How to Have a Sustainable Party without Balloons

Have a festive and sustainable celebration without using balloons

You’ve got a celebration coming up and you’re planning for a party.  What is a party without balloons, especially a kids party, right?  So you load up on tons of multi-colored balloons, decorate for the party, cake, food and presents.  It’s a whirl of smells, sounds, and emotions.  You’ve had a wonderful but exhausting time and now it’s time to clean up. 

You end up with bags and bags of trash.

For one evening celebration.

Seems kind of wasteful, so you look for a more sustainable option the next time you have a celebration to plan.  You choose compostable plates and cutlery.  Everything is compostable or reusable.

But what about balloons?  What is a party without balloons?

Balloons are synonymous with celebration.  They’re colorful, cheap, and you have nearly endless options to customize.  The downside is the impact to the environment.  We’ve seen the unfortunate photos of wildlife that has ingested the remnants of balloons or have gotten tangled in the strings.  Its so sad and horrifying that it sticks in our minds.  

The subconscious symbol of happiness is so toxic and detrimental of our world, so as we start making more conscientious life choices. We look for better options.

Biodegradable Balloons

Is there such a thing as biodegradable balloons?

It depends on who you ask.  There are balloons made of latex that are labeled as biodegradable.  They are marketed as being extracted from natural rubber sap and having the ability to naturally biodegrade in landfills and industrial composters in four months to one year. 


There is a lot of information to indicate it’s not that clear cut.  Balloons aren’t recyclable.  You can always check your local recycler, but in most cases they do not take them.  Moreover, even if the biodegradable balloons did break down in four months, biodegradable does not mean compostable.  There are still chemicals that are also being put into the environment.  Four months is a long time and plenty of wildlife can still be impacted during this time. 

The final nail in the coffin.

Several people have tested the “biodegradable” claim to see how balloons degrade after set times in an industrial composter.  The results after several months…it didn’t.  The balloons were still completely intact.  So lets assume the time frame is off and it is much longer to degrade, if at all.  This doesn’t seem like the environmentally friendly idea it originally seemed. 

This is such a bummer.  Do you have to choose between protecting fluffly little ducks and having a boring brown craft paper birthday?

Well if you want a brown craft paper birthday, I’m not throwing hate. For the rest of us, we have some options we can explore.  We just need to be a little creative. 

Foil Balloons

Foil balloons are more expensive but are a better option than traditional or latex balloons because they are reusable.  How many times they’re reusable depends on what condition they’re in and how well you care for them between events. Keep in mind that ultimately, they will still probably end up in a landfill.

Balloon Alternatives: Poms and Bunting

I love decorating with tissue poms and paper/fabric bunting for several reasons.  It’s easy to make yourself.  It’s absolutely dirt cheap and you usually have the materials on hand to create them on the fly.  You can purchase premade versions if you don’t feel crafty.  There are endless color and design options.  Best of all, they’re compostable!

If you’re saying, “yeah but it’s just not the same!”, you’re right.  It is different, but with some planning you can use the poms to create a similar aesthetic.

If you want your child to hold a bunch of balloons for a photo, create tissue pomps and attach them to bamboo sticks.  Are they different? Yes, but I think different can be cool and interesting.  Embrace the fact that they’re different.

If you’re wanting balloon displays, use fishing line and hang them from the ceiling or the chandelier.  It will still give you the same “floating” aesthetic as balloons and honestly, I love the way they photograph. 

You can string them together to make garland, hang them, create groupings and sculptures with them.  The options are pretty much endless.

And when you’re done, fold them back flat and pack them up for the next party.  If they’re not in good condition, send them to the compost or recycle bin!

Are poms and bunting more work than balloons?

I’ve done both and my opinion is not really.  Blowing up a bunch of balloons is exhausting and they migrate through the house like wandering cats.  They’re a pain to keep up with and loud when they pop.  Once I knew how to make poms, they’re ridiculously easy to make.  I remembered making similar tissue paper creations in art class as a kid.  It’s fun and I can recruit the little guy for help.  It’s a similar time and cost investment for me and I’m less winded at the end of the day.  For me, it’s a no brainer. 

So have fun and be guilt free with your next celebration!  Now you have a way to avoid or at least reduce using balloon for your celebrations.  Start a new tradition with reusable paper decorations!

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