The Very First Christmas Card:
in 1843, the first Christmas card was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a senior civil servant who helped design the modern post office. As a result of the English Industrial Revolution, postage stamps had become an affordable convenience, with costs dropping from a penny to a half penny in less than a decade. Can you believe it? The cost of postage stamps actually going down and not up? But it’s true! It did.
Since letter writing was the most effective way to reach long distance friends and family, the concept of sending Christmas cards was quick to take off. This is one scheme Hallmark cannot take credit for. Though they probably still do.
Today, the Christmas card industry is ginormous.
Personally, Christmas cards are a tradition. An outdated tradition. Just like lighting real candles to decorate your highly flammable Christmas tree was a tradition. In other words, I cherish the cards I’ve received, but I don’t send anymore. With the convenience of the internet, my family sees me almost daily. They don’t need a card with a messily written, repetitive message. My hand writing is not pretty. I can accept that now.
This post, of course, is not designed to slander the card industry, or hurt feelings, or make anyone feel bad for sending lovely and thoughtful cards out of the kindness of their heart. Instead, it’s to encourage us all to stop buying cards that are manufactured out of new materials and instead, send out your holiday messages on 100% post consumer recycled material. I mean, if you have to send cards, at least do it as sustainably as possible.
The good news is most cities can recycle postage stamps.
The bad news, is that the paper backing it comes on can be difficult to recycle. If you have them stamped at the post office, that might solve this problem.
Alternatively, come up with some other zero waste ways to send holiday greetings:
1.) Record the family sending a holiday message to friends and family. This can be individual, personal, or to an entire group. Stage a quick play or comedy sketch. Got grandparents in Florida? Get the kids together and record them singing a Christmas carol and post it to their facebook, text it, e-mail it, heck, even make a YouTube video. There are countless ways to make your videos accessible to any tech-fearing family members. Dress up!!!!
2.) If your friends and family are nearby, deliver homemade baked goods instead of sending a card across town. Food tastes MUCH better than even the fanciest of greeting cards.
3.) E-cards. Yeah, that’s always an option. They’re mildly entertaining, but still a nice way to say, hey, we’re thinking about you, here is my head on a dancing elf’s body. Merry Christmas.
4.) Make your own cards. If you have the materials already, why not? Be creative. If you artistic, design something beautiful that will be cherished way more than something generic.
5.) Find vintage cards. Rummage through nana’s attic (ask her first) and see what 1960s style cards await in a box upstairs. Check out thrift stores, second hand shops and even antique stores. These cards are most likely not being produced anymore, so buying them isn’t creating a demand in the company’s eyes to produce more. We’re trying to avoid the manufacturing of new materials, getting use out of items from the past is reuse, and we like reuse.
There’s something really classy and elegant about vintage Christmas cards:
And trying to find them can be a fun adventure that will keep you out of shopping malls and take you to some really interesting places.
Before your cards hit the recycling bin, why not donate them to a good cause?
Charities like St. Jude’s Ranch has a recycled card program and reuse the fronts of cards that aren’t trademarked by the companies listed below:
Please SEND (front only) of your recycled cards (except for Hallmark, American Greetings or Disney) to: St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, 100 St. Jude’s St., Boulder City, NV 89005