Paper or e-cards for Christmas?

The dilemma of Christmas cards

As an aspiring minimalist, and someone concerned about unnecessary waste, physical Christmas cards have felt a bit wrong for a number of years.  However I felt a compulsion and societal pressure to do them. Every year getting them done by the respective posting deadlines (for friends & family overseas) was stressful. I felt that cards should only be done if writing something meaningful, and personal, so they took a while. However I have never done cards for London friends, or work colleagues, I see all the time.

A few years ago I started sending some e-cards but they were always personalised. This year I was away for the whole festive season, so have decided to just go with a generic update e-card, except those older relatives who don’t have email. This was for a couple of reasons; I need to protect my time for other things (such as seeing people) before I leave, I don’t want anyone to feel they have to send a card that I won’t be at home to receive, and it reduces waste. Will anyone notice or mind? Will it affect these relationships? I am not sure it will.

Stats & facts

It is estimated that in the UK alone we give / send 1 billion Christmas cards every year! Marks & Spencer have teamed up with the Woodland Trust to ensure that for every 1,000 card collected in store the Trust plants one native tree. Last year they planted 6,000 trees. With the UK being one of the least forested countries in Europe this is good news. The estimates suggest that our rate of recycling cards has gone up dramatically. Other shops promote card recycling points, the increase in Council run kerbside recycling, and some are kept for prosperity, but that’s still a lot of paper. Bear in mind many cards have glitter, bows, gems and ribbon so some kerbside recycling will not take them.

British Woodland being boosted by The Woodland Trust

British Woodland being boosted by The Woodland Trust

Popularity or meaning?

Recycling is great but surely it’s better not to use them all in the first place if they are not meaningful? Do you need to give a card to someone at work, or someone you see all the time? If you are just writing “To X from Y” then is this giving either person something other than a house decoration? Is it more about the number of cards you have on your desk, or in your lounge, as a signifier of your popularity? I am not sure that is what Christmas is all about for me, in a cultural sense.

Some ideas for reducing and reusing your paper cards;

  • Cut up and reuse the front of old cards as gift tags for next year.
  • For those in your immediate physical vicinity organise a group meal at your local pub, or a gathering at your house
  • For those further away arrange a Skype chat and the gift of time.
  • Send personalised e-cards, some of the animation ones can be fun and give something a paper card cannot.
  • Make it known to your work colleagues /family that you are doing a charity donation instead of sending cards.
  • For the cards you do want to send buy plain ones (no glitter or ribbon), these can be recycled easily. Also support your favourite charity.
  • For ideas to reduce your food waste at Christmas see Love Food Hate Waste


3 thoughts on “Paper or e-cards for Christmas?

  1. I have stopped sending Christmas cards now. I just cannot get over the waste issue. I do however still buy Christmas cards for the kids to take to school for their friends. All of the children do this and I don’t want them to feel left out.
    Any cards that we receive I keep to make gift tags for the following Christmas.
    Great post 🙂 #GoingGreenLinky

  2. Like GIna, I’ve dramatically cut down on the cards I send. They are mainly for the ‘older generation’ who I believe really value a card. The statistics are shocking and I’m so pleased there are schemes where new trees are planted. Thanks for raising awareness of this important topic. We really need to question so much of our mindless consumerism. #GoingGreenLinky

  3. Giving Christmas cards is not big in France although people do send a few more New Year cards … but only to people they do not see, not to everyone and anyone who they see every day! As a family we only send a handful of cards now to relatives and everyone else will get a general message on Facebook or the odd ecard! #GoinfGreen

    PS – will add this to my post: The Ultimate Collection of Green Christmas Ideas

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