Fun eco-friendly alternatives to balloons
A party isn’t a party without decorations - well... and cake!
Top of the decoration list is usually balloons. These have become synonymous with parties and many of us will have happy childhood memories of chasing a balloon. However, balloons are generally single-use and, should they become litter, balloons are a danger to wildlife.
Many of the party kits in our network offer reusable eco-friendly decorations making it easier to avoid balloons. Read on for our suggestions for making parties a little more sustainable without spoiling the fun!
Bunting is by far the most popular reusable eco-friendly decoration to be found in a party kit. There are many different types of bunting and can even be themed. Bunting is a pretty durable decoration and can be used year after year making it really sustainable.
You can make your own bunting from scrap fabric. Or for themed bunting use an old printed duvet cover. These can be found in charity shops and on Facebook Marketplace and eBay.
Bunting made from old plastic stationary wallets makes for fun upcycled decorations. Cut the wallets into triangles. Then either sew together with bias binding or punch holes and thread together with ribbon or string.
But if sewing isn’t your thing, there are loads of no-sew options. Bunting can be made from old t-shirts, felt (pictured), ribbons, rag-tie or even old birthday cards.
In the UK, buy or hire bunting from:
Similar to bunting, there are lots of other things which can be used to make garlands.
A simple garland can be made from a string of pom-poms or paper tassels. These are really fun, fairly easy to make and can be coordinated with a theme’s colours. Ask friends and family for donations, perhaps left over from knitting projects or even unravel an old jumper.
Felt shapes or felt bobbles are also a great way to make a garland which can be used again and again. In the UK, buy felt garlands from The Felt Studio, run by party kit owner Emma.
Or for a bit more glamour try tassels! The ones pictured above are made from preloved wool with the ribbon loops from clothing to fasten the tassel in the middle.
Paper Honeycomb & Pom-Poms Balls
Paper decorations are not as sturdy as bunting and garlands but if you’re careful these decorations can be reused for many parties.
Paper honeycomb balls and pom-poms are the most delicate of the paper decorations but do look amazing. These work well with bunting and are the most balloon-like decorations.
It is possible to make your own honeycomb balls from tissue paper and glue, but be warned it is pretty labour intensive! Making your own tissue paper pom-poms is much quicker and they look really effective; you will need 10-20 sheets of tissue paper or magazine, scissors and some string or ribbon. (Note: tissue paper can't be easily recycled so its best to reuse tissue paper for these rather than buying new).
Make your own honeycomb ball https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWsEVvSCCU0
Make your own paper pom poms https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7hPbdCYEYM
Aren’t these colours amazing?! Paper fans come in all sizes and colours and it’s fairly easy to make your own from coloured paper, tissue paper or even newspaper dyed with a bit of food colouring.
Paper fans fold away for easy storage making them much easier to keep for a future party than a tissue paper pom-pom. When opening, secure with a paper clip, rather than sticky tape, so it's easy to remove and foldaway again.
You do have to be careful not to tear the fans along the folds and, in our experience, they don’t hold up well on windy days or in little hands, but they are our most favourite of all the paper decorations.
Netted Pom-Pom Balls
Reusable pom-pom balls made from netting are a great reusable alternative to balloons. These can be made in any colour to match any theme. As they are made from netting, they are much more durable than paper pom-poms making them reusable for a long time.
Paper chains may seem a bit retro but they are easy to make. They are a great way to reuse what you already have (so very low cost!) and look great. Make your own from newspaper, magazines or even the kid’s drawings.
Cut the paper into strips, fold into a ring and glue or tape. Then loop the next strip through the previous chain and secure, repeating until the chain is long enough.
3D Paper Stars
Similar to paper fans, these 3-D paper stars fold down making them easy to store for the next party, and made from card, they are a bit more durable. They are available in a variety of colours and patterns, and have the advantage of adding a bit more depth to your party decorations than paper fans.
The above paper star is from Plastic Free Party Bags (UK). Save 10% using the code ‘partykitnetwork’.
Or make a star decorations from loo roll inner tubes!
Cut a loo roll into six rings and then stick together with tape or glue. These can then be painted to fit your theme. The above star was made using 5 loo roll tubes. Hang with a bit of string or ribbon.
More design ideas for making decorations from loo roll inner tubes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM-OaZf4uuo
Crepe paper streamers are also possibly a bit retro, but fully biodegradable. Like honeycomb balls, they are quite delicate but if you spend a bit of time carefully rolling up after the party they can be used again.
They could also be reused to wrap presents or even as a padding inside a box, if they are beyond a reuse state as decorations.
Streamers are usually made from paper, but how about making some from ribbon? These can easily be reused year after year; or even repurposed for wrapping gifts when you are done with them.
As you can see (pictured above), UK network member Do Loop has created a stunning party theme incorporating ribbon streamers to create a colourful backdrop.
Paper lanterns are made from a bamboo or metal frame with a paper share. Like paper pom-poms, the ball shape offers a decoration close to balloons. They also fold down so are fairly easy to store and reuse.
Paper pinwheel spinners are a great make-you-own party decoration. You just need some paper, some glue, scissors, drawing pin and a wooden batten or stick.
How to make your own pinwheels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Rugzrpgv8
Or for pinwheels which are safer for younger children, there’s a guide for making pinwheels without sharp pins here: https://rufflesandrainboots.com/toddler-safe-pinwheel-tutorial/
Japanese Paper Balloons
For eco-friendly balloons which you still inflate, traditional Japanese paper balloons can be reused and are both colourful and fun.
You can get them in a variety of shapes and colours, including lots of different animal shapes.
In the UK they are available from Petra Boase.
Feeling creative? Origami is a great way to add to the theme of your party. Origami shapes can be used as table decorations or made into garlands. Use scrap paper or the kids drawings for an even more sustainable decoration.
Have a look on YouTube - there are loads of origami how-to videos for all sorts of animals and shapes.
This is another one for the more crafty, shapes from painted papier-mâché can really bring a theme alive.
You just need strips of old newspaper which you stick together with a solution made from equal parts water and flour. Create your masterpiece and allow it to fully dry before painting or covering in décopatch.
Fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas! Adding a string of fairy lights is a quick way to bring some sparkle to your party.
For more sustainable fairy lights use LED lights or solar powered, but the best option is to use what you already have in your Christmas decorations box or to borrow from a friend.
Alternatives to Balloon Arches
It seems like balloon arches have never been more popular, but look at what can be achieved with a bit of creativity.
Everything in these set ups from Many Happy Returns Jersey and Holmes Chapel Waste-Free Party Hire is REUSABLE: the ribbons, pom-poms and cubes can all be used again and again.... no waste here!
Party hats have received a reusable make-over. Check out these reusable reversible celebration crown from PuchiTreasures
Are we spoiling all the fun?
There are lots of ways to decorate a party without balloons; it really is possible to protect wildlife and still have a colourful fun-filled party. But are we spoiling the fun?
To recreate the fun of bouncing a balloon or classic party games which require a balloon, why not use an inflatable beach ball instead? These can be used again and again, and at end-of-life can by reused in the UK by Wyatt & Jack who upcycle inflatables into fab bags.
Contact your local party kit to find out which reusable decorations they can offer. Find your local party kit