This is very inspirational. So often, you don’t get to know if your efforts have an impact but this time . . .
Ashley Hasgawa is a student at Shawinigan Lake School. She attended one of our “Humpback Comeback” presentations. We always make quick mention of our work around endangered Leatherback Turtles – that they belong off the coast of British Columbia, coming all the way from Indonesia and that a risk to them is that they cannot discern plastics and balloons from their jellyfish prey. (See leatherbacksinbc.org.)
Ashley later took up contact asking for data around this risk to wildlife, explaining that her school had a balloon-release at their Closing Day ceremony. She had done the work to know that, while they use biodegradable balloons, these can take a very long time to breakdown (over 6 years, see this link).
She wanted to ensure she had solid facts before having a discussion at her school about how the risk could be further reduced.
We provided the data and some links to alternatives for such ceremonies. The lowest risk would be not to release balloons.
Never could we have anticipated the ingenuity of the compromise agreed upon by the graduating class and school management.
Here is Ashley’s recent email describing what they did:
” . . . We attached a carabiner to each balloon, as a grad class, we all clipped the balloons onto a fishing line like a kite. As you can see in the pictures [see below], they all flew out together. Later on, we brought it back down again after the graduation ceremony. Unfortunately, there were still about 3-4 balloons failed on clipping onto the fishing line, but most of the balloons did get brought down, got popped by our school and dumped to our own compost facility. This could not have happened without the support of our headmaster, David Robertson, and the teachers, especially, my fine art instructor, Scott Noble for always helping me. Thank you so much for your fantastic presentation, I will never forget it. I am so happy that I went and made a difference for the environment.”
Imagine how happy we are.
Thank you Ashley and all those who made it possible for a student’s concern to lead to empowerment. Our great hope is that this approach to balloon releases will go widely into the world, creating further awareness of the risk to wildlife.
For sustainable alternatives to balloon release ceremonies, please see this link by “Balloons Blow”.