If you're going to make only one sustainable change to your lifestyle this year, please let it be to stop using balloons as a decorative element.
Balloons are a massive threat to Australian wildlife. In fact, a recent CSIRO study identified balloons among the top three most harmful pollutants threatening marine wildlife, along with plastic bags and bottles.
When balloons fly up into the sky, they inevitably find their way back down to the ground. Once they pop, balloons become small pieces of brightly coloured plastic that can look like food and are often ingested by wildlife, leading to their illness and death.
Rather than balloons, consider using sustainable alternatives to decorate your event space. We've curated a list of what we think are the best eco friendly alternatives to balloons:
ALTERNATIVE 1: Accent your event with touches of nature
Look beyond the party aisle and into your backyard for decoration inspiration. Bunches of Australian eucalyptus leaves, gumnuts and bottlebrush flowers are always beautiful additions to any event space.
One of the best ideas we've seen out there is eco friendly gum leaf confetti. Simply grab a hole punch (can be a basic circular punch or one with a shape) and a bunch of eucalyptus leaves, and get punching! The best part - the confetti can be scattered in your backyard or garden post the event, where it will harmlessly biodegrade into the natural environment - just like a fallen leaf.
In NSW and looking for a local option? Blue Mountains Eco Confetti are a small business based in NSW's Blue Mountains - they can deliver eco confetti to your door, ready for all your special occasions.
Image Source: Blue Mountains Eco Confetti
ALTERNATIVE 2: Bust out the bunting
Bunting not only looks great, but can be sustainable, too! If you're looking to avoid single-use decorations, there are so many fabric-based bunting options out there that can be used again and again. Alternatively, if you're looking for something cheap and cheerful, paper-based bunting might be your best bet. For extra brownie points, opt for bunting made from recycled paper or cardboard.
ALTERNATIVE 3: Brighten up with fresh flowers
Looking for simple elegance for a birthday, baby shower, bridal shower or engagement? Vases of flowers can brighten up an event space with minimal environmental impact. The fact that flowers come in so many different colours and varieties means that you can tailor your bunch to almost any theme.
Of course, when using flowers for your event, opting for locally grown Australian native flowers is the best way to ensure that your carbon footprint is minimised. You might even go one step further and rather than using cut flowers, plant some brightly coloured flowers in small pot plants around your event space - that way they can be used over and over again!
Image Source: Exotic Lily Events
ALTERNATIVE 4: Coloured linen napkins
If you're keep on adding pops of colour to your event without using balloons, consider introducing colour and interest through the use of linen napkins. The great thing about linen napkins is that they can be used over and over again - simply pop them in the wash after use and they'll be ready for your next event!
If you're catering for a large number of guests and aren't prepared to shell out for a large amount of linen napkins, they are now available for hire at a relatively cheap cost from many Australian party hire and event styling businesses.
A few of our favourites below:
- Simply Seated: a Sydney based styling and hire business with a huge range of coloured linen and cotton napkins for hire
- Cloth and Confetti: this Melbourne based business has a range of linen, velvet and textured napkins, as well as offering other items for hire
Image Source: Simply Seated
ALTERNATIVE 5: Upcycled ribbon garlands
If you're like us, you've got a ton of old ribbons sitting around at home taking up space in the wardrobe. Why not try making an upcycled ribbon garland to decorate your next event? This is yet another simple way to introduce colour and interest to your event without needing to use balloons.
Image Source: Home Beautifully
How do you make a ribbon garland? We've set out three easy steps to making a ribbon garland for your next event:
Step 1: Collect your materials
For your ribbon garland, you'll need long lengths of ribbon in your preferred colours. You can also get creative and pull together long scraps of fabric in your preferred colours, to add interest and texture to your upcycled garland. You'll also need some bakers twine which will be used as the base for your garland.
Cut your ribbon into equal lengths, remembering that each ribbon will be tied with two ends hanging down - so make sure each piece is double the length of how far you want it to hang down (so if you want it to drop 8cm down from the string, cut each piece to be 16cm long.
Step 2: Attach your upcycled ribbon to the twine
Create loops on each end of the twine to make it easier to hang and ensure the ribbon doesn't slip off the end once it is attached.
When attaching your ribbon onto the twine, you can either knot the ribbon onto the twine, loop it onto itself over the twine, or use hot glue to stick it to the twine. Keep attaching the ribbon, alternating colors if that's your preferred look, until your entire strand of twine is covered.
Step 3: Hang your garland
Once you’ve finished attaching the ribbons to your ribbon garland, the final step is to hang it up.
ALTERNATIVE 6: Solar-powered fairy lights
Fairy lights can add something special to the airspace above an event without the need for floating balloons. String the lights between two posts, along a balcony, or wrap them around any trees you have in your event space.
Opting for solar-powered fairy lights means you'll be drawing on the sun's natural power without the need to increase your carbon footprint by using electricity.