I’ve written in the past about the dangers that plastics pose for ocean animals like sharks. Even when plastic is recycled or disposed of appropriately, it can still end up in our waterways and can spell real trouble for all kinds of organisms. Animals can become entangled in plastics or ingest them, both of which can lead to the animal’s death.
Balloons are a threat to ocean animals as well. Whether they are made of mylar or latex, balloons can be swallowed by animals or entangle them as well. Balloon releases, while meaningful, can cause animals like sharks to get sick or stuck. Helium balloons can accidentally be released into the sky, floating for miles and possibly ending up in our waterways. Recently, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife posted photos of the balloons they found in Puget Sound after Mother’s Day.
Suffice it to say that balloons and other plastics are a big issue for ocean organisms. If you’d like more information on harm that balloons do, check out balloonsblow.org.
However, balloons do traditionally help us mark the significant moments in our lives. We bring balloons to parties, we give them to new parents, we use them to advertise apartments, we use them as the backdrop for photos, and we release them to remember our loved ones. So what can we use instead of harmful plastic balloons to celebrate the events and people in our lives? Read on for some great alternatives and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments!
bake a cake!
In my opinion, baking a cake is an even more thoughtful gift than balloons are because of the time and energy that goes into making and decorating the cake. Pinterest (and the Internet in general) are full of recipes for all skill levels and tastes.
Buy or make reusable bunting!
Bunting never fails to make a party look festive and Instagram-worthy. If you’re crafty, you can make your own or you can find any design you want on sites like Etsy! Unlike balloons, bunting can be used over and over and over again to add some flair to your celebrations.
Write a thoughtful card or letter!
If you want to let someone know how important they are to you, a thoughtful note means more than balloons do. Pour your heart out and let your loved one know how special they are and how proud you are of them! They’ll remember your kindness forever.
Donate to an organization!
Put the money you would have spent on a balloon bouquet to better use and donate to an organization! Is your friend obsessed with dogs? Give to a local animal shelter! Did your sister just have a baby? Donate in her name to make sure other women have safe birth experiences, too!
Make a wreath!
These hula hoop wreaths look easy to make and will be the talk of your party! Once the celebration is over, they can be a great conversation piece in your home for years to come.
Decorate with lights!
After a few days, balloons deflate and have to be thrown away. Lights, however, give us a reusable way to decorate! Whether they’re large patio lights or small fairy lights, lights are the perfect way to decorate without having to use single-use plastics.
Go out to a restaurant!
Instead of celebrating with balloons, take your special someone out to dinner at their favorite restaurant! Not only does a restaurant already have a little decor but your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
Create your backdrop!
There is so much more to a backdrop than balloons! Try creating your own photo backdrop with compostable or recyclable items.
Enjoy balloons that won’t ever deflate!
If you love the look of balloons but don’t want to contribute to ocean pollution, then you might like balloon statues and art, like the one below! This balloon animal won’t deflate but will add some character to your home and your party.
So how will you celebrate without using harmful balloons?
Margaret Hanzlick-Burton is an educator at the Seattle Aquarium, a graduate student working toward a master’s degree in biology, and a lifelong shark enthusiast and advocate. You can check out her podcast “Frow Ew! to Oh!” on SoundCloud and peruse her blog at twobirdsonescone.org.
WHAT ELSE MARGARET HAS WRITTEN:
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
A proud #LatinainSTEM, Marquez is a marine biologist who focuses on shark habitat use and movements; she is also a science communicator (follow her on Twitter) who focuses on diverse Chondrichthyan education and who focuses on the media coverage of sharks. You can learn more about her on her website.