Let your mind wander to an early December day. Festive wreaths on neighbors’ doors greet you on the chilly – or maybe even snowy – walk to the mailbox. The anticipation of what might have arrived in today’s delivery. Is it too early for a gift to arrive? You open the mailbox, and there they are…
The holiday cards.
So warm and bright on this cold, gray day. You’re drawn inside to curl up by the fire with your hot cocoa and cherish the familiar handwriting of your great aunt, see how much friends’ babies have grown, and read those newsy, and sometimes awkward (which makes them perfect) Christmas newsletters.
The Eco Quandry of Christmas Cards
Along the path to Green Living, I have phased out many a thing that I once thought was necessary or important. Often expecting it to be hard, I usually end up not missing it at all. But so far, I haven’t been able to let go of the holiday card tradition.
In my well-intentioned defense, my grandmother was the postmaster in our town. Mail and cards were a part of our livelihood. I spent a good part of my childhood in the post office – watching her sort mail, listening to stories from the mail carriers, and eating pineapple-flavored suckers.
I remember helping her hang enough holiday cards to fill two doorways in her house. To this day, when I see cards on display at Christmas, I’m reminded that this season is more about people than things.
To shut out holiday cards completely would make me feel like a Scrooge. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to pare down our list and “green” the system a bit. Most years, the conversation about sending out cards goes something like this…
Me: “I think this is the year.”
Mike (my husband): “The year for what?”
Me: “The year we make the leap and only send cards to people who aren’t on Facebook.”
Mike: “Are you sure? You really get into that kind of thing…”
Me: “I’m positive. Trees, paper, inks, transportation, and who knows we’re licking on those envelopes! Yep, this year, we’re taking a stand. Less is more!”
Me: “Ohhhh! Did you see this card from our old neighbors? It’s so cute! Too bad we didn’t send them anything.”
Mike: “Changed your mind already?”
Next comes my soap box – much less passionate than the first – about how recycled cards aren’t that bad. It’s like I’m trying to convince my husband. But the truth is, he knew all along I wouldn’t go through with our crusade against the card.Digital holiday card from Unvelope.com
The person I’m really trying to convince is me.
So this holiday, I’m facing it head on. I already know that day is coming when I’ll wish I had planned ahead and found the perfect holiday card. I also know that if I don’t plan ahead, I’ll end up throwing something together at the last minute. Like last year’s recycled paper photo card where the only family photo I found in a hurry had one of us (yours truly) in sunglasses.
This year, I plan on mixing and matching different sets of cards I’ve found at Abe’s Market. I’m definitely learning as I go, but this is what’s helping me keep the Christmas card process as simple and eco-friendly as possible.
- Keep a digital address book. This cuts down on paper, and helps you avoid a messy, scratched out address book if you have friends or family that move around a lot.
- Pare down your list. Think about the people you truly want to impact by wishing them a meaningful holiday this year. If that includes your college roommate you haven’t talked to in 10 years, by all means keep him or her on your list. But if it’s time for some to go, just know you’re doing it in the name of the environment (and also your budget).
- Photo card? Decide now. Getting the perfect family photo can take time. Will you use a vacation photo from this summer? Hire a professional? Or just take a candid of the kids in front of the tree? Coordinating outfits and scheduling appointments always works out best when you’re not in a rush.
- Including a family newsletter? Start now. It can take a few drafts to make sure you include the big news from the last year. Be sure to keep it condensed to one page to save paper, and to make sure your recipients actually read it.
- Break the process into manageable steps. Set aside time in increments to handwrite cards and addresses, so it doesn’t take up half of a precious Saturday in December.
- Choose eco-friendly cards. The first card pictured in this post is 100% recycled kraft paper from Abe’s Market. The center card is an interactive digital card from Unvelope.com. If you decide to go with photo cards, many of the online providers offer recycled photo cards. You’ll also notice greener options from a variety of card companies… ones that are known for being sustainable, and also companies trying to capture a more conscious audience.