Big Shoes, Small(er) Footprint

French Quarter Festival celebrates 40 years and a focus on sustainability
Illustration by Paddy Mills

Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home.

One of the benefits of aging is the wisdom that comes from experience. French Quarter Festival presented by Chevron is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, returning April 13-16, with more than 60 local restaurant food vendors, over 270 performances on 20 stages spread over four days and its renewed commitment to a more sustainable festival with the return of its Geauxing Green Initiative.

“It is an honor to be a part of such a wonderful organization that has stood the test of time,” said Emily Madero, president and CEO of French Quarter Festival Inc. (FQFI), the nonprofit organization that operates the festival. “FQFI is proud to say we have stayed committed to our mission for four decades, providing a platform for local artists, chefs and restaurants to showcase their talents. And for our fans, we are even more excited to offer an authentic and memorable experience April 13-16, we invite the whole family to help us make history for our 40th-year milestone.”

After several years of cancelations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, French Quarter Festival was able to return last year.

“Continuing the amazing comeback year we had in 2022, I am excited for the return of this year’s landmark 40th Anniversary of French Quarter Festival, which continues to be the largest showcase of Louisiana music in the world,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a statement.

French Quarter Festival (FQF) reported pre-pandemic numbers with more than 825,000 people attending in 2022. During the last occurrence of the festival before the pandemic, in 2019, The University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center conducted a study of festivalgoers and found that 825,000 attendees lead to FQF generating a total economic impact of $190 million and nearly $15 million in tax revenue for state and local governments.

With the benefits of cultural celebrations and economic vitality, the flipside of mass amounts of people needs to be considered as well. Festival organizers understand firsthand the amount of debris that is created by their events ,and FQFI strives to be a leader in sustainable festival production in the Gulf South.

In 2021, FQFI partnered with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) to launch the Geauxing Green Initiative, aiming to reduce the negative environmental impacts festivals can cause. The initiative focuses on marine debris prevention by allowing only reusable, recyclable and compostable food and drink products at the festival.

The program was implemented into the 2022 FQF with tremendous results. Organizers reported they increased overall waste diversion by more than 25% in comparison to the 2019 festival (pre-initiative) with the addition of composting, glass recycling, donations and upcycling. Their recycling efforts captured 30,000 pounds of recycled waste, a 119% increase from 2019 with 13,500 pounds.

These numbers were accomplished via several strategies, deploying over 200 volunteers and staff, as well as working in collaboration with local organizations. Festival organizers placed 130 reusable waste bins throughout the four major festival sites. Educational signage and volunteers helped attendees understand how to properly dispose of their waste. Each of the 55 food vendors were required to use only compostable serving materials — Styrofoam was prohibited. With these measures, 18 tons of compostable waste was diverted to The Composting Network to make garden soil; 15 tons of plastic, aluminum and paper were recycled via Waste Connections; and 5 tons of glass was diverted to Glass Half Full, which used the glass to make sandbags for coastal storm defense. Additionally, 1,000 pounds of 2022 FQF signage was repurposed for student projects, Mardi Gras floats or stored to be reused this year.

Andrew Woodruff, FQFI Director of Operations, has two decades in festival experience and more than 10 years of experience in agriculture and farming. In response to 2022’s success, he said, “As a major outdoor event that is working to be a leader in sustainable festival production in the South, we are incredibly proud of our efforts. We hope that our program can be seen as a tool for education around the importance of marine debris prevention and make greater impacts on our local community and the Gulf South region. The information learned and used at our festival can be applied throughout the year, whether out enjoying an event or at home.”

In addition to French Quarter Festival, FQFI operates Satchmo Summer Fest and Holidays New Orleans Style. It has successfully implemented the Geauxing Green Initiative across its events. For those interested in volunteering as part of the Green Team Crew, the registration portal is planned to open March 1, or you can email questions to

For general information about French Quarter Festival, including special events, the artist lineup and food vendors, visit