The Dangers of Balloon Releases

Balloon releases have been around for decades, but did you know that they are extremely harmful to our animal friends AND our environment?

You can check out the podcast here or read on for a high level summary of what we discuss!


What do we mean by “balloon release?”

A balloon release is pretty much what it sounds like–releasing either helium or hydrogen balloons into the sky. This has become a popular practice at wedding ceremonies, funerals, and other public events. 


What happens when you release balloons in the sky?

In our world, what goes up must come down. This is true for everything released into the sky, including balloons. 


Once balloons leave the earth they don’t just go away. They don’t go to heaven and they don’t disintegrate into the atmosphere. They eventually lose their “lift” and land somewhere, meaning that balloon releases essentially amount to littering. 


Why are balloon releases bad? 

While all littering is bad for the planet, discarded balloons have a greater impact on the environment than simply throwing a napkin out a car window.


1. Dangers to Animals

Released balloons pose a real danger to our animals friends. Animals can mistake brightly colored balloons for food.  According to the NOAA, “if eaten and ingested, balloons and other marine debris can lead to loss of nutrition, internal injury, starvation, and death. String or ribbon that is often found attached to balloons can cause entanglement. String can wrap around marine life causing injury, illness, and suffocation.”


An article on the NOAA website indicates that over the last nine years the Ocean Conservancy organization has conducted a one day “snapshot” of balloon debris during their annual beach cleanup.  From 2008 through 2016, 280,293 pieces of balloon were found in the United States, an average of 31,143 each year.


2. Effects on the Environment

Some balloons are labeled as biodegradable and are marketed as environmentally safe. What manufacturers of these balloons may fail to mention is that many of them are treated with ammonia, plasticizers, and other chemicals to help preserve them against bacterial decomposition. These don’t sound like something that’s going to blend easily into the ground, do they? 


Regarding helium-filled balloons, it’s important to remember that our supply of helium is limited. While helium is a natural atmospheric gas, it is a non-renewable resource, which has led to concerns that it may soon be depleted. Because helium does not renew, when it’s gone, it’s gone for good. 


Considering that balloons use up approximately 30% of the world’s helium, it doesn’t appear to be a wise decision to use this scarce resource in this way. 


3. Fire and Power Outages

Foil and Mylar balloons can get tangled up in power lines, spark fires and causing power outages. This happens more often than you may think! 


What Can I Do Instead of a Balloon Release? 

In the words of Maya Angelou:

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.


Here are some ways we can do better when it comes to celebrating all the good things in our lives: 

  • Drumming – We LOVE this idea because music and beats are so natural to humans for celebrating and expressing ourselves. 
  • Planting in remembrance – This is a great way to actually contribute to the planet AND create a long lasting memorial of the occasion. 
  • Lighting candles – While this one might be tricky on a windy day outside, on a beautiful night, it can be comforting and amazing. 
  • Blowing bubbles – Bubbles are pretty and fun to create. The act of blowing bubbles (breathing in and out) can also be a somewhat meditative experience. It can help us to be mindful and in the “now.”




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Thanks for listening!

Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa

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