Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief
On February 1, The Chanticleer published an opinion piece entitled “Please stop releasing balloons” and received an impressive response from the JSU community. Following the article’s publication, The Chanticleer published an online survey asking about opinions on balloon releases.
One hundred people filled out the anonymous survey. Of those, 19.2 per cent of respondents indicated that they did not know that the latex balloons released during balloons releases were harmful to the environment, but nearly a third (32.3 per cent) had participated in a balloon release, either at JSU or with an off-campus group.
Students of all classifications, from freshmen to seniors and graduate students, and JSU faculty, staff, alumni, retirees, community members, parents, siblings and friends responded.
Many respondents addressed the environmental impact of balloons.
“Alabama is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, and we’re very high on the species extinction rate rankings too. We need to protect our wildlife,” wrote a sophomore double majoring in biology and chemistry.
“Please stop hurting our environment. We are supposed to be the friendliest campus in the south, why can’t we be friendly to the environment?” wrote one respondent, a junior majoring in art and communication.
Over three-fourths of respondents (78.1 per cent) indicated that they did not think balloon releases should be allowed on campus and offered numerous alternatives. Blowing bubbles, releasing biodegradable paper lanterns or throwing eco-friendly confetti were popular suggestions. Other alternatives included lighting candles or luminaries, throwing paint powder, making banners, having public recognitions or moments of silence and planting trees. Some more unique ideas were to “shoot guns off in the air like Yosemite Sam,” put “glitter bombs in Beeher’s mail box” and to “release a rooster into the sky.”
Some were concerned about how practical it would be to eliminate balloon releases.
“Balloons are hazardous to the environment, but on the scale that they are released I doubt it is making a signifigant [sic] impact,” wrote a junior majoring in computer information systems. “However, any impact is more than none. There are alternatives, but I doubt the balloon release will go anywhere soon.”
Other respondents hoped that bringing attention to the issue would inspire JSU to make changes.
“I watch the balloon releases while behind a camera during the football games, and I don’t appreciate the idea of releasing balloons for a cause like raising money for a charity, but then add to the problem of hurting our own environment. I hope this survey makes a huge difference for JSU,” a junior drama major wrote.
However, not all respondents believed there was an issue. Over 20 per cent (21.9 per cent) indicated that balloon releases should be allowed to continue.
“Quit being so sensitive,” wrote a senior psychology major. “Balloon releases are fun. Emissions from the cars you drive do more harm than releasing a balloon. The only people that care about this are the ones eating Tide Pods.”
“Literally no one on campus is upset about this,” wrote one music major.
Balloon releases are popular at Gamecock football games as a pregame festivity. Large student groups stand on the field and release balloons in celebration of a successful fundraiser or as a tribute to those who are fighting or have died from a disease. Balloon releases have been done to honor Children’s Miracle Network, Autism Speaks and breast cancer survivors.
“JSU should take note that the community is rallying behind this article about the dangers of plastics and participate in more recycling programs and decrease their usage of plastics in general,” one alumni commented on the survey.
California, Connecticut and Florida have a blanket ban on outdoor balloon releases. California also limits the materials with which any balloon can be made. Additionally, Tennessee and Virginia have a state-imposed limit on the number of balloons that can be released. According to balloonsblow.org, Baltimore and Ocean City, Maryland; Louisville, Kentucky; Huntsville, Alabama and Nantucket and Provincetown, Massachusetts also have city laws regarding balloon releases.
See all the survey results here.