6 Alternatives To Balloons And Other Plastic Single-Use Decorations

Reusable Nation - fabric bunting.jpg

Fun for us, but fatal for wildlife, balloons should never be let go to float off into the sky and they should be replaced with wildlife-friendly, plastic-free alternatives like these...

Balloons flying off into the blue sky evoke feelings freedom and hope, but not for wildlife and the future of our planet, as what goes up must come down and these balloons often end up in waterways and oceans, where they end up causing harm to animals by ensnaring them or getting stuck in their gut.

In fact, according to Zoos Victoria, which is championing a move away from balloons, “more than 80% of baby seabirds on Lord Howe Island have ingested rubbish, with balloons and their attachments being one of the most identifiable items”. And, the CSIRO has stated that balloons are one of the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife.

No balloons are eco-friendly or biodegradable. Latex balloons do biodegrade eventually, but in the years and years it takes them to degrade, they have a whole lot of time to do damage. They cannot be recycled or composted.

Zoos Victoria’s When Balloons Fly, Seabirds Die campaign aims to educate the public about the dangers balloons present to wild animals and is asking everyone to promise to protect wildlife and pledge to never use balloons outdoors.

Balloons have become a staple for birthday parties, for both children and adults, and are often given out to kids as promotional material with a brand’s logo on it (please refuse these so companies learn we don’t want these and stop doing this!) and used to get attention for shops and sales.

There’s no denying they are bright and colourful and eye-catching and fun to bop, but the cost of covering our planet in plastic and killing our wildlife is too high!

So, we need to start using alternatives to balloons and to start making these alternatives the new norm. There are so many other more sustainable options - you can even get reusable water balloons! Read on for a number of wildlife-friendly alternatives you can we replace balloons with…

1. Bubbles

Bubbles are just as exciting to try catch and just as mesmerising. You can hire a bubble machine for your party or event or you can DIY bubble solution by mixing dish soap, water and sugar or glycerin or corn syrup (there are lots of recipes online you can follow).

You can reuse old bubble solution containers and wands or any small holder for the liquid and a homemade wand made from wire. You can even make a giant bubble wand!

2. Paper decorations

Paper decorations can be recycled or reused if they survive the event. There are many different ways you can shape paper and embellish it to create something exciting to look at.

Examples are:

  • cardboard bunting

  • paper lanterns

  • Japanese paper balloons

  • paper planes or origami animals

  • paper kites

  • paper pinwheels

  • pom poms

  • paper streamers

  • posters

  • paper crackers (not just for christmas!)

  • pinatas

  • cupcake liner flowers and doily decorations

  • paper plate masks and hats

  • cardboard wreaths

A lot of these you can make yourself or if it’s for a child’s birthday, they could help make their own decorations for their birthday party. You can also buy lots of paper decorations online using Etsy.

3. Fabric decorations

Fabric decorations are even better than paper ones as they will last longer and you will get more use out of them as you can use them over and over again.

Examples are:

  • fabric bunting and garlands

  • flags or banners

  • fabric curtains/drapes, hanging decorations and backdrop/backgrounds

  • fabric ornaments

  • fabric lettering

As always, Etsy is a great online option if you want to buy instead of making it yourself. How cute are these!

4. Light show

Put on a light show that captivates instead! You can use colourful moving light projections, light boxes (we often see these at second hand shops) or cotton string lights to light up your party. Other ornamental lighting options are candles and solar lit mason jars.

These Light Painting Projector Night Lights are a great reusable option (this one is even solar powered!). You can also buy painted bulbs to give off coloured light or paint your own lightbulbs (make sure you do this safely!).

5. Wooden decorations

Wood is another good material for eco-friendly party decorations. It can be reused and composted at the end of its life. And it can be painted to make it more colourful!

Examples are:

  • painted wooden figures

  • wooden lettering

  • wooden wreaths

  • wood discs/slices

  • painted wooden crates

6. Plants and flowers and other natural decorations

Plants in painted pots, flowers in vases or dried flowers can all be used as natural decorations, as can things like pine cones, driftwood, and palm fronds. Wreaths are not just for Christmas either and flower wreaths can brighten a wall or table.

Examples are:

  • plants or cacti in brightly painted holders

  • flowers in vases

  • wreaths from natural material

  • palm fronds, pine cones, driftwood, shells, etc.

  • floating flowers

If you’re hosting a school event, such as a school fete, sports carnival, market or party, you can register it with Zoos Victoria and they’ll send you a complimentary school support pack to help you make your event balloon-free. This can be done here.

Have some fun with it and think beyond balloons!