Sentimental Releases

What are sentimental releases?

Many organizations offer sentimental releases (balloons, butterflies, lanterns etc.) to celebrate special occasions or commemorate a loved one who has passed. These releases have a number of environmental and human health concerns and are increasingly being replaced by safer methods. Please consider one of the alternatives below.

Safe, environmental and respectful alternatives

This list is intended to offer ideas to event organizers, but there are many other ways to celebrate as well. If you have a great idea that you would like to include on this list, please email

  • Blow bubbles into the breeze.
  • Water releases (boats, rubber ducks, lanterns). Organizers must ensure that there are no outgoing rivers, wetlands or storm drains that may be clogged by the items. They are also responsible to ensure that ALL items are picked up at the end of the event.
  • Foam shape machines can blow foam butterflies or other shapes skyward.
  • Flower/petal/leaf drops into rivers. As you watch them float away, it can be a powerful way to let go. Organizers must ensure that the petals/leaves are from native wildflowers and plants and are not invasive species.
  • Use lines of pebbles, sticks and natural material to mark names of loved ones.
  • Write names in the sand.
  • Plant flower bulbs. Organizers must ensure they have permission from the landowner and have an approved species list that does not include invasive species.  
  • Plant a tree. Organizers must ensure they have permission from the landowner and have an approved species list.
  • Have a commemorative tree planted through the City’s “A Gift that Grows” program. You can proudly take ownership of Greater Sudbury’s improving natural environment by having a tree planted in the Tom Davies Commemorative Forest within the Lake Laurentian Conservation Area. For more information call 705-674-4455, ext. 4605.
  • Throw wild flower bombs. These are seeds mixed with dirt, creating a bomb to help create more life and colour for years to come. Organizers must ensure that seeds are from native flowers and are not invasive species.  
  • Write your best memories in chalk. Organizers must ensure the location does not create distractions for motor vehicle operators.  

Please keep in mind that as more research is done on the long-term effects of various activities, some items from this list could move to the ‘not recommended’ list.

Not recommended releases


Helium balloons deflate and become waste litter in our natural environment and urban areas. They put wildlife, pets and livestock at risk – especially the knots and strings, which take longer to degrade and may pose choking and entanglement risks. Air Traffic Control must be contacted prior to any balloon release.


The City recognizes that butterfly rearing programs at schools focus on educating students about biodiversity, life cycles and stewardship but there is international concern over the release of unregulated, mass produced, and commercially raised butterflies (for example, painted ladies) into the environment. Organizers wanting a butterfly release must ensure the butterflies are native species and from a wild genetic stock local to Ontario.


There are limited and highly monitored fish releases in Greater Sudbury. Organizers can contact local groups to partner for sanctioned fish releases.


Releasing doves and other living vertebrates raises concerns about animal welfare and introduction of invasive species. Any dove release must be done through a professional service that uses trained birds.

Unlawful releases

  • Sky/Flying Lanterns – These paper lanterns have wire skeletons that may be attractive yet dangerous to animals and are considered litter once the paper biodegrades. With an open flame inside the paper body, they also pose a serious fire concern, and both the Ontario Fire Marshall and Canada Safety Council have released warnings about them as far back as 2009. Due to their uncontrolled flight path, the lanterns may land on rooftops, trees or combustible material while the flame is still ignited or the lantern is still hot. Under the guidance of the Ontario Fire Marshall and the Ontario Fire Code, the release of flying lanterns is not permitted in the City of Greater Sudbury.