If you’re looking for ways to make your card sending more eco-friendly, we’ve got 18 alternatives to Christmas cards for you to explore.
Looking for gift inspiration? Click here for ideas galore of what to put under the tree this year.
Jo and I are both fans of Christmas cards. We love sending them – thinking what to write inside – and receiving them. And that shared moment of thought between us and the person/people at the other end of the card.
But of course we’re all much more aware now of the environmental cost of mass greetings card sending on an international scale. And luckily these days there are lots of other ways to share Christmas wishes too.
So we decided to explore other options available and try to make our card sending more eco-aware. And we wanted to share our discoveries with you.
While there will always be a place for thoughtful cards and handwritten messages at Christmas time (and any other time of year!), as with many things, perhaps a mixed approach is best.
So whether it’s environmental concerns, cost, time or anything else causing you to evolve your own Christmas card approach, scroll on down for these suggestions of 18 eco-friendly alternatives to Christmas cards.
Environmental Impact of Christmas Cards
Before we start, a little background info.
According to research by Exeter University’s Centre for Business and Climate Solutions, on behalf of dontsendmeacard.com, the embodied carbon or ‘carbon footprint’ in a typical greetings card can be estimated at 140g CO2e*. This is apparently the same as in a tea break with a friend.
This carbon footprint is built from a combination of paper production, printing, postage and even the decomposition of the unrecycled card at the end of its lifetime too.
Reducing any or all parts of this process will therefore have an environmental benefit. Particularly since the UK as a whole send an estimated one billion Christmas cards between us each year!!!
Based on the figures above, if everyone in the UK reduced their Christmas card list by just 10% then 100 million fewer cards would be sent and we’d save 14,000 tonnes of CO2e each year!!!
So there’s no time like the present to revisit your Christmas card approach and see what tweaks you might like to make. It could save you time and money as well as improving your ecological footprint. It’s a win:win for all of us really.
* 140g CO2e is likely to be a lower bound as it assumes a 10g letter, printed upon recycled paper, posted and recycled within the UK. Many cards are heavier, less recyclable/recycled and often posted further afield. One cup of white tea has a footprint of 71 CO2e.
11 Ideas For Eco Christmas Cards
There is still something about the sending and receiving of physical Christmas cards, isn’t there? We think there will always be a place for thoughtful considered greetings cards. But perhaps the days of mass sending to contacts far and wide are behind us now?
If you’re looking for ideas of more eco-conscious alternatives to Christmas cards, check out these 11 ideas.
1. Eco Friendly Cards
If it’s eco concerns that are driving your search for alternative Christmas cards, start here! Choosing your cards carefully can have a big positive environmental impact.
We’ve dug into the details and got the lowdown for you. So here’s 4 things to consider if you’re looking to buy more eco-friendly cards.
And we’ve included a few fab businesses where you can start shopping too.
As a general rule the fewer embellishments on your cards the better! So get rid of that glitter, those little bows, star gems, etc. to improve the eco-friendliness of your card. And try to opt for cards with an uncoated finish too (i.e. no plastic film layer) – they often look more expensive anyway as you can really feel the quality of the paper!
If you can’t resist a bit of festive bling (we get it!), look for cards with eco-friendly biodegradable glitter instead of the traditional plastic-based sparkle.
In terms of the paper itself, obviously the more recycled / recyclable the better. The FSC Certified symbol gives reassurance that the paper has come from internationally certified sources (it’s not the only certification system but is the most well known in the UK).
But did you know that there are actually 3 different FSC labels? The video below explains in more detail. However it’s worth bearing in mind that only the ‘FSC Recycled’ label means it’s made from 100% recycled materials.
Don’t forget to check the envelopes too by the way!
Even the ink with which the card is printed can have an impact. Many traditional printing inks contain mineral oils. And common commercial printing techniques often results in alcohol evaporation, causing these oils to release unpleasant compounds into the atmosphere.
By selecting cards that have been printed with no or low alcohol techniques, and ideally usually plant-based inks, these nasty emissions will have been reduced.
Minimise That Packaging
And of course we mustn’t forget the packaging around the cards too. Try to opt for brands that have thought through the entire process and have minimal and recycled/recyclable packaging.
Eco Christmas Card Organisations
Want to feel confident purchasing eco-friendly Christmas cards? Here are a few organisations to get you started*:
- Full details of each card’s eco credentials are outlined at The Eco-friendly Card Company.
- Woodland Trust’s plastic free cards are printed in UK on FSC papers using vegetable inks and a water-based varnish.
- English Graphics have some wonderful designs all using eco-glitter and biodegradable cellophane.
- Earth Bits’ Tree Free cards can be purchased singularly or in packs and are available on a whole host of recycled or salvaged papers from tea paper to elephant dung!!
* This is not meant as an exhaustive list but just somewhere to get started.
2. Plantable Christmas Cards
There has been a huge increase in the number of plantable cards for sale. These eco-conscious cards have seeds embedded into their specially designed biodegradable card so they can be planted in the garden by their recipient come the New Year.
What a great way to support our wildflower and bee populations, or to replenish the herb gardens of friends and family!
Check out a few of our favourite plantable Christmas card businesses:
- The Seed Card Company
- Love Country by Sarah Reilly (photo example below)
- Little Green Paper Shop
- Earth Bits
- Shroot’s Greens & Greetings (this is a little different from the other options as recipients instead receive a small package with everything needed to grow microgreens. But we love all things Shroot so we had to include them in our round-up!)
3. Upcycled Christmas Postcards
Very often when you receive a Christmas card, there is nothing written on the rear of the front image. Why not cut and collect these card fronts to send as ‘Christmas postcards’ the following year? You could even add your own little recycled logo to the corner of the card so recipients understand what you’re doing. Check out our very simple illustration in the photo below.
4. Recycled Christmas Cards
Christmas cards can be fashioned from almost anything! Grab some good quality recycled card and decorate with cut-outs from magazines as well as last year’s Christmas cards / wrapping paper / gift tags and anything else you can find around the house. A perfect autumn activity for little hands too – spread the load by preparing the cards over a series of weeks.
5. Works Of Art
Send cards that will be enjoyed by their recipients beyond the Christmas season. This works particularly well for family, godparents and close friends. Whether a photo Christmas card or homemade piece of art, these are the cards that get framed and enjoyed for months (even years) to come, making them as much a gift as a card. So whilst they may not necessarily be more eco-friendly, there’s no environmental cost for disposal.
Check out some of our homemade Christmas card ideas below:
18 eco-conscious alternatives to traditional wrapping paper.
6. Never-Ending Cards
Whilst researching this post, we stumbled upon this idea of never-ending cards and simply have to share it with you.
Basically you send the same cards back and forth between friends for years.
The first year the Christmas cards are just like the normal ones sent between two friends / households (although you may choose to position your message on the card carefully).
Then the next year the same cards are sent in the opposite direction, with a new Christmas wish added together with perhaps a funny anecdote or happy memory from during the year.
Over the years the two cards will become quite the treasured souvenirs of friendship! It doesn’t avoid the postage but shows a way in which a card can live on and become so much more than just a fleeting wish.
Isn’t it brilliant? Do let us know if you already have a never-ending card – we’d love to hear how long you’ve had it!
7. Charity Cards
If off the shelf cards are the most convenient option for you, why not choose cards those that support a cause close to your heart? That way the cost of sending cards is balanced by the contribution to a worthy organisation.
Or you can offset the impact of your cards directly by donating to an organisation such as Ecologi who are working to regrow forests and reduce the impact of our carbon footprint.
Make any Christmas card more eco friendly simply by hand-delivering it. For the majority of cards, it’s the transportation that attributes the greatest proportion of the carbon footprint.*
So, save money, the planet and keep fit with a local winter walk or cycle to drop off your cards. Combine card (& gift) delivery with catch-up of friends. Or try and get sorted earlier so that you can deliver the cards as and when life takes to you a particular corner of the country.
Winter Walk Ideas
15 of our favourite ideas for getting the whole family out for a winter walk!
9. Ornament card Alternatives
How about sending a Christmas decoration instead of a card? You can add a Christmas message on one side or attach a small note (on recycled or repurposed card). Ideal for getting the whole family involved. There are so many simple ideas. Here’s a few to get you started:
- Use recycled card or paper (even old magazines or leaves of a book) to make some origami designs.
- If postage weight isn’t an issue, create an air dry clay or salt dough decoration.
- Take slices from the trunk of your Christmas tree as you take it down and decorate these as ornaments for family, friends and yourself for the next year.
Dual purposing your Christmas message is a great way to make it last longer and reduces the chance of it simply being discarded come January.
10. Edible Christmas Messages
Another fun alternative to a card would be icing your Christmas wishes on a homemade cookie. Yes it’s a little more time consuming. However it’s also a perfect rainy December activity and great fun to hand-deliver locally to lucky family and friends too.
Check out these 8 easy ideas for decorating Christmas cookies.
11. Dishcloth Wishes
Another fabulous idea that we stumbled across was that of writing your Christmas message on the back of a fully biodegradable dishcloth instead of a card.
These lightweight eco friendly dishcloths come in all sorts of Christmas designs and are the same price as many individual Christmas cards in the shops. Simply write your message on the back with a Sharpie and send it on its way.
Your lucky recipient will be reminded of your wishes plenty during the near-endless washing up over the festive season! The message does eventually fade but doesn’t leave any residue on the dishes. And when the dishcloth has finished its useful life, it can simply be put on the compost heap!
It really is a win:win! Our favourite dishcloths are these gorgeous ones from Jangneus – designed in Sweden but made in England.
three Quick Tips for Recycling Christmas Cards
If you’re looking to recycle the cards you receive yourself, here’s three things to bear in mind:
- Extend your card’s lifetime where possible using the ideas above. Reuse parts of the card to create Christmas postcards / gift tags / shopping lists & notes / other homemade cards / etc.
- Tear off any embellishments such as glitter or ribbons which cannot be recycled.
- Place the remaining card and envelope in your recycling bin.
Looking for more gift & card inspiration to spoil your family and friends? We’ve got gift guides, homemade gifting ideas & wrapping tips galore!
seven Alternatives to Physical Cards
The obvious replacement for the physical Christmas card. The e-card removes both the need for the card itself and the postage without removing the sentiment.
At first seen as the poorer cousin to the ‘more thoughtful’ physical card, the increase in beautiful and tailorable options has made them far more widely accepted these days.
Should you wish to combine your e-cards directly with a charitable donation, organisation Don’t Send Me A Card is worth a look.
2. Email Christmas Message
If you’d like to switch to digital Christmas wishes without the expense of a formal e-card replacement, then why not simply send an email? As long as it’s a personal message, it’s sure to be warmly received.
Add a photo image to make it feel a bit more festive and memorable too. There are some great templates available with the free version of design-tool Canva so you can create a really smart finish in a matter of moments.
3. Family Video Newsletter
A neat alternative to the written digital message above is to share a short family video message perhaps with a bit of a summary from the last year too.
We love the idea of asking the kids to prepare the video: increased cute factor, a fresh perspective and it removes one item from your to-do list!
4. Personalised Mini Dance Videos
Have you received or sent a JibJab or Elf Yourself video? They are the perfect bit of light-hearted Christmas fun to enjoy whilst the kettle is boiling and always bring a smile to my face when they land in my inbox.
If you haven’t come across them yet, these are short animations featuring you and yours in a seasonal dance video. They are seriously cheesy and all the better for it! (See our Jibjab below if you fancy a laugh!)
Upload faces for as many family members as you want (pets included!) and the software (free for some video options with Elf Yourself) incorporates you seamlessly into the action. No TikTok-style staging required!
5. Messages on Social Media
For an even more informal and further reaching digital Christmas message, simply add a post to your social media account of choice. Again you’ll find fabulous easy-to-use free templates in Canva for every conceivable shape, size and media!
This option can be a nice way to share more widely if (and why) you’ve decided against cards this year should you want to let people know. You may also choose to let people know if you’ve decided to donate the saved funds or time to a particular cause. The downside of course is the lack of individual tailoring and thought but just get busy in the comments after you’ve posted the message!
6. Social Media Game / Challenge
If you have the time, you could invite your friends and family to join in for a seasonal challenge of sorts instead.
This two-way interaction will hopefully feel a little more thoughtful and personal than a generic message post. And it could be a great way to rekindle old friendships too.
A few ideas to get you started depending on your appetite and time availability:
- Host a Christmas This or That from your social media account? We’ve got all sorts of question ideas and free templates ready for you here.
- Pose a handful of Christmas Would You Rather polls. We have loads of ideas for you here.
- Share a festive family recipe and ask people to reciprocate.
- Share a photo of your favourite ornament with its story and ask others to share theirs.
7. Online Advent Calendar
This is my favourite idea! There’s no denying that it’s a bit more labour intensive but there’s so much potential for fun too!
For a group of friends or family not sending cards, why not combine forces and focus the saved time and energy towards an online advent calendar instead? (This is a bit like a digital version of a Living Advent Calendar but designed to enjoy with a more geographically spread group of friends or family.)
Set up a purpose-built Social Media account / WhatsApp group / Facebook group or equivalent. Take it in turns to share something each day of advent. (Depending on group size you can allocate multiple days to each household and vary the activities across the 24 days.)
Some examples to whet your appetite:
- Recent photo of household group and answers to a few pre-selected questions.
- Daily Christmas cracker-style joke, maybe recorded by a member of the household rather than typed in.
- One short round of an ongoing Christmas quiz, with answers shared the following day before the next round goes live.
- Daily riddle or Christmas conundrum, again with answer shared the following day.
- Family Christmas recipe share.
- Christmas movie / book / game recommendations.
Living Advent Calendar
Discover how to host a Living Advent Calendar in your local area.
Spread The Word!
Like what you’ve seen? Be sure to share with your friends.
Let’s sprinkle Christmas cheer far and wide!
So are you Team Christmas Cards or Team No Cards? Which of these alternatives to Christmas cards appeal to you? What other ways do you choose to share wishes with friends and family over the festive season?
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