I have had several e-mails and comments wondering about the how-to of my release methods, so I created this simple step-by-step tutorial. First, start with the basic supplies.
You will need some plastic baggies, the zip-lock type are highly preferable. Some bright paper or card stock will come in handy. Also the medium for the message. I think it is best to attach postage, because I believe some folks will find a card and set it aside, intending to mail it back...as soon as they remember to buy a stamp. Here in the U.S. I use postcards that the postal service sells for .30 each. I have used envelopes with postage and also just cards or a letter without postage when I had a balloon but no postage handy.
On the address side I make it easy to just drop the card in the mail. All of the Balloon Release balloons are numbered for tracking as to location and date of release. If you let one go, no big deal. If you release 5 or 10 or a hundred, than you might want to code them, maybe your name and a number- Smith12 for example.
On the back I write a sentence explaining the project, and a request for information on the finder, time, and location. I leave a little room for them to write. I also write the release number on this side. The domain name to Balloon Release and the e-mail address is always included, as well as information on where and when the balloon was set free. You can include the blog information or your own e-mail. In this digital time we live in it may make the difference between an answer or not hearing from a finder.
One- the bright color might attract a finder, the white card could just be almost invisible on the ground. Two- the card protects the ink writing on the postcard. The cards often sit in the sun for a while and quickly become bleached white. Protect your writing and increase your odds.
Use something sharp like an ink pen tip to poke a hole in the plastic on the outer edge of the bag, on the other side of the zip-lock. This provides a tie-off point for the ribbon while still keeping the bag waterproof.
Oh, don't forget, you will also need a balloon filled with helium! There you have it, an Balloon Release waiting to happen. If you are using 17 inch balloons then one will probably lift the load just fine. If the balloon is a few hours old it may require two or more, especially if you use smaller balloons.
As balloons rise high into the atmosphere they air is thinner, causing the balloon to expand. This will eventually pop the balloon and drop it to Earth. Sometimes I fill the balloons only partially for a slower rise and hopefully a longer trip. Also, it might be a good idea to have one very blown up balloon for lift, and another less blown up to extend the trip once the larger one pops.
It would be wise to never release balloons near an airport or power lines of any kind. Mylar or metallic balloons are a definite no-no as they will and have caused power outages by shorting electrical lines. The balloons themselves are biodegradable, and I am searching for some type of weatherproof baggie and ribbon that will degrade naturally, but with enough life span to give the card a chance to be discovered.
One last thing- please take some digital images of your release and share the photos, release date and times and any details or interesting stories with Balloon Release and we will log the release. Of course we would love to hear of any found balloons too!