but many people depend on the streetcar for their daily commute—even in 100-degree heat and what feels like 100% humidity. The classic Hansen’s sno-ball—a New Orleans summer tradition—has inspired an organic fruit-juice sweetened option at a new café that’s scheduled to open this month. The Magazine Street Buffalo Exchange featured the best pre-worn clothing I’ve ever seen in one room—and the best dressed and nicest vintage aficionados I’ve ever met in one place. And the farmer’s market is the only place to be on Saturday mornings, rain or shine.
We take a lot for granted, living in California. The recycling truck picks up not only glass and plastic, but Styrofoam and aluminum foil as well. My local supermarket carries a wide selection of locally sourced organic foods. I can buy organic denim jeans at my neighborhood department store (if I’m prepared to look for them) and bamboo t-shirts for my kids. I can walk to the movies, the market, and to take my kids to school.
But I wouldn’t say we’re loyal. In a city so transient, it’s hard to think that we’re living in a place where we’ll spend the rest of our days—even if most of our days have been spent here so far. We’re always on the look out for some place better.
Maybe if we could just import those organic sno-balls?
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