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When someone I love is celebrating a birthday, I like to go all out with decorations and making them feel special. Streamers, signs, you name it. But this year, I have a dilemma that might deflate my plans for my fiancé’s birthday.

I planned on decking out my kitchen with as many balloons as I could fit. Balloons are a symbol of celebration, fun, happiness, and a good ol’ fashioned birthday party.

I never realized a joyful decoration could bring so much destruction to animals and the planet. I came across a video of a seal that had a balloon string wrapped around its neck and had to be rescued in order to save its life.

I was horrified. How many of my balloons have ended up in the ocean? How many have hurt animals? How badly am I destroying the environment just to make a birthday a little more special?

Listen here:

I did some research, and according to the Environmental Nature Center (ENC), balloons are often mistaken for food and eaten by animals, and “they can travel thousands of miles and pollute the most remote and pristine places."

But what if I dispose of balloons properly?

Eileen Andreason, who spoke with the ENC, says, “At best, free-flying balloons become litter; at worst, they jeopardize wildlife. Once airborne, they can travel far afield and often end up joining the flotsam riding the world’s oceans.”

It sounds like I can still bring some excitement into my decorations for Ross’ birthday as long as I dispose of the balloons properly and not let them loose, but I'm a softy for animals and try to keep my carbon footprint low when I can.

Are there other alternatives to balloons when I want to decorate for a birthday? Asking for a friend.