Breaking away from the Christmas card trap
Christmas cards are another eco crime in the making— Hilary Osborne, The Guardian
The tradition of sending Christmas cards by post is almost as old as the post itself; the first commercial cards date to 1843, only three years after the creation of the penny post. Every year, an average British household sends out more than 30 cards. Although the number is declining, cards remain an integral part of Christmas for many. But that isn't necessarily a good thing. Fortunately, there are some ways around the problem.
Although paper Christmas cards are a Christmas tradition, they're not very desirable from an environmental perspective. There are several ways in which paper cards sent through the post harm the environment.
The first and most obvious environmental issue relating to Christmas cards is that they are a paper product. Every year, the demand for paper for cards leads to tens of thousands of trees being cut down. Some estimates of the damage go as high as the hundreds of thousands.
Once Christmas cards are written and sent, they continue to affect the environment. Transporting the millions of cards sent every year requires additional journeys from postal services, contributing to atmospheric pollution.
Finally, Christmas cards tend to be discarded once the Christmas season is over. No matter how much they like to receive cards, households can't keep a large number of them. These ephemeral messages are therefore thrown away, contributing to the expansion of landfill.
There are a number of ways to reduce the negative environmental impact of sending Christmas cards. One of these is to use digital "e-cards," which don't consume resources or cause atmospheric pollution.
Quick, environmentally-friendly and often free, e-cards have a lot to recommend them. With the costs of postage increasing steadily, e-cards represent another way in which the environmentally-sound option is also the less expensive one. Modern e-cards can include not only graphics and text but sound and animation. It's also possible to combine e-cards with gift-giving, with gift credit from online retailers.
Because they're less expensive and time-consuming to send than conventional cards, however, there is a perception that e-cards are the less sincere option for Christmas greetings. If you're choosing e-cards for environmental reasons, take a moment to check out some of the options offered by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth. Alternatively, with so many sites offering e-cards, you can afford to spend a little extra time looking for the perfect card for each individual on your list, something you can't do with a box of standardised cards.
If you just can't bear to give up the tradition of sending physical Christmas cards, there are still a few ways to enjoy this Christmas custom without hurting the environment. As with e-cards, shopping online can help you find what you need, but you can also find many of these options in local retailers.
Not all physical cards need to be made in ways that harm the environment. Aware of the growing demand for environmentally-friendly options, many shops now sell cards printed on recycled paper, some made with biodegradable vegetable ink.
Another way to help the environment while sending traditional Christmas cards is to buy cards from environmental charities. As an added benefit, many cards sold by environmental charities are themselves manufactured using sustainable methods.
Making your own recycled cards is another option. Any heavy-grade paper or card can be turned into an attractive Christmas card. Use art from old magazines, hand-drawn images and contrasting paper textures to decorate your cards. Your recipients will know they're getting a one-of-a-kind personal greeting and you'll know that you're helping the environment.
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