As tourism increases internationally, so does the awareness of how travel impacts communities and the environment. If you’re trying to be mindful about how you are helping the communities you visit, here are some ways you can make sure you’re travelling more sustainably.
Find alternative transportation
There are plenty of ways to explore New Orleans outside of renting a car. The city’s flat geography lends itself to the easiest biking around, see the city in a new way on a bike tour or grab a Blue Bike if you want to strike out on your own.
And of course, you can’t forget the streetcar, one of the most leisurely ways to get around town. Hop on the St. Charles line to head towards Audubon Park, taking in the beauty of the Garden District on the way, or take the streetcar along Canal Street to see all there is to do at City Park.
Support local businesses
Supporting the local economy is a great way to invest in where you’re visiting – it also almost guarantees you the best souvenirs. Stroll along Magazine Street to start the search for local stores, but you can also find other gems all over the city. Stay Local, New Orleans’ independent business alliance, has a listing of locally owned businesses and suppliers. You can also explore Black-owned and multicultural and LGBTQ-owned business guides. And if you ran out of room in your bag but wanted to bring the look of New Orleans home to display on your walls, Where Y’Art is a great resource discover, shop and experience the best of New Orleans art online.
Tip the musician
Everywhere you go seems to have music floating in the air. While enjoying the ambiance is a wonderful element of exploring New Orleans’ streets, taking the time to support the artists who make it possible is a great way of supporting the culture. Whether on the street or in a bar, standard practice, according to the Music & Culture Coalition of New Orleans, is to offer $5 per person in your party per set if there's no cover charge at the venue you visit and to drop at least $1 in a tip bucket for street musicians. Check out their full Good Visitor’s Guide to New Orleans to learn more.
Eat with a purpose
Not only is the food in New Orleans overwhelmingly delicious, eating like a local allows for a more authentic experience. The city’s reputation for phenomenal food is easily understood by your first meal here. If you want to find a way to do more, check out a restaurant that participates in the oyster shell recycling program with the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
Whether you eat them fried, char-grilled or on the half shell, after you dine on some delicious oysters, the shells at these participating restaurants are collected and returned to the coast, where they help restore coastal reefs, create fish habitats, and stabilize the coastline. You can find the full list here.
You can also visit a local farm to get the freshest options. Paradigm Gardens has a variety of events, including goat yoga and a variety of dinner series. Sugar Roots Farm, Grow Dat Youth Farm. Sankofa Fresh Stop Market, and Sprout all have programming to connect you to the local ecology.
Learn about the unique challenges facing the Gulf Coast region
Did you know that Louisiana loses a football field worth of land each hour and a half? Coastal erosion is impacting countries around the world, but due to the mix of subsidence, reduced sediment flow from the Mississippi River and sea-level rise, Louisiana is at the forefront of the conversation on how to reduce the loss of wetlands.
Water, water everywhere
In 2006, New Orleans partnered with Amsterdam to learn ways to better live with water. This initiative, called the Dutch Dialogues, led directly to the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, “Living with Water”. For a city that averages 64” of rain each year, stormwater management and climate adaptation is crucial.
An impactful result of the Urban Water Plan was New Orleans’ Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, adopted in 2015, that requires any project with a footprint of over 5,000 SF to capture, filter, infiltrate or store the first 1.25” of stormwater.
Visit the Sazerac House, where this element of construction is easily seen and enthusiastically promoted. With all types of building in New Orleans being constructed and renovated, look around to see the ways that water is incorporated. You’ll notice more bioswales and water cisterns that are helping to capture much of the rain that keeps our region full of lush plant life. You can also visit the multiple green infrastructure projects currently underway throughout the city: https://www.nola.gov/resilience/projects/.
Stay a few days for some "voluntourism"
For many years, New Orleans has been a hub of volunteer activity. A wide variety of local non-profits are always looking for some hands-on support and are happy to bring visitors in for a day or two of work. Our Voluntourism page can connect you with a variety of opportunities to give back.