During the summer, my kids have a love affair with water balloons — and why not? They’re fun, they cool you down, and your whole purpose is to throw and break them. Bingo! The only problem? Post-water balloons, the yard looks like the remains of a latex factory explosion. But worse, all that non-biodegradable waste isn’t helping the planet or the animals on it.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service even wrote a post, describing what happens to birds, turtles and other animals who commonly mistake balloons for food. (Warning: tough photos at that link.)

One solution is to use more eco-friendly water balloons. While you should definitely still clean them up from your lawn afterwards (nothing biodegrades in a day), they do help deliver the fun of water balloons in different ways, without so much of the mess or the risk to the animals we love. That’s a win for everyone.

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This post has been updated summer 2021 

Related: 50 screen-free activities for kids to do over summer break, indoors and out


1. The reusable water balloon

Eco-friendly water balloons: Water Wubble

Now. These Water Wubbles may look, uh, a little strange when they’re all filled up and ready to go, but rest assured that they’re everything a kid wants in a water balloon when it comes to fun. They’re made with stretchy, almost-impossible–to-break rubber (believe me, my kids gave it the old college try), and they self-seal after you fill them. So while the water explodes out of them on impact, the balloon stays intact.

They’re not biodegradable, but they are reusable, making them a decent eco-friendly balloon options. Just think: the eight included in each set take the place of hundreds of normal balloons.

2. The eco-friendly-ish water balloon

Eco-friendly water balloons: Bunch O Balloons

Note: Please read this new information about whether Bunch O Balloons are actually biodegradable. Short answer: They’re not, and they no longer promote themselves that way. Fortunately, Terracycle is now accepting them for recycling, because before then, you’d have to do a lot of work if you truly want them to biodegrade — you can’t just toss them in your trash. Though we still appreciate the recycled components. – Eds

If you ever go to Target or watch the occasional informercial, surely you’ve seen Bunch O Balloons. Each bunch contains 30 or so balloons that you attach to a water spigot. After they’re filled, the balloons self-tie and drop into a bucket all at once, like heavy grapes.

I was totally surprised to learn that this infomercial staple is actually a set of eco-friendly water balloons. (Edited to add: They formerly promoted themselves as biodegradable and they are not, but they are recyclable.)  The plastic straws used to fill the balloons are made from recycled plastic, and the stems and stems and caps recyclable — provided you send them in free via Terracycle, or see if your community can accept for curbside pickup.

Related: 5 creative ways to make a summer bucket list with your kids. Let the fun begin!

3 The water balloon alternative

Eco-friendly water balloons: Crochet Water Balloons by Strange Loops Crafts

These crocheted water balloons by Strange Loops Crafts aren’t eco-friendly water balloons in the strictest sense, because they’re not really balloons at all. But you can fill them with water over and over again, which means zero waste — and maybe a little more time at the water pump. Plus, aren’t they cute?

Top photo: Anerma via Pixabay