After a funeral or cremation service in Beltsville, MD has concluded, it is not uncommon for people to gather together to memorialize a loved one by releasing colorful balloons, with notes inside or attached to them, and watching them float upward toward the heavens.
Releasing grief balloons can be an uplifting way to remember a loved one, but they can cause environmental damage when they fall back down to earth. Here are some more reasons why it’s a good idea to have alternatives to balloon release.
- Balloons made of plastic or latex can end up on power lines and cause outages, get caught on tree branches, or be wrapped around the legs or necks of birds.
- In the ocean, balloons look like jellyfish and sea turtles may eat them and die.
- Even biodegradable latex balloons take a long time to break down and can hurt wildlife in the meantime.
Cons of Releasing Grief Balloons
This can be an uplifting and comforting way to remember a loved one. However, what goes up must come down. Balloons are typically made of plastic or latex, and when they come down they can land on power wires and cause power outages, they can get caught on tree branches, or they can get wrapped around the legs or necks of birds or caught on their beaks.
Bad effect in ocean
The effect of falling balloons on the ocean can be even more devastating. Because balloons look so much like jellyfish, which is a primary source of food for sea turtles, that sea turtles ingest them and can be injured or die. If the sea turtles don’t eat them, then the balloons float to the bottom of the ocean floor and add more ecologically unfriendly plastic trash on the bottom of the sea.
Bad effect in animal
Even though latex balloons are declared to be biodegradable, the time it takes for them to break down is quite long. This gives them enough time to cause injury or death to wildlife. Latex balloons are the most frequent balloon type that is found in the stomachs of wild animals when they die.
Bad effect in environment
The helium that is used to fill up balloons are nonrenewable. That means they cannot be replaced when the time comes due to shortage. Not only does this mean we’ll run out of them eventually if not taken responsibly, but it also harms animals by releasing more CO2 into the environment than necessary as a result from being released in high altitude where oxygen levels become scarce so quickly with each balloon release because there’s no plant life at these altitudes which removes carbon dioxide naturally like trees do on Earth’s surface level.
Releasing Sky Lanterns isn’t a Good Alternative
Some people use sky lanterns, but they are also a danger to the environment. They create litter that can injure or kill wildlife and they can also present a fire hazard, sparking wildfires during dry seasons.
Grief Balloon Release Alternatives
There are other much more environmentally-friendly ways to memorialize a loved one who has died.
Release Flowers on River or Pond
One way is to release flowers on a river or pond and let them float. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a colorful bunch of flowers that are native to the area floating on a body of water. If you want to attach notes to the flowers, use quick dissolving paper like rice paper.
Another ecologically-friendly way to memorialize a loved one is to blow bubbles. When a crowd of people is blowing bubbles, using a mixture of regular bubble wands and giant bubble wands, the effect can be absolutely beautiful.
Candlelight vigils are another way to memorialize someone you love who has died. These are very common now with nationally-significant deaths, but you can hold your own candlelight vigil for your loved one with family and friends in a place that was special to your loved one. It’s best to use beeswax candles or soy candles rather than petroleum-based candles. Make sure you have drip protectors for the candles so the wax falls into the protector rather than on the ground.
Releasing living things in a safe way can be difficult, often resulting in the death of these animals. Instead of releasing balloons or butterflies that will end up dying anyway, you could release ladybugs into your garden! Doing so allows them to live and flourish with no harm done.
Ladybugs are lovable creatures that provide natural pest control. They’re not like butterflies who take off in a symbolic heavenly flight – ladybugs tend to crawl out of their container rather than fly away. However, you can feel confident knowing they won’t harm the insects when released as long as farmed and wild-caught ones aren’t used; it’s best for people release them at dusk or after watering the garden if possible so they don’t dry up too much from lack of water (though green lacewings could also be an alternative).
Write in the sand
Here’s a fun and interactive way to write something for the person you lost: take some sand with your toes or fingers, make it into letters of their name by digging them out from between your digits, then use those same digits as markers. Watch how quickly they wash away when exposed to the waves! When we’re all finished writing messages in this new medium that is so easily washed away (pun intended), our words will float off down the beach until there’s nothing left but laughter at what was written earlier today.
Plant a Tree
Another great way to protect the environment and memorialize your loved one is to plant a tree in their memory. Trees give us shade, oxygen, and help beautify the landscape. By planting a tree in memory of your loved one, you also create a permanent place where you and your family, as well as friends, can go to remember your loved one for a very long time.
If you want more information about choosing the right service for a loved one who has passed away or resources about dealing with grief, consult with our experienced staff at Donald V. Borgwardt Funeral Home, P.A. You can drop by our funeral home at 4400 Powder Mill Rd., Beltsville, MD, 20705, or can contact us today at (301) 937-1707.