I bought helium balloons for Rhiannon's birthday, at $2+/ea, knowing full well that it wasn't a green option for a planet that is fast running out of helium, due in part to our wanton releasing of it into the atmosphere for party traditions. It actually has some important medical uses. But I didn't care. I knew it would make Rhiannon happy, so I bought it. $35 worth. I ignored my green conscience. One of the mothers at the party said "What? You can still get helium balloons?" I felt really embarrassed, but the kids were thrilled.
The kids lost 2 of the balloons at the party, and we all talked about where we've seen tree-stranded helium balloon pieces in the past, and found bits of them around the island and on the beaches. We know birds eat them, but... meh. The helium companies claim that they only cause a problem for wildlife if they eat them inflated, which they don't. I can tell you from our experience with our rubber-consuming cat that, no, they most certainly do cause problems for animals who eat just pieces of them. Her twisted, torn, and ruptured intestines were testament to that. And the $1800.00 in vet bills to save her life. Wildlife doesn't get medical coverage.
This is the point: I, who generally try to be thoughtful in my choices, still just ignored these issues to give my daughter the fun party she wished for. It is going to take some serious promotion from retailers to get earth's fun-hungry consumers to stop consuming helium for parties. Toy stores and party suppliers are going to have to promote some alternatives. But do they care? Do we? Will we run out of helium for emergency purposes before the wealthy suburban mothers like me start to give a shit?
I got this article, today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19676639
What about the other things we're consuming? What about the devastating ruin that constitutes many of our social systems and culture, now? When will we care enough to stand and make the changes we know are necessary?
Although many people are supportive, and make similar choices to ours, some still laugh at me or twist their eyebrows for the small things I do, like eating whole grains, and GMO-free/medication-free, not vaccinating my kids, not giving or receiving gifts for Christmas and parties, unschooling my kids and spending lots of time in the wilderness. And yet I know, that for all these things seem crazy, they're puny. Any serious change is going to take a total cultural withdrawal from the consumerist lifestyle that is the backbone of most of our civilization. Are we ready? Do we care enough?
Back to small suburban changes... here are some ideas for helium balloon substitutes for decorating parties and sending home as favours*:
- Slingers (Dutch for garlands) are fabulous: home-made flag-lines made by folding a diamond or other shape over a string or ribbon and painting colourfully. If you make them with wallpaper scraps or upholstery fabric they are very durable and can last for generations. Similarly, the expandable tissue-paper garlands commonly available from Chinese stores are less durable, but with some care can still last a generation or two. And with time and patience you can make these yourself, too!
- Any gift of homemade sweets, decorations, bracelets, etc. that can be a gift from the birthday-child to his/her friends.