In December 2012 Professor Robert Richardson of Cornell University in New York argued that a helium party balloon should cost somewhere in the region of £75 to more accurately reflect the true scarcity of the gas. What is Richardson's authority with this gas? In 1996 Professor Richardson won the Nobel physics prize for his research on helium.
Just a month later, in January 2013, the Independent newspaper published an article entitled "A ballooning problem: the great helium shortage".
In the article Peter Wothers, a British Chemist and a teaching fellow in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge stated, "The scarcity of helium is a really serious issue. I can imagine that in 50 years’ time our children will be saying ‘I can’t believe they used such a precious material to fill balloons’”.
We only have a finite supply of helium. It is a vital scientific gas and it is needed to run medical machines such as MRI scanners. In both fields this gas is irreplaceable.
Granted we are not going to run out of helium tomorrow, but it is now time to carefully use helium. 100 years ago we utilised ivory in much the same way that plastic is currently consumed. No one batted an eye at shooting an elephant so that the tusks could be used to make billiard balls. Today we think about ivory and elephants completely differently and this thinking needs to extend to helium and balloons. Filling balloons with helium is absolutely the wrong use of this precious resource.
McDonald's Helium Balloons
We are now in the summer of 2017. The film Despicable Me 3 has just been rolled out in UK cinemas and who doesn't love a Minion! It is no surprise that McDonald's has teamed up with this movie franchise and run some co-promotions because these films are joyous pieces of fun. What was less joyous was spotting that McDonald's had fallen back on an old fashioned, out-dated method to promote the fast food chain and the film. Tying helium filled branded balloons to the railings outside their restaurant.
I therefore thought it an appropriate time to check out McDonald's Environmental Policy. The relevant page has the title "striving for a sustainable future".
"At McDonald’s we recognise our responsibility to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. That is why we have a sustainable sourcing policy for food and packaging and aim to use our planet’s resources efficiently.
We believe in the importance of having a positive impact on the hundreds of communities in which we operate. Apart from supporting grassroots football and helping to fundraise for RMHC, we help to keep local areas clean and litter free by organising daily litter patrols and larger clean-up events.
Through our Planet Champion Programme, we train our employees on sustainable practices and inspire them to do their part, both in the restaurants and at home."
Printing a "please don't litter" sign on your balloons really doesn't make much of an environmental impact. If you really want to change this planet for the better, please review your 'Planet Champion Programme' and bring it up to date.
Helium is a finite resource. It is time to stop using this precious gas in balloons as a marketing mechanism throughout your entire group. You have the worldwide power and authority to make a positive impact and help educate the public that the party is well and truly over when it comes to helium balloons. It won't take much effort. It will make a massive difference. Please make it so. Thank you.