A photo documentary and mindfulness project by Sarah Figlio

Balloons are synonymous with celebration but this preventable environmental pollution is no party for seabirds and other wildlife who mistake fragments for food or can become entangled in long ribbons. My practice began in earnest on a stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline near Harbert Michigan in the summer of 2012. Positioned across the lake from a Chicago, the prevailing west to east winds drive balloons released in Chicago onto beaches across the lake. I set my intention to make the collection and disposal of this pollution part of my daily walking meditation. Flash forward a few years and I now live in an island country, England, where no place is more than 75 miles from a coast. I no longer find ballons on the beaches, but after the COVID lockdowns of 2020 were lifted, the amount of rubbish left on UK beaches was nothing less than collosal. My practice-project continues, and the need for mindful attention to all beaches and waterways remains more urgent than ever.