14 Oct 2009

Christmas Cards - a Friendly Gesture or an Eco-Crime?

My friend Hayley has raised an interesting question on her Facebook account. She's trying to be eco-friendly so, should she send Christmas cards this year? Would people be offended if they were just wished Season's Greetings face-to-face or via an e-greeting?
Hayley realises that this just won't do for our old-fashioned relatives for whom getting a Christmas Card is confirmation that they're still alive, but for friends you see frequently?
Personally speaking, just yesterday I ordered my cards from the National Autistic Society as a way of supporting the charity, but having read Hayley's post, it occurred to me that I could have just sent them a donation over an above my annual membership instead. But on the other hand most people I send cards to I don't see everyday (like Hayley!) so for me this route isn't quite so practical.
I suppose sending an NAS Christmas Card is also about spreading the word about the charity because I have been helped very much by their Advocacy For Education Service when we were going through statementing and their Early Bird+ programme after diagnosis and just giving a donation wouldn't have the same impact. I do believe this is such an incredibly helpful charity that we should help in any way we can. (PS you can donate here).
I do believe that Christmas cards are a huge source of revenue for charities - people who might not otherwise make a simple donation would buy a pack or two of cards and provide much needed funds for the charity concerned - this is a trade off because some charities rely on such sources of funds. (though Friends of the Earth only offer free e-cards)
But Hayley does have a good point. Christmas Cards to people we see regularly could be classed as a small-scale eco-crime. And if you then extrapolate the amount of paper and trees used up by everyone in the world doing the same thing, then we're talking millions of tonnes of paper and forests of trees. And then after Christmas, too many people will just bin the cards rather than recycle them.
One solution as already mentioned would be e-cards, another would be buying only cards made from recycled paper and then recycling them afterwards. If you can buy charity recycled cards and then recycle what you receive, even better.
I have to confess to keeping cards I have bought one year but haven't used and sending them the next year - although Sainsbury's 'so-helpful' message about "Recycle cards at Sainsbury's to the end of January 2009" printed on the back of their cards makes you feel very Scrooge-like!
And what about our children? Do we tell them that they must be eco-friendly and they can't send cards to their friends? Well, yes you can tell them that, though for children with autistic spectrum problems like mine, it is a triumph if they actually want to send a greeting to another child and I would feel duty bound to let them. Fortunately, when this happens, they soon get bored of writing so it isn't too big a problem.
For myself, although sending cards to technophobe relatives is unavoidable, I would be happy to receive an e-card rather than a paper card so Hayley can rest assured that a Facebook e-card would be most welcome.