It's me, Matt The Balloon Man! Er, well, it's the artist formerly known as Matt The Balloon Man, anyway. If you follow me on Facebook, you may have already noticed this change and wondered what was happening. Well, for more than seven years I've been performing professionally as Matt The Balloon Man, but this year I made the decision to rebrand myself as Magician, Matt Matthews.
This wasn't an easy decision. I love being a balloon artist (and I still offer balloon twisting packages!), but I want to begin focusing my creative energies toward magic for one primary reason: sustainability.
I don't mean that for me, personally, but rather for our planet. The topic of sustainability (or environmentalism, if you prefer) is a hot one within the balloon community, and for good reason. Over the years there has been a growing movement to consider the impact of balloons on our environment. Most of the discussion has centered on balloon releases, which are when groups intentionally release large numbers of helium balloons in to the sky. These releases are common; I remember participating in one when I was in elementary school. And even just a few years ago, a friend of mine did a balloon release in remembrance of her daughter after her passing.
But balloon releases are bad for the environment. There's no real controversy here. Even the nation's largest balloon industry lobbying group, The Balloon Council, now advises against balloon releases and has even taken a position of no longer opposing legislation to ban them. Here in Connecticut, balloon releases of more than 10 balloons have been illegal for decades, but there has been a push to make any release, no matter the number, illegal. In 2019, just such a bill overwhelmingly passed in the state House of Representatives, but as far as I can tell, it died in the state Senate.
To be clear, I support legislative bans on releasing balloons. A balloon that is released to float away will eventually fall back down. At best it ends up as litter on the side of the road. At worst, the balloons and the strings tied to them end up harming or killing wildlife.
But the legislative push against balloons doesn't end with just balloon releases. Some California localities are pushing for a full ban on ALL helium filled balloons. Just this year, the city council in Glendale California voted unanimously to ban the sale of all helium filled, Mylar balloons. In an ironic twist of fate, Glendale will play host to the country's largest balloon convention, Twist and Shout, in 2022 (the 2021 convention was cancelled due to COVID). And even beyond these legislative pushes, some radical groups are pushing for a flat out ban on all balloons. I personally disagree with these pushes to ban helium filled balloons as long as they aren't intended for release.
I also don't think balloons, by themselves, are bad. Contrary to what some think, balloons are not a single use plastic like straws. Balloons are rubber, made from the sap of tree, and they are 100% biodegradable. A 1989 research study, funded by the balloon industry, found that balloons break down at about the same rate as an oak leaf. But in recent years, reporting has called in to question whether that study is really accurate or not (though I don't think there's been any credible, non-biased research to actually disprove it).
Taken together, what does this all mean? Well, I don't know. I'm not a scientist and I'm not a professional researcher. I'm just a guy who twists balloons up until they look like superheroes and lets kids beat him on the head with magic wands until the pee their pants laughing. I just want to leave the world a little better than I found it.
So moving forward, I'm going to eliminate all balloon décor and balloon deliveries from my product offerings. I had never offered helium filled balloons to begin with, so that won't be affected. And although I will still be offering balloon twisting as a service, I'm de-emphasizing it as a product that I offer and I will be looking at more renewable alternatives to balloons to offer my clients, going forward.
And so, Matt The Balloon Man is now known as Magician, Matt Matthews. And since I know you're going to ask, no, "Matthews" is not my real last name, but hopefully you'll remember that guy with two first names next time you want to hire a magician!