Dear Umbra,

My company wants to send out holiday cards each year, but I find it wasteful, especially because of the increased transportation load on the post office. What could we do instead?

Cindy
Truckee, Calif.

Dearest Cindy,

A stumper. I can think of three choices: No cards, paper cards, and email cards.

Is tradition stacked against you?

Photo: churl

Businesses send holiday cards to show appreciation, remind clients of their existence, and generally keep clients a-clienting, right? Replacing holiday cards with nothing at all does not help a business meet any of these goals, so I think we will have to nix that one.

Email “cards” can be nice, I suppose. They certainly are paper-free. My guess is they would be well received if the sending company was a techie business, particularly one doing web design or software support. But the card would need to be super-spiffy, really impressive, kind of, “Wow, I’m so glad we hired these people, maybe they can make us look this good.” Unless it’s well done, or appropriate to the business relationship, a holiday email may just seem like inbox clutter from a lazy company. I’m guessing a little here; as you know, I work for a nonprofit. It could be that corporate holiday emails are de rigueur now.

Our final option is to improve the eco-ness of paper holiday cards. You don’t mention how the cards are designed and made, so I’m wandering in the dark a bit here, but there are a few changes you might make. One obvious one is to ensure the paper is high in post-consumer recycled content. You should be easily able to get 30 percent post-consumer content, if not 100 percent. “Post-consumer” is what we imagine all recycled content to be: made out of our old office paper and curbside recycling. Often recycled content in paper is made up of virgin paper trimmings and unused scraps. If we support paper recycling by purposefully purchasing post-consumer products, we help close the circle and cut down on cutting down trees.

Since you are rightly concerned about postal gas use, a second approach to waste reduction would be reducing the size of the card. Let’s say you usually send a folded card inside an envelope. Maybe it’s a ridiculously small change, but you could go with a folded card that is its own envelope. Print the greeting on one side, fold the card in half and address it on the back. Close it with a wafer seal. Right there you’ve cut your paper use in half and reduced a tiny amount of weight in your mailing. A postcard would be even lighter. I’m not sure whether that will significantly cut down on postal trips or gas use, but it’s worth a thought.

Your golden state of California is ready to help you with your task, Cindy. Cali has a searchable recycled product directory that can get you started. Most major paper manufacturers carry post-consumer products, too, so you are not going to have to look far.

Pulpily,
Umbra