Use some of these 18 eco-friendly alternatives to balloons at your next party!
Whether you’re planning a birthday party, a wedding, or a baby shower, you might be tempted to buy balloons to create a colorful, lively atmosphere.
However, did you know that balloons are a significant source of environmental pollution and have disastrous consequences on wildlife?
Fortunately, it doesn’t mean you should stop decorating for parties or have fun celebrating weddings and other types of special events.
We can do this in a more mindful, sustainable way without sacrificing all the fun and exciting parts!
In this article, I share with you multiple eco-friendly alternatives to balloons for decorations.
You’ll also find a couple of sustainable substitutes for water balloons, as well as different eco-friendly alternatives to balloon release.
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Why should we buy eco-friendly alternatives to balloons? Are balloons that bad for the environment?
Besides being non-recyclable, balloons are not biodegradable
Balloons are typically made from mylar or latex, which are both problematic.
Mylar balloons are produced using plastic nylon sheets with a metallic coating, so they are not biodegradable at all.
They also cause power outages when they come in contact with power lines.
So those are a big no-no!
You might think: aren’t latex balloons a better option, then?
Many manufacturers claim that their latex balloons are biodegradable.
However, their products are usually treated with plasticizers and other toxic chemicals.
Because of that, they don’t degrade uniformly in the environment and they can take many years before they disappear.
So, when both mylar and latex balloons are released into the air, and eventually into the environment, they will stay there for ages.
Between 2008 and 2016, almost 300,000 balloons were found on US beaches alone, which is over 31,000 balloons per year!
Balloons are a threat to wildlife
As they sit there, they are a significant threat to animals!
When they’ve made their way into the ocean, marine life mistakes them for jellyfish or other sea life that sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and other animals eat.
If ingested, they block the digestive tract of the animal, which can lead to starvation and death.
When balloons fall onto the ground, birds and other animals can get entangled in balloon strings, severely restricting their movements.
They can get injured or strangle themselves, which can again kill them.
Not to mention they might eat balloon fragments as well!
Noticing all those detrimental impacts on wildlife, some cities have decided to ban the use and sale of balloons.
Hopefully, many others will do the same!
There is a worldwide shortage of helium
Last but not least, balloons are often filled with helium.
Doing this contributes to the helium shortage we have had around the world for several years now.
This is particularly problematic when we know that helium is needed to keep the magnets in MRI machines running!
18 eco-friendly alternatives to balloons, water balloons, and balloon releases
Now, you might be asking yourself: Is there a sustainable alternative to balloons?
Can you get eco-friendly balloons?
What balloons don’t hurt the environment?
Well, here are 18 eco-friendly alternatives to balloons, water balloons, and balloon releases!
12 eco-friendly alternatives to balloons for decorations
Pom-poms are a great alternative to balloons for decorations.
You can stick them to the wall, place them on the table, or even hang them from the ceiling or shelves.
This set of colorful paper pom-poms includes pieces that come in three different sizes.
They are crafted from thick paper, meaning that they are made to last and be reused over and over.
When the party’s over, you can fold them back and store them away for the next party!
There are also similar ones sold in a combination of beige, white, and brown, making them more elegant and chic.
You can also find reusable fabric pom-poms.
You’ll love that if they get dirty, you can easily throw them in the wash.
2. Reusable paper balloons
If you want something that will really look like balloons, this is the solution for you!
Made from colored paper, these “balloons” are perfect whether you’re decorating for your kids’ birthdays or any other type of party.
They are super easy to assemble and you’ll be able to hang them wherever you want thanks to their strings.
And the best thing about them is that you can reusable them multiple times if you take good care of them!
Here, I’m not referring to sky lanterns (or fire lanterns).
Those are often seen as an eco-friendly alternative to balloons but actually, they aren’t that sustainable.
While you can choose some paper options, they usually come with a tea light made from paraffin wax, which is derived from petroleum and emits harmful chemicals.
They also often come in contact with dry vegetation or flammable materials and can cause huge wildfires.
Plus, animals often get entangled in the wireframes or ingest some metal components, which can lead to death.
They might even pose a risk to airplanes!
However, you can use classic paper lanterns as party decorations.
These are made of sturdy rice paper and you can reuse them multiple times.
They come in many different colors and sizes.
You can even create DIY lanterns by upcycling an old plastic bottle!
4. Bunting and banners
Whatever party you are having, hang some banners and bunting instead of balloons to decorate the space.
You can DIY some using old clothes to give them a new life.
Another alternative is to buy a bunting from a sustainable home decor brand.
For instance, Will & Atlas sells a handwoven cotton bunting that can double as both home and party decor.
This striped bunting is crafted by a fair trade collective in Bangladesh.
You can also find gorgeous ones on Ten Thousand Villages’ website.
This one is made from upcycled cotton fabric and features lovely floral prints that will brighten any space.
It even has a colorful one with the word “celebrate”.
This one is produced in small batches using recycled sari, water-hyacinth paper, and eco-friendly dyes.
Finally, make sure to check this one from AmourLinen!
Available in two eye-catching styles, it is made from 100% linen.
It’s also certified Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX, meaning that it is completely free of toxic substances.
5. Paper chains
Some of the most eco-friendly alternatives to balloons for decorations are colorful paper chains.
You can hang them wherever you want and they will create a lively, welcoming atmosphere.
To make them, you can get this set of 240 pieces of paper chain strips that come in 20 colors.
You’ll simply need to stick the two ends of the paper together and choose the color combination you want.
Here again, you can reuse your paper chains many times!
Pinwheels are a fantastic balloon substitute that you can place all over your garden if you have an outdoor party.
Unfortunately, all pinwheels we can buy at the store or online are made of plastic (let me know if you’ve found paper ones that also do not have a plastic stick!).
But the good news is that you can make some yourself using paper and a wooden stick.
This great article explains how to do it step-by-step, so make sure to check it out.
To make things even more unique, use old newspapers or maps instead of virgin paper!
7. Paper flowers
If you love craft projects to do alone or with your kids, this one’s for you!
Instead of balloons, consider decorating your space with handmade paper flowers.
You can even create an entire arch with them as an eco-friendly alternative to balloon arches.
This easy tutorial will show you exactly how to make giant paper flowers.
But if you’re not crafty and prefer getting a ready-made product, why don’t you decorate your room with real flowers instead?
These are perfect for weddings, baby showers, birthdays, and more.
Garlands are a great way to decorate any room for birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, and many other events.
But instead of buying those plastic garlands from the store, consider picking a more sustainable option.
They feature fun, cool details such as tassels, flowers, stars, pom-poms, little rainbows, macrame touches, and many more.
Not to mention they are handcrafted from eco-friendly materials like raffia, natural cotton, banana fibers, palm leaves, and recycled fabrics!
9. Paper streamers
Paper streamers are some of the best eco-friendly alternatives to balloons for decorations!
They add bright colors to the space, and kids will love to play with them.
You can cut them to the size you want and create all kinds of DIY decorations with them.
This set consists of 12 colors (including gold and silver), and the streamers are super easy to hang.
You can also reuse them later on if they’re still in good condition.
I have another craft project for you!
Take a few hours on the weekend or in the evening to make some origami with your kids.
To do so, I recommend this high-quality origami paper.
Have fun creating all kinds of fun shapes, animals, trees, flowers, and more, and at the end, collect them all so you can display them at your next party.
You can place them on tables and shelves, or even create a garland with them.
Your kids will be thrilled to show their creations to their friends!
11. Fairy lights
One of my favorite eco-friendly alternatives to balloons is fairy lights.
They can be reused over and over again, and you can display them wherever you want, even in your home when your party is over.
This set consists of 200 LED bulbs that are waterproof so you can use it in your garden, even when it rains.
It offers eight lighting modes and four brightness levels and even has a remote control and timer function.
12. Tea lights in glass jars
Upcycle some glass jars that your food comes in and put a tea light in each one of them.
And then, display them on your table or around your garden.
They will create a magical, warm atmosphere for an unforgettable party!
However, if you have little kids running around at your party, you may want to swap real candles for fake, battery-operated ones like these.
They feature a realistic warm flicker and melting edge design and provide 200 hours of illumination.
2 eco-friendly alternatives to water balloons
If you love playing with your kids and throwing water balloons at each other during the summer, you know how much waste it creates.
But the good news is that you don’t have to give up on fun and staying cool so you can live by your values.
These alternatives will save you money as you will be able to reuse them every summer for every balloon fight going forward.
13. Reusable crochet water balloons
The first option is to get crochet water balloons like these.
They are reusable year after year and they don’t explode, meaning that you won’t have to pick up all the tiny pieces of waste after the balloon fight.
Soak them in water, throw them, and repeat.
Once you’re done with them, you can throw them in the wash.
They could even make great decorations for a party!
Plus, we love that they are crocheted by hand in California.
14. Reusable silicone water bombs
Another reusable alternative to water balloons is silicone water bombs like these.
You will simply need to sink them into the water for a second, throw them at your loved ones, and they’ll open automatically when colliding.
They feature a magnetic closure, making them easy to use, even for kids ages three or more.
These water bombs are made of high-quality, latex-free silicone and come with a practical storage mesh bag.
4 eco-friendly alternatives to balloon release
Balloon releases are common at weddings, memorials, graduations, and many other events.
There are usually dozens, hundreds if not thousands of balloons that are released at a time.
And guess where they all end up?
They have to come down somewhere, right?!
As a result, they end up lost in nature or the ocean, where they can cause deadly consequences for wildlife.
15. Blow some bubbles
Blowing bubbles is one of the best eco-friendly alternatives to balloon release!
Both adults and children will find it fun, and you won’t create nearly as much waste.
This bubble solution is formulated with non-toxic ingredients.
It comes packaged in an aluminum bottle that you can refill over and over.
It also produces tons of long-lasting bubbles that shine with the sun, and the special cap is designed to prevent messy drips.
16. Plant seed balls
If you want to honor someone who passed away, instead of releasing balloons, why don’t you give away seed balls to your family and friends so they can plant them?
That way, when the flowers start to grow and bloom, everyone will be reminded of the deceased loved one.
Not to mention the flowers will be loved by all the pollinators in their gardens!
The Wildlife Trusts have a great article on how to make seed bombs, so feel free to check it out!
17. Floating flowers down a river
If you’re looking for another eco-friendly alternative to balloon release for memorials, consider floating some flowers down a stream or a river.
You will get the same “letting go” feeling as in a balloon release without polluting the environment.
To be honest, I find this to be even more meaningful and a beautiful symbol of your love for the person!
18. Throw sustainable confetti
For weddings, swap releasing balloons for throwing some sustainable confetti.
You can create confetti yourself using leaves you’ve found in nature or buy a ready-made option produced with natural materials.
For instance, you can get these confetti packs made with dried flower petals.
They are crafted from a stunning blend of handpicked rose petals, forget-me-not petals, and jasmine buds.
This confetti is 100% biodegradable, making it perfect particularly for all outdoor celebrations.
Final thoughts on eco-friendly alternatives to balloons
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and that you could find some eco-friendly alternatives to balloons you love!
If you’re looking for sustainable alternatives to other wasteful products, you will love the following articles:
- 15 eco-friendly alternatives to aluminum foil for cooking, baking, & storage
- 10 natural & sustainable alternatives to dryer sheets for soft, fresh, & static-free laundry
What are your favorite substitutes for balloons?
I’d love to know!
Don’t forget to share this blog post with your friends so that they can find eco-friendly alternatives to balloons for their next party too.