Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Millions of Christmas cards are sent every year, this is an incredible number of cards many of which will not be or can not be recycled due to the materials used to make them. People send Christmas cards for different reasons – to include updates on family news, to let people know they are thinking about them or just because it’s what they have always done.
Whatever the reason for sending cards at Christmas, there is a good range of sustainable options out there.
When you are looking to buy cards to send, one of the most important things to look at is what they are made from and how they are decorated. Opt for cards made with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper either new or recycled. This will mean the card is made from 100% recycled fibres or responsibly sourced new pulp. You may also find cards made from a combination of the two.
The next thing to look out for is decorations that are added to cards. Glitter is one of the biggest problems on card. Glitter is basically microplastics which can easily make their way into the environment when they are sent to landfill. There are even some recent concerns about ‘eco’ glitters, so it is probably easiest to just avoid (who wants all that glitter hanging around their house long after Christmas either?). It is also important to look out for other decorations such as sequins and jewels as these can all make it difficult for the cards to be recycled afterwards.
You may also want to consider buying cards that result in donations being made to a charity, this way you know the money you spend will have a positive impact on society.
One way to be sure of what your cards are made of is to make your own. You can collect materials through the year, even saving Christmas cards from previous years. Children love getting involved in this type of activity too, it could become a family tradition spending time making cards. You could go for one repeated design or make everyone individual – the choice is yours. To reduce the number of cards you need to make, you may want to think carefully about who you choose to send cards to.
If you feel you are not creative enough for making your own cards you may know someone who would be willing to make them for you or you could find a small business that sells handmade cards (using sustainable materials).
If you are looking for unique Christmas cards you may be interested in Christmas Seed Cards. These are cards made from recycled paper embedded with plant seeds. The idea is that once the card has been enjoyed it can be planted following instructions normally included with the card. You can also get tags made with seed paper. The great thing about these cards is they will stay with the recipient long after the festive season. The cards will also have a positive benefit for the natural environment.
I think this choice can be tricky one. Some people may not feel they are as special, for others they are a practical and sometimes cheaper way to send seasons greetings to friends and family, especially if you know a large number of people. These kinds of cards can be animated and have sound, adding to the experience of receiving one. However, they cannot be handled in quite the same way as a physical card. It is though, certainly another option to consider.
Another option which may work for some people but not others is not sending cards at all or reducing who you send cards to. I will hold my hands up and say that in the last few years (since having children) we have not been the best at sending cards. This option reduces the need for any cards to be recycled or sent to landfill and will also save money.
When my oldest daughter started at school the class Christmas card list came home as the festive season approached. The first year she made her own cards and wrote in them all. This was quite a long task and the 5-year-old soon lost interest. The following year we had a chat together and decided that she wouldn’t repeat this task but instead she would donate some money from her money box to a charity. She selected a local charity that works to support homeless people. We shared a message with her class to let them know what she had done. This was well received, and we will certainly discuss this option again for this year.
If you still want to send Christmas messages maybe you could make some Christmas phone calls or send video or voice messages sharing your Christmas greetings.