Environmental initiatives in NOLA: Annual Glass Gala by Glass Half Full

Glass Half Full was founded in 2020 by two Tulane undergraduate students, Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz. The organization has already accomplished so much: from diverting millions of pounds of glass out of landfills to establishing a new green industry in New Orleans to bringing together various researchers, scientists, and companies all looking to make a real difference in the future of climate change, there is much to celebrate at Glass Half Full!

Picture of the co-founders of Glass Half Full

Co-Founders of Glass Half Full, Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz, at the 2023 Glass Gala

And some awesome celebrating has already been done at this year’s second annual Glass Gala this past September at Latrobe’s On Royal. The event was a night of food, drinks, dancing, and, of course, recycling glass! Latrobe’s on Royal hosted hundreds of guests who are proud of Glass Half Full’s accomplishments and want to continue supporting this up-and-coming company’s future goals.

I noticed the diversity in the crowd drawn to this event and appreciated how so many people had different reasons inspiring their passion for recycling and coastal restoration. After leaving the event, however, my overwhelming feeling is that Glass Half Full has succeeded in making glass recycling cool, and I am confident that the joyful livelihood of this company will continue to recruit more passionate glass recyclers.

With their unique business design, Glass Half Full effectively kills two birds with one stone when it comes to saving the future of New Orleans; by installing their easy-to-use and accessible-to-all glass recycling program, this company keeps glass from entering landfills, where they would contribute to methane generation (from anaerobic decay of waste) or to nitrous oxide emissions from solid waste combustion facilities, two of the most dangerous greenhouse gasses that pose major threats to the ozone layer. But more than just preventing more greenhouse gas emissions, the collected glass is being used to combat the already existing impacts of climate change, from wetland restoration projects that plan for a future with climate change in mind or providing citizens with sandbags to aid in the current effects of climate change that we face as a city.

Guests enjoying the “punch wall” at the 2023 Glass Gala

With the rapid increase in sea level rise resulting from climate change, New Orleans and other coastal historic cities like Bangkok, Amsterdam, and Ho Chi Minh City face the greatest threat of irreversible damage from flooding. At the current recorded paces of ocean temperature and climate warming, we don’t have long before these cities are virtually underwater and, coupled with increasingly catastrophic weather events like hurricanes, New Orleans must find a solution and fast.

Guests got their glam on with biodegradable glitter to wear!

Luckily for its citizens, New Orleans already has a natural tool for protecting land against coastal erosion and flooding thanks to the process of sediment accretion from the Mississippi River; Louisiana currently hosts about 25 percent of all coastal wetlands in the conterminous United States, and these coastal wetlands may just be the solution to our rising sea level problem. Research shows that 1 mile of coastal wetland can reduce a storm surge by about 1 foot, and this is important in a city plagued by hurricanes.

The vibes of the Gala were at an all-time-high as the guests danced the night away! Latrobe’s On Royal was the perfect spot for this event. (Photo by: Coby S.)

Glass Half Full Nola believes in the power of wetland restoration to save the future and has harnessed the power of an unexpected resource to help do their part: Glass! Before Glass Half Full, there had never been a system of, or facilities for, glass recycling in New Orleans, but now, this organization works to collect glass “waste” from citizens across the greater New Orleans area and is continuing to expand to neighboring cities as we speak! They offer their services through free drop-offs and residential and commercial pickups, and once collected, the glass is processed with a highly specialized hammer-mill machine to create sand. This sand is primarily used in coastal restoration initiatives to help restore wetlands damaged by storms and sea-level rise, though it is also used in disaster relief, landscaping, sandblasting, and creating new glass products.

So, if you’re looking to do your part in saving the future of New Orleans and also the rest of the planet, look no further than Glass Half Full! With easy glass recycling solutions and pick-up and drop-off services that are accessible to all, there is no reason to throw away another glass bottle again!


This piece was edited by Ellery Tripp as part of Professor Kelley Crawford’s Digital Civic Engagement course at Tulane University.


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