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While balloons can be a fun and easy way to create a festive atmosphere, they are incredibly wasteful, non-biodegradable, non-recyclable & dangerous for wildlife and our environment.
Luckily, you can still have incredible party decorations with many different, more creative & eco-friendly alternatives!
In this article, you can find 12 options for low waste party decorations & eco-friendly alternatives to balloons.
Let’s jump right into it!
12 Eco-Friendly Alternative To Balloons:
1. Crochet reusable water balloons
If you or your kids want to have a water balloon fight, fear not! You can still have a fun water balloon fight with reusable “balloons.”
These crochet water “balloons” can be a great alternative, as you can reuse them.
All you need to do is to dunk them into a bucket of water. The fabric that the water balloons are made of holds up more water. Then, use them the same way you would use regular water balloons.
Of course, it isn’t the same feeling, but the concept is! It creates a similar experience to real water balloons.
2. Paper balloons
Another idea is to get plastic-free traditional Japanese paper balloons (Kamifusen). They are easy to inflate, and if you take good care of them, you can reuse them over and over.
It is a colorful and fun option for kids’ celebrations, and you can find them in many different shapes and colors.
To hang the paper balloons, tie a bit of thread to an uncoiled paper clip and insert it in the hole. Then attach the cord to the ceiling or wall with a bit of tape.
3. Flying wish paper
Flying wish paper is a fantastic substitute for leaving balloons with helium to fly away.
Write your wishes on these thin pieces of paper, roll them up, light them, and watch them rise. There is very little ash left, and they only burn for 6-8 seconds.
It becomes cool to the touch almost immediately after that. See what is it & how it works here:
Who doesn’t love bubbles? I know I do! 😀 You can make a Bubble mixture and use it for Birthdays and parties. This option is great for kids’ celebrations, too.
To make a DIY Bubble solution, you can mix:
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup dish soap (best if you find it in bulk!)
For a step-by-step tutorial, check this quick & easy guide from Melody Yang.
Children love when balloons float in the air. That’s why buying or making kites is an excellent alternative, which can bring as much joy to them as balloons.
Lights can make any party look much more fabulous and festive! If you already have some, that’s perfect.
If you don’t have and would like to purchase, you can look at these LED lights on Amazon, which are even more sustainable than the regular ones you can find in most shops.
Similar to the previous option, candles can create a beautiful, cozy and festive environment for any occasion. Some great ones that you can get are:
Banners are versatile, reusable, plastic-free, and you can DIY them easily in many different styles, shapes, or colors.
They are a fantastic option for birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, etc. Best of all, you can easily customize and personalize them for any occasion.
You can make:
- Easy DIY Birthday Party banner
- DIY Banner for Christmas / New Years
- Fancier DIY Party Banner With Flowers
There are so many awesome tutorials on Youtube, so whatever the occasion is, I’m sure you can find great inspiration & ideas. 🙂
9. Paper decorations / Origami
While they can be a bit more consuming, creating DIY paper decorations can make any party look so much more festive and beautiful. You can use them for table decorations or hanging from the walls/ceiling.
You can make MANY different paper decorations, including:
Most of them are super simple to make, and if you have the time to make a bunch, they can be a fantastic decoration for different events.
You can make many other shapes, so don’t limit yourself! Alternatively, you could purchase some already made ones if you don’t have time to make something yourself.
10. Fabric decorations
Fabric decorations are another great option, which will last you even longer than most paper decorations.
You can either DIY them or look for already made ones on Etsy! Some ideas to consider include:
11. Portable party light
This Portable LED Party Light Projector is another fantastic decoration idea for your parties.
The great thing about this light is that it is portable and will project on almost any surface. In addition, you can hang up the lamp wherever you wish with a cord (ceiling, trees, etc.).
Additionally, you can use the lamp with rechargeable batteries, making it a more eco-friendly option.
It is incredible for indoor or outdoor garden parties, and it comes with transparent color glass paint set that you can use. They offer different sizes and options in their Etsy shop!
12 Plants, flowers, or other natural decoration
This option is not only better but also prettier and much more classy. Depending on the seasons, you can create various DIY decorations, including:
- In fall: Collect beautiful leaves from the outside
- In winter: DIY pine cone garland
- In spring & summer: Collect wildflowers and put them in a vase
Pros of eco-friendly alternatives to ballons:
- Work with your creativity
- Litter free
- Easy to make
- Fun & exciting
- More thoughtful and personal
Cons of eco-friendly alternatives to balloons:
- Time-consuming (if you decide DIYing them)
What are balloons made of?
Most balloons are made of rubber, latex, or plastic (mylar).
The plastic balloons contain metal (foil) coated plastic such as polyethylene or nylon. They usually have a shiny, reflective surface.
The latex balloons contain plasticizers – synthetic and chemical compounds which make natural rubber and latex softer and more durable.
Balloons come in different shapes and sizes and are not biodegrade. Therefore, if they end up in our environment, they will take many, many years to decompose (= become microplastics and pollute our planet for decades).
For the curious ones, you can see how balloons are made here:
Are “biodegradable” balloons any better?
Biodegradable balloons are made using natural latex, which is supposed to break down over time. However, they aren’t made purely with 100% natural latex. They also contain:
- Plasticizers – To make it more flexible
- Preservatives – To extend their shelf life
- Flame retardants
- Dyes and pigments
This makes them non-biodegradable and possibly toxic to the environment.
How long does it take for biodegradable balloons to degrade?
Balloons have been put through varying tests on their biodegradability.
The latest one found that the balloons became less stretchy in water tanks, and their chemical composition slightly changed in water. However, after 16 weeks, the balloons were still recognizable, with no real sign of degrading.
Balloons Blow conducted another interesting experiment. They collected biodegradable balloons from the ocean and documented their actual “biodegradability.”
You can see the complete 7+ year experiment here. You can see that after all that time, the balloons didn’t biodegrade.
Are there environmentally friendly balloons?
Unfortunately, no. But there are alternatives and substitutes considered more sustainable and eco-friendly options – you can find all of them in this article!
Can balloons be recycled?
No, balloons are not recyclable. Therefore, companies advertising their latex balloons as being “biodegradable,” “recyclable,” or even “eco-friendly” are misleading and greenwashing.
Why are balloons bad?
- They pose a severe threat to wildlife. About 20% of all seabirds that ingested balloon fragments died as a result
- Not biodegradable
- A growing contributing factor to litter around the world
- Helium balloons are wasting a valuable, non-renewable resource
- A safety hazard for children
As you can see, parties can be festive & exciting without boring, wasteful balloons!
You don’t have to sacrifice anything, and in fact, you can gain so much more by being more mindful and choosing more sustainable options. 🙂
If you have other eco-friendly alternatives and ideas, make sure to share them in the comments below.