I must be honest. When I went to Thailand a couple years back, I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in local customs and, among other things, release a lantern on the tropical shores of the Far East.
New Year’s Eve in Phuket was my highlight, mostly due to the vibe and atmosphere the releasing of those glowing lanterns created. My friends and I wrote down our dreams/wishes/prayers on the flimsy paper, before lighting the centre framed with wire, only to release it and watch it fade into the nights sky.
But to admire these seemingly innocent ornaments (while focusing on your own wishes, dreams etc), is out right selfish.
The truth is, these ‘symbolic’ lanterns cause millions of deaths every year.
When balloons and lanterns are released, they don’t just disappear. They float back down to earth, either whole or in pieces, adding to existing litter. But these are particularly dangerous pieces of litter, because balloons are mistaken for food by many species of wildlife, particularly turtles.
Once balloons have been eaten, they block digestive systems and cause animals to starve. The string on balloons can also entangle animals.
I have vowed to never light and release a lantern again, and balloons will be strictly kept indoors until they have ‘died from natural exhaustion’.
There are other great ideas for lighting up an occasion at the beach or anywhere out in nature.
For example, what ever happened to good old-fashioned candles? Still charming and romantic as always, these little wax guys are a kinder to our oceans.
But if you want the look and feel of a lantern on the beach, there’s always glass lanterns that are easy to carry and look beautiful (for longer, since they don’t vanish into the sky).
And for those really special occasions, I always recommend sparklers! Nothing says celebration like the noisy flickering of sparkles shared among friends. Just remember to throw the dead sticks away after use.
The point is, balloons and sky lanterns/Chinese lanterns are fun and look great, but they just aren’t worth it when you consider how many innocent lives you could end in the process of “just having fun”.
For more information, check out this campaign called Don’t Let Go in the UK, fighting against the release of balloons and lanterns.