Considering how to decorate for a graduation party? Choose wisely. This is a good time to remember that what goes up must come down, and take the pledge to not release balloons into the atmosphere.
Releasing balloons into the air is littering. Ultimately balloons will burst and return to the earth as litter or marine debris. There is a greater than 70% chance that airborne balloons or their fragments will end up in the oceans where they are often mistaken for food by marine animals, or the string, ribbon or other material can wrap around fins, flippers, and limbs, causing infection, amputation, or drowning.
Latex balloons float for just 10 hours, but can take a year or more to degrade, long enough to repeatedly wrap around or be ingested by turtles, sea birds and marine mammals. Scientists who work with stranded whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles have found balloons, parts of balloons and balloon string in the stomachs of many of these dead animals. In 2003, volunteers collected 4,228 mylar and latex balloons just from New Jersey beaches.
There are local laws prohibiting balloon releases in parts of the US including the states of Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Texas, California, and Virginia, the UK and Australia.
Balloons are not the only example of marine debris. Other material that has been found fouling our waters are cigarette butts and lighters, fishing line, food packaging, styrofoam, plastic pellets, abandoned fishing gear, plastic bags, tires, metal containers, appliances and machinery, plastic containers, hard hats, cloth, crates and pallets, straws, monofilament line, medical waste, and glass bottles--and that is an abbreviated list.
While biodegradable balloons are available, the string and ribbon attached to them can still injure, maim, strangle and kill wildlife. Make the green choice and opt for more earth-friendly decorations for your party or celebration.
Other ways you can do your part for the environment this season:
Never intentionally discard any item into the marine environment. Tie it down, secure it, or stow it. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Properly dispose of trash and fishing gear. Securely cover trash cans. Participate in coastal cleanup programs. Keep cigarette butts off streets and beaches. And finally, set a good example and educate others about marine debris.
Start setting the example by taking the No Balloons pledge here. You may even want to deliberately opt to have a balloon-free, pledge-signing party.