The Kritic

Balloons Blow

Balloons BlowPhoto: Balloons Blow

In August 2012 I introduced readers of The Kritic to the problem with balloons and their affect on the environment. In today’s blog I have asked Danielle and Chelsea of BalloonsBlow.org to write about their specific fight against the insidious balloon.

Balloons Blow was created by two sisters who got sick of finding balloons everywhere while out in nature. We’ve been cleaning the beach with our parents all our lives & started to notice an increase in balloon pollution (along with plastic, of course). When we went online and realized the only information on the internet was balloon industry propaganda, we created BalloonsBlow.org so people would have a place to get accurate balloon information. It is the only site dedicated to educating people and compiling information about balloon pollution.

We both have full time jobs, but Balloons Blow keeps us busy every day. The Earth and its wildlife will continue to inspire us to stay strong and continue our work toward a sustainable society that is aware of the impacts daily actions have on the planet. We are constantly motivated by our animal friends who need our help & the people around the world who have been inspired to also clean up whenever, wherever.

Balloons Blow has grown more than we ever imagined & is now a non-profit organization. We are awaiting our 501c3 approval, but most everything has been funded out of our own pockets. We just want people to quit littering with balloons!

To combat the balloon industry’s false claims of latex balloons biodegrading ‘as fast as an oak leaf’ or ‘up to six months’, we started our own backyard biodegradability test using two latex balloons that washed in to us while we were at the beach on December 24, 2011. Those balloons are still in our backyard and haven’t changed much since we brought them home from the beach over 23 months ago. We take pictures of the balloons monthly & believe our test is much more accurate than the single study touted by the balloon industry, which was done by a man paid by the balloon industry who frequently manipulated the balloons including the use of drying ovens, etc.

Biodegradability Test

Backyard Biodegradability TestPhoto: Balloons Blow

23 months since floating onto the beach from the sea partially inflated. Tied to a fence post & left to endure the extreme weather conditions of south Florida, these latex balloons have changed little since deflation & are definitely NOT biodegrading. Although their color is fading & they have plant matter stuck to them, they are still here. Changing from dry & stiff in the heat, to pliable & supple in the humidity. The attached plastic ribbons are becoming brittle & breaking apart.

Balloons are being released everyday by people and organizations all around the world. It is up to each one of us to educate each other. Sometimes it only takes a single e-mail or call to stop a mass littering event.

There are often many challenges when attempting to change people’s minds and actions. People can be very passionate about balloons. Some people can be very defensive.

Balloon releases are becoming popular with awareness group events. This is perplexing to us because awareness groups usually deal with an issue that affects life, whether it is human or another species. Not only can balloons themselves directly destroy life, but the helium that the balloons are filled with is being depleted at an alarming rate. Helium is a finite resource and is used in the medical field for a variety of procedures. Our society needs Helium to save lives, but it costs about ten thousand times more to get helium from the air than it does from rocks and natural gas reserves, and our supplies of Helium are being used at a “unimaginable” rate and could be gone within a generation according to Robert Richardson (Nobel Prize winner in 1996 for his work on superfluidity of Helium). Balloon releases are bad for everyone.

Our favorite alternative is planting trees and flowers because both support existing life and help create new lives. Ribbon dancers & bubbles are also fun!

There are a handful of states and cities around the globe that have balloon release regulations. Unfortunately, many of these laws are often unenforced and unknown. They also frequently allow for a certain number of balloons to be released and only penalize a fine for releases that exceed the limit. The legality of balloon releases is a tremendous obstacle. This multi-billion dollar industry spends big bucks lobbying to keep this littering legal. Creating laws regulating balloon releases may be a difficult and lengthy process, but their enactment would be concurrent with litter laws.

Having respect for the Earth in the simple act of refraining from littering and releasing balloons can lead to more environmentally conscious and sustainable actions.

Many people ask us, why balloons? After explaining the complex web of this question as it is directly related to released balloons (industry propaganda, lack of public awareness, encouragement of wastefulness, effects of wildlife, etc.) it always comes around to the big picture; sustainability. Throwing something ‘away’ takes it out of your sight, but not off of the planet. Recycling is a great alternative to throwing something ‘away’, but is becoming a bandage over the deeper wound. We are all victims of our society and are often coerced into buying more oil based plastics; but by coming together & (making) more conscious choices we CAN make a difference! We all have the power to control our actions and in the end change the course of history.

BALLOONS BLOW… DON’T LET THEM GO!

Balloonsblow.org