Sustainable Celebrations and Grand Gestures

June 25, 2019

Sustainable Celebrations and Grand Gestures

If you're planning a grand gesture for someone, perhaps as a birthday celebration or memorial day, you might be considering all the ways you could celebrate. You want the occasion to be fun and entertaining; it needs to be a special day that people won't forget. The most common suggestions for such occasions often turn out to be the most harmful to our environment and the people around us.

I don't want to be a killjoy but balloon releases and sky lanterns, as lovely as they might be to watch, are terrible for the environment and our beloved wildlife. Releasing balloons (even biodegradable ones) or lanterns is a terrible idea. The amount of balloon debris found on beaches in the UK has tripled in the last 10 years and 70% of balloons end up in the ocean. Every balloon that is released is a potential deathtrap for wildlife as animals mistakenly eat the remains causing internal blockages or they become entangled in the strings leading to slow, painful death. Sky lanterns aren't much better; they're airborne candles wrapped in flammable materials. Once released they drift for miles and are responsible for brush fires and house fires. Dove and butterfly releases are unethical and irresponsible, so what are the alternatives?

Fortunately there are plenty of wonderful environmentally-friendly alternatives for celebrating in an earth-friendly, waste-free way. If you're planning a birthday party, remembrance day, or memorial, these are the safer, kinder options for making a grand gesture without harming our environment.


  • kites (make your own)
  • origami (follow these instructions)
  • plant trees or flowers in remembrance
  • natural confetti (this is so pretty, so is this)
  • candles or luminaries
  • wildflower seed bombs
  • bells, whistles, and noisemakers
  • floating flowers or floral wreath
  • pom poms, garlands, and bunting
  • blowing bubbles (the DIY eco-friendly kind)
  • flags, banners, ribbons, and streamers
  • edible party favors (so many options!)
  • pinwheels or garden spinners
  • flying wish paper
  • painted rocks
  • fundraising
  • live music


Wherever possible, make your own decorations from scrap paper and fabric. Many of us have unused craft materials stuffed at the back of drawers; a lot of my suggestions are super easy and fun to make, especially when there's a group of you making them together. Flags, banners, garlands, bunting, and even pinwheels and luminaries can all be made at home with simple tools and materials you probably already have. Take a look and see what you can find at home before buying anything new, you'll save money and avoid waste. If you're hosting guests who need food and drink, remember to use compostable plates, cups, napkins, and utensils if you're unable to provide or don't have enough reusable ones to go around.

However you choose to celebrate, be mindful of those around you, the environment, and our precious wildlife.




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