Sending Christmas cards ought to be a simple affair. But family politics, feuds with neighbours and wondering if that distant elderly relative is still alive adds stress we don’t need. Especially when Christmas can be a stressful time anyway.
Now, we’re all much more aware of our environmental impact. So finding eco friendly Christmas cards is also on the to do list.
But surely cards are environmentally sound? They’re made from recyclable cardboard, right?
Not always. What if they’re covered in glitter and other plastic decorations? Are the inks and dyes used to colour them earth friendly?
What’s the alternative? Homemade cards? Recycled cards? Is sending an e-card a copout?
Worry no more.
I’ve done some research to find the most eco friendly Christmas cards around. Giving you one less thing to think about this festive season.
Why Do I Need to Consider the Impact of My Christmas Cards?
Where do you start when thinking about the impact of Christmas cards on the environment? With the numbers of course!
How many Christmas cards are sent in the UK? Are there really that many that they’re having a detrimental effect on the planet? Could switching to eco friendly Christmas cards have a positive impact?
So, who better to ask than the UK’s Greetings Card Association? (Who knew? And they’re celebrating their centenary.)
According to the UK Greeting Card Association, 1 billion Christmas cards were sold in the UK in 2017. That’s 100 million single cards and 900 million in boxes.
(I also discovered that no other nation buys more cards each year than us Brits and that 85% are bought by women. Oh, and the Christmas card was invented in 1856, by Sir Henry Cole, founder of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Presumably, back then, glitter wasn’t a thing.)
It’s clear then, that the greetings card market remains strong. You’ll find them being sold in one in six retail outlets in the UK.
All this comes as news to me. As my friends and family will testify, I don’t do cards. I’ll happily receive them, I just don’t send them anymore.
Admittedly this coincided with me switching office work for home based freelancing. Which meant no longer having a work buddy with the password to the franking machine…
Misuse of office equipment aside, all these greetings cards must be having an impact. The majority of the 100 million single cards sold come in cellophane wrapping.
And as we know, we should all reduce our use of plastic. It hangs around for hundreds of years and is disastrous for many aspects of the environment.
So that’s a whopping amount of positive change that can be made by considering what cards we buy. Not only ditching the single use plastic Christmas card wrapping, but also all the other plastic and environmental foes involved in sending an innocent, merry greeting.
With more brands bringing eco products to the market it’s becoming easier and easier to have a plastic free Christmas.
Here’s my list of ideas for all sorts of eco friendly Christmas cards.
Eco Friendly Christmas Cards Made From Recycled Paper
First up, when considering green Christmas cards, think about what they’re made from. Look for greetings cards that are made from eco friendly paper.
This generally means that the pulp used to make the card comes from recycled fibres. Or it can mean cards made from virgin paper from responsibly managed forests. Or, they could be made from a mixture of the two.
These cards are often certified eco friendly by the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC.
FSC certified Christmas cards
Glitter Free Eco Friendly Christmas Cards
Glitter is next. I consider myself pretty clued up when it comes to eco stuff. But even I only realised that glitter is made from plastic a year or two ago.
That sparkly stuff is made from ready made microplastics. If it’s plastered all over a card, it renders it unrecyclable.
When the decorations come down and we all go back to work dreaming of summer, glittery cards will begin their second life, in landfill. And they’ll stay there pretty much forever.
The paper might break down but the glitter will languish there for even longer than Brexit negotiations.
The same goes for any other plastic-y bits stuck onto cards.
The message here is to keep things plain. Stop making like a magpie and choose plastic free cards. If you love a bit of bling, look for cards made with eco friendly glitter.
What About Inks and Dyes?!
Another consideration when choosing eco friendly Christmas cards is how they’re printed.
Again, the Greetings Cards Association tells us everything we need to know. Here, we need to know what Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are.
If I think back to chemistry class, they’re chemicals that are, erm, volatile. They easily evaporate their molecules into the air at room temperature. Formaldehyde is an example of a VOC and I’m pretty sure that’s not something we want much of in the air.
Some VOCs can potentially damage human health and the environment. 10% of the VOC emissions produced in the UK come from the printing industry.
Look for cards that are made using low or no alcohol printing techniques. (Alcohol is used in printing processes which evaporates, releasing VOCs.) Better still, look for those printed using vegetable based inks.
The Ultimate Eco Friendly Christmas Cards – DIY!
Here’s an idea for greetings cards I can get on board with: making our own!
Collect bits and pieces to use during the year, including old cards from the year before.
Get creative, get the kids involved and make them as contemporary or as kitsch as you like. How about making it a family tradition to see who can keep one card going the longest?
Can Cards Be Recycled?
Some greetings cards can be recycled with your normal paper and card recycling. The exceptions are all those cards with glitter and other plastic-y bits on them.
If you can, pick off the plastic bits or tear off the side that contains glitter. The rest can be recycled as normal and you can keep the non-recyclable bits to make your own cards next year. Or turn them into gift tags or sustainable Christmas tree decorations.
Is It OK to Send an E-Card?
This one is up to you and depends on how much you might get told off by your grandparents.
I could argue that electronic storage is also detrimental to the environment. Data centres have a huge, largely unnoticed, carbon footprint. But hey, it’s Christmas.
‘Tis the Season to be Jolly Well Environmentally Aware
Switching to eco friendly Christmas cards is a simple way of having a positive impact on the planet during the festive season.
Doing so could inspire you to make more considered, informed eco choices throughout Christmas and beyond. It might also get your loved ones thinking about eating and living more sustainably.
If you can’t find any eco friendly Christmas cards, look for cards that donate proceeds to charity. This isn’t strictly eco friendly (unless it’s a green charity). But they’ll still be doing some good to someone, somewhere on the planet.
This year make your Christmas card list more about what’s on it, rather than who.
Buying greener Christmas cards can be more expensive than buying mass produced multipacks. But perhaps it’s time to trim down that list anyway and send fewer cards?
If in doubt, consider a phone call instead. Or, be like me and don’t send any at all!