photo: sally schneider
UPDATE: After we published the post below, about giving balloons to grownups so they can experience “setting them free”, we got a number of comments alerting us to the dangers balloons pose to birds, wildlife and the environment. Charmed by balloons, we confess to having been completely naive about these harsh realities, which you can read about here. As we discovered when a reader freaked out about a post about shipping pallets, many of the dangers were overblown and the issues often more complex than stated, so we posted essential info. Our research indicates that Mylar balloons pose the worst environmental danger as they are basically foil and nylon; old-fashioned balloons are normally made of latex and are biodegradable. Numbers vary wildly as to how much wildlife is actually hurt or killed by latex balloons. There is some research that indicates that latex balloons, fully inflated and without any strings or ribbons attached, tend to shatter into tiny pieces at high atmospheres (about 5 miles); the fragments drop to earth to biodegrade . All that being said, we prefer to err on the side of safety, and have redacted our post:
A friend recently sent us an unusual birthday gift: a huge gaggle of classic, brightly colored helium balloons. What was unusual was the idea she had for them:
Remember when you were a kid and you accidentally let a balloon go, and you’d watch it, heart-broken, rise into the air? The balloon escaped, was set free, to ride the currents and seek its fortune as it were. I thought it might be fun to let one go here and there – or all of them – intentionally, and feel the freedom of watching them fly.
Inspired idea THAT IS POTENTIALLY REALLY BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
The balloons, powerfully heliumed, arrived with a note that read:
“Happy Birthday, With all our love. (Not to be used for travel.)”