Do you remember the 2007 class of fourth-graders at Quincy Elementary School in Zeeland? The forty-two passionate, hope-filled individuals who launched the “Don’t Let It Fly or the Great Lakes Will Cry” campaign to eliminate balloon litter? The fearless students who convinced two high school principals to cancel an order for 450 balloons slated for high school graduation ceremonies?
One of the boys told the class if we really wanted to clean up Lake Michigan beaches, we needed to get Chicago involved in the campaign.
“Everyone knows the winds are out of the southwest,” he said. “If we don’t get Chicago to quit releasing balloons, we’ll never have clean beaches!”
He was right. Twelve years later, I am still picking up balloons!
Five states have banned the mass release of balloons. They are Connecticut, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, and California. None are Great Lakes states. A number of cities have also banned the practice of releasing large numbers of balloons. To my knowledge, none are in the Great Lakes region.
It’s time. Why not start with Chicago, the city upwind of the longest freshwater shoreline in the world?
I planted the seed on Thursday. With a little nurturing, hopefully it will grow. You can help. Write a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune asking for a city-wide ban on the mass release of balloons. We can find better ways to celebrate, to honor the dead, to make a statement.
Send a copy to your own city newspaper, your own mayor—asking for a ban in your community. Mayors talk. Maybe, with enough nudging, we can get a Great Lakes state added to the list of states outlawing mass balloon releases. Maybe, we can even get all eight states!
We owe it to the 2007 class of fourth-graders to try.
Sample letter for the Chicago Tribune firstname.lastname@example.org and your own mayor, governor, and local newspaper. (Be sure to include your name, city, state.)
Letter to the Editor,
I’d like to ask the city of Chicago to help clean up Lake Michigan’s shoreline, the longest freshwater shoreline in the world, by banning the mass release of balloons. If Connecticut, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, California, and the Clemson Tigers can do it, why not Chicago?
Author and Beach Walker
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