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Day 3: Discard your card the right way

As our team member Mehak celebrates her first Christmas in the UK, we had some interesting conversations over the past few weeks that led us to do some digging into Christmas cards today!

The card-giving tradition is centuries old. Christmas cards were originally invented all the way back in 1856 by Sir Henry Cole, the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum, according to the Greeting Card Association. No other nations buy or send as many cards as the Brits do with a 76% card penetration in the market.

While the sentimental value of these cannot be challenged, the University of Exeter conducted a study that revealed the emissions of a single Christmas card to be 140g of CO2.

The largest part of emissions comes from the energy and water-intensive paper manufacturing process. Pulp and paper (virgin material) production also often leads to deforestation which causes loss of natural habitats, carbon sinks, and other negative impacts.

Printing and decorations take up a smaller part of the emissions but are a key factor. The printing process involves alcohol that releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's) which evaporate into the air at room temperature. VOCs are harmful to both human health and the environment. Glitter is made from microplastics, which stay in landfills.

Ideally, the most eco-friendly option would be to not send Christmas cards at all! Send personalized video messages or get on a call to spread the cheer with your relatives, colleagues, and clients without borders.

You could also opt for charity e-cards, that take it one step further to make someone else’s holidays brighter. You can choose a charity to sponsor – ideal for both businesses and those with a cause close to their heart.

However, electronic storage is also detrimental to the environment, with data centres accounting for a largely unnoticed carbon footprint. So, try not to send cards to people you will be seeing over the holidays.

If you choose to send physical cards, here's how you can be more environmentally conscious:

-Make your own!

-Use recycled cards and paper. These are roughly 50% less energy intensive than virgin material.

-Check for FSC-certified cards that have recycled material and can be recycled further. You could also look for the ‘recycle me’ logos.

-Look for cards that use low or no alcohol printing techniques. Your best bet would be to look for cards printed using natural, pigmented, or vegetable-based inks.

-Avoid buying cards with embellishments such as ribbons or glitter as they hinder the recycling process and machinery, or remove them from the card if you have a bunch of old cards that you want to recycle.

-Before throwing them in the bin, sending them for recycling (either to collection points or charity), consider whether you can get any more use out of your cards. For example, you could upcycle them into decorations or gift tags for next Christmas.


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