Zero Waste your Holiday Cards


When it comes to swallowing your frogs over the holidays, I’m guessing writing cards is the biggest toad of all.  Decorating?  Fun.  Buying and wrapping gifts?  Kinda fun, right?  Handwriting a million letters?  Ehh…

The 2.5 billion Christmas and Hanukkah cards we buy in the fall probably have something to do with the 25% increase in household waste we make during the holidays.¹ ²  Here are some JV and varsity moves we can do to whittle it down:

1.  Recycle your cards.  To use a word of the great Bill Nye, “Duh.”

2.  Buy cards that are easier to recycle.  Though you can throw the deep red and forest green envelopes into the recycle bin, those dyes might be problematic at some recycle centers.

       Same story for those fancy, embossed cards.

3.  Buy cards made with recycled paper.  A quick spin through Target yields two types of eco cards.  The “green-inspired”, which in this case means the paper is probably virgin but made from responsible growers and printers.  And the “greenroom brand”, which uses recycled paper.  What percentage of recycled paper?  Haven’t a clue because it’s not on their website.  Maybe 70%?

So, which is better?  I’d go with the one with the prettiest cover.

4.  Email option.  I know!  You don’t get to be featured on anyone’s piano or mantel.  But let me tell you, soooo much less work.  I used to hand-write cards.  And I also used to yell at my family to give me the eight hours it took to do so.  This year it’ll be one card and 30 email addresses.

You don’t necessarily need a fancy card with a jingle or elf-yourself rockin’ around a tree.  I think a header with some snowy trees and lots of pics of your kids is good enough.  Or a row of unadorned aluminum poles if you ‘find tinsel distracting’.

The first year will be challenging.  I can already think if a few email addresses I’m going to need to track down.  And I think Grandma will still want a card.  But another idea is, why not set aside some time and make a phone call?  I don’t mean close kin, I mean call that friend that would expect a card, but not a call.

5.  Do the Boxing Day special.  The day after Christmas, take all the cards you received, tear off the front and reuse them as post cards, to send out your thank yous.  Hard core indeed!

6.  Finally, shame all your friends and family into writing emails instead of sending cards.  Because nothing says Happy Holidays like spreading eco-guilt.

Seriously – all I really want for Christmas is for you to remember to recycle your cards.



November 6, 2014

About Me

About Me

I’ve been passionate about combatting blind consumerism since 2008 and joined the Zero Waste movement by starting this blog in 2013, soon after my second child was born. I think it might have been trying to unwrap a toy or someone’s attempt to sell me a butt-wipe warmer that put me over the edge… read more



  1. Anne Marie Bonneau

    Thanks for all of these alternative option. I love the idea of reusing the card fronts as post card thank yous. Great idea!

  2. zerowastemommy

    Thanks. Stolen from somewhere. 🙂 And thanks for the homemade vanilla tips!


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