Do balloons have any eco credentials?

You’re planning a big celebration and you REALLY want balloons at your party (because a party isn’t a party without balloons, right?!) But they’ve got a reputation for being bad for the environment, so you want to feel like you’re making the right choices. It’s a dilemma.

The world is becoming more environmentally aware. The balloon industry are keen to do our part. We’re looking to work in environmentally friendly ways and use biodegradable materials. There’s an assumption that balloons are no more than throwaway rubbish so we want to help you make more eco-friendly decisions when choosing balloons for your occasions and events!

There are 3 main types of balloons you can choose from:

  • Foil (below, left)

These are actually made from nylon, covered with an aluminium coating and then sprayed with a dye. They’re not biodegradable, but they can be reused.

  • Plastic (above, right)

Typically known within the industry as bubbles, these are made from plastic and are not biodegradable or recyclable.

  • Latex (below, left)

100% natural latex balloons are bio-degradable and compostable and should decompose at roughly the same rate as an oak leaf (depending on humidity, sunlight etc). The latex is extracted from living rubber trees grown in plantations that are Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM by cutting the bark and collecting the sap that is released. Once a balloon has been inflated it immediately begins to degrade through a process called oxidation, where the balloon loses its shine and instead becomes velvety in appearance and more brittle in texture. I use professional standard latex balloons which are produced by Pioneer Balloon Company.

So, latex balloons are a great compromise but you can go even further by swapping the traditional ribbons for natural jute string. This gives a more rustic look and can also be reused or recycled. Or instead of a foil wrapped or plastic weight you could opt for a sand filled latex balloon wrapped in fabric or placed inside a small cardboard box.

As a final bonus, if you choose to include foil or plastic balloons in your decor, you can return the used balloons to me after their event for responsible recycling or disposal!

Hopefully this has shown that there are several ways to have amazing balloon décor at your event whilst keeping your conscience clear! If you want to chat through the options available to you, feel free to get in touch and we can discuss ways to bring your event alive in the greenest way possi

Claire Carney is a freelance florist and Certified Balloon Artist based near Norwich. For more information please visit www.clairesfloralandballoondesigns.co.uk.

The importance of Corporate and Social Responsibility for small businesses

What does the term Corporate and Social Responsibility (CS&R) mean to you? Chances are it is something that you associate with large scale companies who have budgets that enable them to make generous donations to good causes or are able to allow employees time off to do charitable work. However, there is plenty that even a sole trader can do to fulfil their own CS&R ambitions, which can be equally rewarding both for the business and for the recipients of their goodwill.

As a self employed florist and balloon decorator I deal with lots of requests on a regular basis asking for support in various forms. Having done a three year stint on our local school PTA I know only too well how difficult it is to generate support from local businesses to help boost often very small scale fundraising events. As a result, I choose to support certain local good causes in 3 different ways;

Raffle prizes with discount vouchers

With so many requests for raffle prizes, I now support a number of small scale events near me with a balloon arrangement and a discount voucher. A table of vouchers which may have considerable value on paper, can look quite uninspiring so by donating something visually attractive it can really encourage raffle ticket sales. It has even more impact when the charity gives permission for their logo to be replicated onto a balloon! The inclusion of a voucher also encourages the lucky recipient to redeem it against my products at a reduced rate.

Paid balloon décor with a charitable discount

For bigger events, larger scale décor is more appropriate but not so cost effective for me to just give away. Instead, I can apply a percentage discount which allows the charity to WOW their guests with some impactful décor at a more affordable price. Personalising balloons with the charity logo really brings the décor to life, and reinforces the branding message during the entire event.

Free balloon décor

This year I have had the privilege of working with two amazing local good causes, whose stories have really touched me;

I first met Oa, who founded littlelifts, at a networking meeting where we took part in a comfort box packing event. Oa was diagnosed with primary breast cancer at just 28 years old. Having received lots of little packages and gifts during her treatment, Oa decided to give something back by creating comfort boxes containing items that help with the side effects of chemotherapy and other products that give a ‘little lift’ at a very difficult time. These boxes are now distributed to women at the start or during their treatment at various hospitals across East Anglia, and the boxes are funded as the result of money raised at various events.

At Easter, littlelifts ran a cupcake decorating workshop. I donated two balloon bouquets (including the littlelifts logo) and a stuffed rabbit raffle prize which drew a lot of attention! This event raised £500 which is enough to support 12 women facing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

To find out more about littlelifts and how you can support them, please go to www.littlelifts.org.uk

The other good cause I have chosen to support is Sunshine and Rainbows, a not for profit scheme run by local photographer Shellie Wall. Shellie offers free photography sessions for families with a child who has a life limiting or life threatening condition, and some local businesses contribute something towards a gift box that the family receive. I donate a personalised helium balloon which Shellie uses as part of the photoshoot, and whilst donating a single balloon is a small gesture for me, the impact on the children (who have all adored their balloons) is far, far greater. The smiles on their faces are priceless and melt my heart, and the photos themselves become absolutely priceless to the whole family if things take a turn for the very worst.

If you can donate anything to help Shellie keep this truly wonderful service going, please head to

Being able to give back is very important to me, and I truly believe that if all businesses could give a little something to a local cause, we could soon make an amazingly positive impact in our local communities!

If you’ve enjoyed this blog, why not have a look through some of my other Blogs!

Claire Carney is an independent florist, a Certified Balloon Artist and NABAS Approved Balloon Décor Instructor based near Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

Banning sky lantern, foil and plastic balloon releases – why it makes sense!

It might surprise you to hear a balloon professional and their industry association calling for a ban on the release of foil and plastic balloons, any other balloons with non biodegradable ribbons or attachments and sky lanterns. But before I explain why it isn’t as crazy as it seems, let me first explain the properties of sky lanterns and the different types of balloons available.

Type of balloon What is it made of? Does it degrade? Does it conduct electricity / pose a fire risk?
Foil A nylon base layer covered with a thin layer of aluminium No Yes
Plastic / bubble Clear, stretchy plastic No No
Latex Sap which is harvested from living rubber trees Yes No
Sky lantern Paper and wire No Yes

Sky lanterns are not comparable to balloons, but are often grouped into discussions around balloon releases. These lanterns comprise of a flame inside a paper and wire structure which is released into the sky, and there have been many well documented cases of sky lanterns descending and creating fires which have resulted in massive damage and disruption to both property, livelihoods and life.

NABAS (The National Association of Balloon Artists and Suppliers) have had a code of conduct relating to balloon releases in place for many years. This states that;

  • Only hand tied latex balloons inflated with helium to a maximum of 12” should be released
  • There should be no non-biodegradable attachments
  • Foil and plastic balloons should never be released
  • Balloons should never be tied together for release

This code ensures that only bio-degradable products are permitted for release as, when done so correctly, they rise to c. 5 miles where they shatter into tiny pieces and return to earth with a minimal environmental impact.

There is also a law called ‘California Law’, which has been adopted by balloon professionals globally which is very similar to the NABAS code of conduct.

Within the balloon industry, there is now a huge movement against offering latex balloon releases which follow the code of conduct, as the industry takes very seriously the effect that releases can have on the environment . But whilst we as professionals are turning down releases, there is nothing in place to stop members of the public buying any balloons they like from the High Street or using disposable canisters, and releasing their balloons themselves.

I was involved with a local beach clean in Norfolk a few weeks ago and we found evidence of one balloon. The balloon itself had gone and the memorial card, supplied by the funeral director, was wrapped in cellophane and ribbon. This goes against both the NABAS Code of Conduct and California Law, and the balloons that appear in the images of sea creatures wrapped in ribbon or choked by foil balloons also fail to comply with these guidelines. So what can we do?

We believe that a much stronger message is required, with a full ban on the release of sky lanterns, foil and plastic balloons, and any balloons with non-biodegradable attachments. In my opinion, the huge shift amongst professionals to refusing to offer releases suggests that it is only a matter of time before large scale latex releases become a thing of the past. Yet this won’t stop the photos of damage, litter and animal harm as these are usually caused by members of the public who haven’t been informed of the correct facts.

Will you help us and sign the petition?

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/221590

We are most definitely living in a more environmentally aware society, and there are many other beautiful ideas for memorial gestures including;

  • Planting a tree
  • Placing a bench in a public place (with permission)
  • Scattering wild flower seeds
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Floating fresh flowers down a stream
  • Releasing doves using a professional release service

If you believe a ban would help reduce the amount of balloon related litter, then PLEASE sign the petition below, and don’t forget to share it with friends and family too!

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/22159

If you’ve found this interesting, why not have a look at my blog on using balloons for maximum impact at your party?

Claire Carney is an independent florist, a Certified Balloon Artist and NABAS Approved Balloon Décor Instructor based near Norwich, Norfolk, UK

Should helium balloons really be banned?!

I have read several articles lately calling for helium balloons to be banned, citing their adverse environmental impact and how they diminish the supply of helium available for medical use. These calls are largely based on a lack of information, and I hope this blog will help to clarify some of the perceived issues.

Foil balloons, and balloons with ribbons attached should NEVER be released

Balloon releases

Pictures are frequently posted of wildlife which have been injured, or worst still have died, from ingesting or being caught in balloons and their ribbons, and as a responsible balloon professional I absolutely hate the release of these balloons.

Within our industry, we promote best practice which states that foil balloons, and helium balloons with any non-biodegradable attachments such as valves and ribbons MUST NOT be released. Only latex balloons filled with helium up to a maximum of 12” and hand tied are allowed to be used. On their release the balloons should rise to c. 5 miles high, at which point they shatter into tiny fragments and return to earth where they decompose in about the same amount of time as an oak leaf and have a minimal effect on the environment.

Whilst I and NABAS (my industry association) try hard to educate both our actual and potential clients, unfortunately there will always be those who are less responsible and don’t care about the impact of their actions. I personally don’t offer balloon releases, but if you wish to go ahead with one, please ensure that you use a responsible retailer and please don’t ask or expect to use foil balloons or any ribbons / attachments!

Follow this link for more information on the NABAS code of conduct for balloon releases.

Helium for medical ‘v’ balloon use

In order to provide a definitive, fact based view on the difference between medical and balloon gas, BOC have kindly provided the following statement;

“It’s important to be aware that there is a distinction between pure, liquid helium and impure, gaseous helium. Gas companies prioritise supplies of pure, liquid helium for critical medical uses e.g. MRI scanners in hospitals, ensuring that they can remain fully operational.

Helium for balloons is a different product – it is impure and gaseous and produced as a by-product of supplying liquid helium for the MRI market – a market which makes up about forty percent of the helium business in the UK. Impure, gaseous helium cannot be used directly in medical MRI scanners or in other applications that use super-conducting magnets. Impure helium can be recovered by the customer and reliquefied if the customer has the necessary plant on site, and if not, it can still be recovered and reprocessed for use in the balloon market.

Industrial gas companies do support the recovery and reprocessing of helium to ensure that every opportunity is taken to recycle and reuse this important resource. Historically, recovery has only been viable for large users of helium, but new opportunities are consistently being reviewed and implemented with customers to help them conserve and reuse their helium.

For the future, there is still plenty of helium on our planet, with investments being made to bring various new sources on-stream in the coming years. The locations and environments of these new sources will mean the market price for helium is expected to continue to rise, but making these investments will mean that helium will continue to be available for many years to come. Rising prices in the market will also drive an increase in investment in the means by which customers can recover more of their own helium.“

(January 2018)

Claire Carney is an independent florist, a Certified Balloon Artist and NABAS Approved Balloon Décor Instructor based near Norwich, Norfolk, UK.

 

Want something special? Make it personal!

It is hard not to feel cared for if you are lucky enough to receive flowers or balloons. Yet there are times when, as the sender of such a gift or the organiser of a particularly important event, you want something much more personal either to you or the recipient. Read on for ideas that really demonstrate how much you care!

Continue reading “Want something special? Make it personal!”

Choosing the right florist / balloon decorator for your event!

Everyone expects to receive a service they’ve paid for, and to actually get what they have requested! With regular stories on social media sites of scammers who have provided something sub-standard (such as balloons that don’t float) or worse, provided nothing at all, how do you find a balloon artist or florist you can trust? Read on for some key tips…

Ask for recommendations

Personal recommendation is a good way to find a reputable company. Ask friends or family, or post a question in a social media group local to your area. People are often keen to recommend people who they believe provide great products and fantastic service!

Look for accreditation

If there is a trade association linked to the service you require,    these will usually list their members and their contact details. For example, a reputable balloon decorator may belong to balloon industry trade associations NABAS or BAPIA. Alternatively (or additionally) the balloon artist may be a Qualatex Balloon Network (QBN) member or a fully qualified Certified Balloon Artist (CBA) . Being a CBA means they have undertaken a full programme of training and taken a practical exam which they must pass. Being linked to any of these programmes or associations means that the member is expected to work within business and environmental best practise guidelines.

Check for insurance

When asking for quotations, don’t be afraid to ask about the level of insurance cover held. NABAS members have £5 million public liability insurance as standard, and is usually another indicator that this member can be trusted.

Why cheapest isn’t always best

You’ve got your quotes back and there is a range of prices. Don’t just look at the price – you will be paying for the décor AND their level of expertise. Consider whether it is worth paying slightly more for someone who invests in ongoing training, and is likely to produce superior finished décor.

If a contract isn’t provided, ask why not

If you are ordering flowers or balloons for an event, you should expect to go through a process of discussing your options, expectations and any limitations with your florist or balloon decorator.  This should result in the best décor package for you, your occasion and your budget. It is standard practise for these details to be written into a contract for you to review and sign once you are satisfied it reflects your order. There may also be terms and conditions relating to hired items, payment terms, security deposits etc to read and sign, and this is also to be expected.

Don’t pay any money until you have received a copy of the contract which you are happy with. The contract exists to protect both you and your décor provider, and if a contract isn’t provided look for an alternative company to give you a quote.

By looking into these details in advance, you are much more likely to be delighted with the decor at your event!