It’s almost a right of passing, at least in my neighborhood growing up. You go to a restaurant with your family, the restaurant hands out balloons to any kids who ask for it. That kid gets the balloon and almost immediately after leaving the door the balloon magically slips out of their hand and floats away into the great beyond. I know I have cried many times as a child about a lost balloon. But there is something beautiful about watching it fly away.
That beauty has landed itself into a trend of balloon releases. Commemorating a loved one, sending prayers, celebrating a new marriage, or even competitive car races. Millions of balloons are released into the air each year. And we stand and watch them disappear into the heavens or that strange balloon land. But if we really think about it, these balloons don’t make it to heaven they don’t magically disappear, they fall right back down to earth. And where on earth do they end up. Well… basically anywhere.
This past week, I went hiking two days in a row, in very different areas in the SNRA and I found a balloon in the middle of the forest each day. Now balloons don’t know that this land is protected they don’t know that they should land in our landfills. They go where ever the wind and gravity takes them. Ending up in our forests, our oceans, and out backyards.
k, so balloons make your hike look less beautiful, so what? They impact my hike but they also harm animals. We have all heard that straws kill sea turtles, but so does eating lots of scraps of balloon. Sea birds and turtles often mistake them for jelly fish or other food. And rich here in Idaho, Big Horn Sheep are known to mistake balloons for foliage (Check out this great photo album by Balloons Blow https://balloonsblow.org/photo-gallery/). As well as other native animals are affected.
So, what are your other options. Consider carrying pinwheels and place them in your yard, or banners. My personal favorite alternative is blowing bubbles. Bubbles are great for funerals, weddings or any celebration. They are fun for dogs, kids and grandmothers. Consider making your own bubbles as well to increase your enjoyment.
Created by Naturalist Emma Adams