Letting go of balloons

At a recent convocation event, I entered a room that was filled with balloons in the university’s colours. My first reaction was “oh no, this is not good.” Of course, I felt like the grinch. I appreciate all the effort that went into decorating the room for this special event, but I can’t help feeling concerned when I see so many environmental hazards being used in this manner. It’s easy to get caught in the excitement of the moment, but we really do need to consider what happens to all those balloons once the event is over.

The environmental hazards of balloons have been well documented. Someone in the room told me that since the balloons would not be released, there isn’t that much of a problem. Certainly, the largest environmental impact of balloons is caused when they are released, but the balloons themselves are made of non-sustainable materials, which makes them an environmental hazard regardless of their methods of disposal. This article outlines nicely the environmental impacts of balloons:

  • Balloons travel over great distances:  Balloons have been found to travel hundreds, even thousands of miles.
  • Balloons are a danger to wildlife: Birds, marine life, and terrestrial animals often eat latex balloons that have fallen into their habitat. The latex blocks the digestive system-causing a slow agonizing death.
  • Ribbons and strings, including biodegradable cotton string, become entanglement hazards.
  • Wastage of helium: A finite resource
  • Degradable balloons are NOT the solution: Ordinary latex balloons will not start to degrade for about five months in the ocean, and shiny Mylar balloons last for years.

I’m sure a few eyes will roll when I do this, but I do plan to have a chat with the organizers of this event to see whether we could try to use more sustainable forms of decoration next year.

Trapping microfibres with the Cora Ball

I have been considering for quite a while how to deal with microfibre residue in my washing machine. Although most of the items that go into my washing machine consist of natural fibres, I do have some faux-fur throws that are made with synthetic materials. These throws are an essential component of keeping my furniture and bed clean, as my cats are allowed to sit wherever they like. The cats love the softness of the faux fur throws,  and in my household it’s all about spoiling the non-human animals.

I had considered purchasing the Guppyfriend washing bag, but was concerned that it would not hold large throws.  I have come across what seems to be a far more practical alternative: The Cora Ball. As you can see from the image, the Ball consists of a number of layers of plastic that trap mibrofibre particles during the wash; you simply toss the Ball in with your load of laundry. You clean it by pulling out the fuzz from between the layers. The product reviews have been promising; you do need to be careful of placing more delicate items with tassels, straps, and so forth, into a laundry bag so that they don’t tangle in the Ball. Since I do this anyway, I don’t anticipate any problems.  The Ball should capture human and cat hair as well, which is a nice bonus.

The Cora Ball is not available in any local stores, so I ordered it online from Canadian company Ahimsa  Eco Solutions. At $49.00 CAD, the Cora Ball is more expensive than the  Guppyfriend, but will likely last longer than the bag. I look forward to seeing the results.