Please don’t release balloons or fire lanterns. Around 70% of them land in the sea, after exploding in the air (it takes 6 months for latex balloons to biodegrade). They look a sea turtle’s favourite fish of jellyfish, who then eats them and dies. If they end up on land, cattle get belly ulcers if they accidentally eat them. One horse in Yorkshire recently died from choking on balloon string, leaving her guardian devastated and heartbroken.
You can find info on how to stop a balloon release including sample letters. One thing to note is that ‘biodegradable balloons’ are no less deadly, as they break down, to be eaten by wildlife.
If you use balloons, use indoors or tie securely with raffia/jute and dispose of responsibly (don’t leave string/ribbon in garden, as birds take it back to nests, who then choke or strangle). After use, deflate balloons slowly with scissors (near the knot) and bin securely (these and bouncy balls are also choking hazards).
All balloons are a choking hazard for pets and children – you can’t even give CPR if a child choked, as the balloon would expand inside the throat).
Kites can wrap around bird necks and feet, and even slice off wings. Expert advice is to not fly kites, as they cause harm in the air, on land and at sea. If you use them, use biodegradable kites (avoid at dawn/dusk when birds more likely flying).
Dove and butterfly releases are also not good. Most die after release, as they can’t survive in the wild. Did you know that during the Seoul Olympic ceremony, all of the doves released flew into the Olympic torch?
If you wonder what the metal items are on streets (looking like the insides of soda syphons), they are nitrous oxide containers, used to get people high from laughing gas. These are often inhaled through balloons, which are also littered, leading to killing wildlife. Most of the nitrous oxide containers are sold with balloons, so end up getting eaten by wildlife.
Fire lanterns are fire hazards (one German zoo recently had several animals die, when one dropped into an enclosure). They have metal spikes that fall to the sea or ground, and are often mistaken for coastal flares, putting coastguard and lifeboat crew lives at risk.
Alternatives to Balloons & Lanterns
- Organise a nature walk in memory of a loved one. You could raise money for a good cause, at the same time (go for a local charity).
- There are many companies that offer services to do something in memory. Like naming a star in the galaxy after someone, ideal for sentimentalists.
- Ask your local place of worship to hold a service, then just collectively give a donation. Far more meaningful and nothing harmed.
- Hire a compassionate clown. Ask them not to use balloons. They do not use use live animals.
- Plant a celebration or memorial tree, avoiding toxic plants and trees near pets and horses (and the option of planting in public forests, if you can’t plant certain trees near animal friends).
Use Bunting Over Balloons
This beautiful bunting made from rescued books is made from a copy of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. It also makes a lovely gift for the bookish or nature-loving recipient. In 1906 Edith Holden recorded in words and paintings the flora and fauna of the British countryside through the seasons, featured here.
The bunting has square ‘pages’ and is designed to be viewed from one side only (so not really suitable for outdoor use). It’s sold ready to hang on 3 metres of cream yarn (as opposed to the photo) and extends to almost 3ft if placed end to end – enough to spread the flags out. The flags you receive may differ slightly, as they are all obviously unique pages. Whichever flags you receive, expect autumn papers with pretty leaves, nuts, berries and toadstools, along with beautiful seasonal writing. The bunting is threaded with rescued cream wool, that would otherwise go to landfill.
Solar-Powered Sun Jars
These solar-powered sun jars are really pretty. Just leave them near daylight for a few hours, and at night they turn into beautiful glowing lights, nothing else required. The jar gives off a ‘dappled sunlight’ appearance through the frosted waterproof glass. They are also a great way to display the wares in small shops at night, without worrying about electricity bills. Choose from a yellow, blue or pink light. Once charged, they will glow for up to 5 hours in the dark. You can even use them as battery-free nightlights for children, who are afraid of the dark.
The jars have no switch. They simply use a light sensor to switch on and off automatically. So it must be dark, for the light on the sun jar to come on. The jar contains an efficient solar cell, a rechargeable battery and LED lamp, so works best outside or near sunny window. If the weather is overcast, you may need to charge the lamp for a few days.
If you are planning a celebration and there’s no sun, there is the back-up option of using a standard AA rechargeable battery (never use a non-rechargeable battery) instead, still safer than a fire lantern. Just replace it for the solar panel in the lid. To remove moisture build-up, just empty out the water under the lid, and replace.
These also make a great alternative to fire lanterns, which are a fire hazard (several animals recently died in a German zoo, after one dropped into their enclosure). If the metal spikes land in the sea while burning, coastguards often mistake them for flares, and call out the lifeguards, putting lives at risk for no reason. In hot weather, they also cause wildfires, harming wildlife, land and putting firefighter safety at risk.
Just use a few of these instead, for a safe and eco-friendly way to have a celebration, with no wildlife harmed. For an alternative way to produce ‘glowing lights in lanterns’, then pop over to Patch of the Planet (the end of this post details the dangers to wildlife of fire lanterns, and offers a homemade wildlife-friendly alternative involving sand and tea lights).