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'It’s a low-hanging fruit. That looks really negative on us': UNL students on balloon release

Posted at 6:46 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 19:46:32-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — It's been a tradition for decades, every time the Big Red scores its first touchdown in Memorial Stadium, the fans release thousands of balloons in the sky. But many students don’t like it.

RELATED: UNL student govt. passes resolution to end Husker balloon release; cites environmental concerns

“We’re the only ones in the nation that does it, we’re the only school,” said Kat Woerner, a student senator at UNL.

Junior Seth Caines, chair of the UNL sustainability committee, remembers his first Husker game.

“I just saw this giant mass of balloons and I was like ‘What’s going on?’ and they’re just like, ‘It’s the balloons, it’s fun.’ And at first, I was like,‘Wow this is kinda cool,’ then I was like, ‘Where are all these balloons going?” said Caines.

Kat Woerner has the answer.

“And it can land all over Nebraska, all over the Midwest. And a balloon was even found in New York,” said Woerner.

After years of work, the student government (ASUN) took action and this week voted unanimously to end the tradition. The decision is ultimately up to the athletic department.

ASUN passed a similar resolution last year.

Woerner led the way on the issue since she’s been a first-year student.

“It’s a low-hanging fruit. That looks really negative on us,” she said.

Woerner says students from other Big Ten schools scoff at NU for continuing the practice.

“We can’t focus on anything else if nobody else cares about anything we do except for this. We lose a lot of respect,” said Woerner.

Caines points to UNL’s goal of zero waste by 2030.

“They claim to want to be zero waste by 2030, but with large mass of releases of waste like the balloons, it’s really hard to believe that the university is actually going to accomplish that in that span of time,” said Caines.

While many Husker fans hold the balloon release as a cherished tradition, many students 3 News Now talked to in Lincoln are largely indifferent.

“I really don’t care. I actually kind of like it as a tradition, but it is what it is, I guess,” said Joel Mayberry.

“Add a new tradition, change it up, doesn’t make a difference,” said Emma Smith.

Still, plenty of Husker fans on Facebook want to keep it saying “Can’t we keep one tradition going?" or worried about the employees who will be affected. One person called the students a “bunch of crybabies.”

The NU Athletic Department did not get back to several requests for comment but said, in the past the balloons were biodegradable.

“Biodegradable just means they’ll break down eventually. It doesn't mean it’s going to be quick, it doesn't mean it’s going to be efficient, it doesn’t mean it’s going to do well,” said Woerner.

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