Christmas is a time where we all reflect on the struggles and triumphs of our year. Some families have a practice of sending out a Christmas newsletter to friends and extended family members. For me personally, as a child I can remember at the very beginning of December that my parents would sit down to write personalised Christmas cards for their network of sub-contractors and clients for the year for my dad’s business. It is such an ingrained habit, not just for Christmas but gift-giving in general.

For something that holds beautiful messages and thoughts, the humble Christmas card can have a bit of a shady side when it comes to environmental impacts. In particular, there has been a lot of confusion around what types of Christmas cards can be recycled. Recycling is a significant tool for virgin paper and cardboard, as Janet Sparrow from PlanetARK explained to the Courier Mail in 2012, that for every tonne of virgin paper and cardboard that is recycled there will be a saving of:

However, paper can not be infinitely recycled, it can actually only be recycled up to seven times. Therefore, we’re going to give you tips about alternatives that you can use. Day 3 is going to provide a deeper examination of the key factors that we can all keep in mind to reduce the impact of spreading our holiday messages and love to our communities including:

  • Stop it at the source – material selection is key!
  • Getting crafty by re-purposing cards that you have been gifted during the year
  • Pocket guide on recycling tips

Selecting your traditional Christmas Card and Newsletter medium:

The most effective way to mitigate the impact of your traditional Christmas cards and newsletters that you circulate this year is to assess the type of materials that are used to make the design that you have your eyes on.

Have a look at what you have in your hand when you’re at the shops:

  1. Is it made of paper or cardboard? These materials are readily recycled and can be repurposed.
  2. Are there any metallic coatings that are featured in the design? These kinds of wrapping paper or gift cards can’t be recycled.
  3. Does it look glossy? That’s OK, you can recycle glossy papers and cardboards in your yellow bin.

Another medium that is commonly used for Christmas cards are photograph cards, these are easily created by popping into an Officeworks or a Kmart imaging kiosk station. However, photos can’t actually be recycled, if you’re keen to use that happy snap to send your Christmas message, consider looking at what available printing options there are, you can get similar effects with glossy style paper, this service is available through Snapfish.

Photo paper looks like this when you check the back!

Keen to try out some recycled paper and card options, wanting to source something created locally? There are several Australian companies that provide greeting cards with an eco-focus that have set designs or you can custom print your own!

Laura Sikka at The Think Tree has a range of Christmas designs like this!
Upcycle Studio feature greeting cards made by Australian artists suitable for any occasion
Environmental Printing Co utilise vegetable-based inks, recycle and re-use everything they can!
Biome have recycled paper and cardboard cards available in-store and online like this beauty!

Christmas Card and Newsletter Alternatives:

If you feel like breaking tradition and trying something different this Christmas, we have collated our top 5 Christmas card alternatives that we’ve used in the past and have seen developed by a variety of bloggers and organisations.

1. Video message

For me, this one is an ideal choice as this year, we are having our first orphan’s Christmas, as both of our families live far away from us and we are unable to travel to see them. We still want to be able to send them the Christmas spirit while they navigate their busy Christmas agenda packed full of events. It’s a simple as sitting down and using your smartphone to make a recording that they can view at their convenience.

2. Homemade baked goods

Nothing says I love you like a homemade, custom pack of treats with a crafted message for a friend or a loved one. Here are some inspirational ideas that we’ve saved for some cooking fun times!

My Travelling Joys has a beautiful recipe for iced sugar cookies
Seton Rossini of Pixel Whisk provides a detailed tutorial for edible gift tags!

3. E-cards

Similar to the voice message, an e-card is a great digital option for communicating and updating family about what you’ve been up to for the year. A quick Google search reveals a multitude of websites that offer this service, some options to check out include:

4. Making your own from household sources of paper and cardboard

There are actually some really creative ways that you can make your own Christmas cards from things that you have in the house. Touching back on our old recycling bin tune, Katie was telling me a story last week about one of her favourite cards that she was gifted from her husband was made out of a Lindt cardboard wrapper. The thought of gifting someone the packaging of their favourite food, is a cute and somewhat out-of-the box idea. In a similar style, packaging used for modern tissue boxes can be a great cheap resource to chop up into cards and gift tags.

Katie’s Lindt Card
Felt Magnet’s gift tags from their tissue box crafts post

I’m a little sentimental and I tend to keep cards and postcards that I have been given in an old Christmas themed box I received a few years ago. I will raid the box and take snippets of things to create tags and new cards to gift to people. This is not a unique habit of mine and has been a popular trend that artistic zero-wasters have created some beautiful cards, check out Crafting Vicky’s YouTube video below!

5. Vintage cards and paper

Another great source for Christmas cards are Vintage cards and paper. These can be a little difficult to get your hands on, some suggestions for places to find these include going for a rummage through your local op shop to find some antique cards or taking a look at a place like Reverse Garbage to see what stationery that has been donated that you could re-vitalise to create a funky Christmas card.  

Here are two handmade creations that are astounding!

Wild Raven Soap has an Etsy shop where this Handmade Vintage Card is featured
Vintage Card set by Marmaline (Science books, postage stamps)

What to do with your Christmas cards?

On Boxing Day, as we all start to slowly assess the leftovers of our Christmas extravaganza while watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart or seeing how we’re doing in the cricket, we begin to ponder what we’re going to do with that dodgy Christmas bag stuffed to the brim with the remains of our Christmas gift haul.

Here’s 4 tips to keep in mind before you head to your yellow bin:

  • If in a reasonable condition, consider donating used cards and paper to a local child care centre, school or nursing home for use as craft materials.
  • Get creative and turn old cards and paper into new gift tags and cards for later in the year. This is a great activity for the kids over the school holidays!
  • Cards and paper made from paper and cardboard can go into worm farms or compost bins and can be used as mulch.
  • Check out in your city if there are organisations running recycling card programs where they collect old Christmas cards. PlanetARK had an initiative for this in the past, with Cards 4 PlanetARK.

Share with us

We hope you have enjoyed our Christmas card and newletter feature today! Today’s feature image is a Bush Christmas Range designed by Sydney collage artist Andrea Smith, produced and printed by an Adelaide based company called Earth Greetings. Heide shares her story and motivation for establishing a business that minimises the environmental impacts of greeting cards and stationery, be sure to check out her site for more information. To see more of Andrea’s work find her at @hbcreativecollection, on Instagram and view her complete portfolio here.

Please comment below and share your Christmas Card and newsletter ideas – what kind of strategies have you used in the past and what are you excited to try in 2019?

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