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Green Christmas Cards - For a MAJOR Impact on an Environmentally Friendly Christmas

Updated on November 23, 2008

Since its inception as a tradition in Victorian England, the sending of commercially-printed Christmas Cards has become a tradition in most Western countries. The average household will send out about 30 cards each. That's about 30 billion Christmas cards that are sent out each year! In fact, over 60% of the cards sent in any given year go out during the Christmas season.

Clearly, this represents a massive amount of paper and ink. While cards have become more elaborate over time, using often toxic and non-recyclable “fifth-inks” and foils, the rate of card reuse and recycling has begun to increase in recent years. Making use of a more “green” Christmas card has become very important to ecologically-minded consumers.

Recycled Christmas Cards

Because the rate of paper recycling is relatively high in most communities, there is quite a large amount of post-consumer recycled pulp available to paper manufacturers as of the late-'aughts. As a result, there are many different type of recycled Christmas Cards to choose from, and not just different designs.

This can mean anything from newly printed cards on recycled-paper stock to old Christmas cards that are cut up and reused with fresh backings. One can recycle their own Christmas cards saved from years past into new postcards that also save on envelope paper and postage.

Recycling Christmas Cards Into Other Products

New Christmas cards are only one thing you can make with the ones you save. There are a multitude of things you can recycle last year's greetings into such as kids' jigsaws, coasters, ornaments, finger puppets, Holiday place mats, decorative boxes, gift tags or Christmas collages. This allows for quite a few creative opportunities for children as well as adults, while saving those cards from the landfill.

Using Sustainably Grown Fibres

There are things other than trees that can be used as the basis for your Christmas cards. For example, one company sends out packages of Christmas cards that are made from environmentally-friendly hemp fibres. Another deals in fair-trade Holiday cards that are made from maize wrapper leaves. While some trees are grown on plantations using sustainable methods, most trees that are cut down to make Christmas cards are still sourced from wild forest areas.

One increasingly popular type of sustainable fibre is the use of 100% post-consumer recycled paper that is impregnated with seeds. These growing Christmas cards have the advantage of avoiding the “waste-stream” entirely, by encouraging people to compost their cards and grow a garden that will remind them of the sender all season. While most of these cards are flowers, some of them are even more useful as herb and vegetable seeds.

Ecologically Sound Inks

It's not just the paper that's used with Christmas cards that can cause environmental harm. Many (if not most) inks used in the production of these cards are toxic to make and use. Moreover, when these cards are recycled, what remains after the fibres are taken out is a highly toxic sludge that often ends up in area landfills, eventually contaminating ground-water.

Soy-based inks are the most commonly used type of “green” ink. These replace the petroleum-based inks that have been used for much of the 20th century. These inks, once considered sub-standard by many printers, are now often considered superior. They have the advantage of being nearly 100% biodegradable.

Sending eCards Instead

While they may not be for everyone, you can avoid all the environmental impacts of sending Christmas cards by mailing off virtual ones. Though some people prefer the look and feel of a paper card they can touch and hang up in the home, a great many of the cards that people usually send off can easily be replaced. Increasingly, eCards are an attractive option for businesses and among close family members.

If even half the Christmas cards sent each year were replaced with eCards, some 100,000 trees could be spared, many of them in environmentally sensitive areas. The fuel used to cut, process and transport adds carbon to the atmosphere and the trees that are felled are no longer able to transform carbon dioxide into oxygen.


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    • PearTreeGreetings profile image

      PearTreeGreetings 7 years ago from Rexburg, ID

      Wow -- 30 billion holiday cards is simply mind-blowing! Thanks for posting such helpful information about ways to 'go green' with Christmas cards. Recycled Christmas cards from reputable card manufacturers don't even sacrifice quality so there is truly no reason not to 'go green' for the holidays.

    • profile image

      cardsender2 8 years ago

      Why not get a free ‘Recycler’ label that lets you make your greeting cards reusable?