Going Glitter Free this Christmas

Yay! It’s December, so I’m officially allowed to talk about Christmas and wear my lovely second hand Christmas t-shirt. My family ban all discussion of Christmas until December, but I was discussing greener alternatives to Christmas at Naked Wines back in October.  And one of my favourite tips that they shared was doing a Secret Santa Christmas Card within the company instead of all writing Christmas cards to each other. We talked about the best alternative to Christmas cards being none at all, but it does seem a bit Bah Humbug for most of us. So we went through the “waste hierarchy” approach to Christmas cards, Christmas wrapping, Christmas gifts, and even Christmas jumpers got a mention.

On the way back from my talk, I went to buy some Christmas cards. A bit early for me, but having moved to Germany this year, I wanted to buy them and send them while back in the UK. It’s usually easy. I go to a well known charity shop, and buy the greenest Christmas cards I find. I want sustainably sourced, no glitter, no plastic wrap, etc. But how hard has that become! OMG, there was just glitter everywhere.

I’ve read lots of posts recently about Greener Christmas Gift choices, Cutting the Wrap, and I’m no doubt not going to be able to avoid my own Christmas food waste reduction videos unless I have a social media lock down! So I thought I’d share my Christmas card consternation that followed my day of talks about greener choices for a stress free Christmas!

So here goes…let’s take a walk through the winter wonderland of the Christmas cards waste hierarchy.

Refusing and reducing

So, the cutting out or cutting down on the Christmas cards is, of course, top of the waste hierarchy discussion.  It’s good to be selective in who we send cards to. My rule is that I send cards to people who I don’t see very often, rather than people who I meet with on a regular basis or communicate with regularly, for example, on Facebook. I have noticed that I get more e-cards these days. We should remember that these too, have a carbon footprint, though significantly less, than the paper-based posted version, of course. But we want to stay connected, right? So, we might choose to agree not to send cards to our work colleagues, as a good starting point. Way back in 1991, when I worked in an office full of people, we decided to make a paper Christmas tree from used paper, and write a big Happy Christmas message on it. We all signed it and optionally popped a small monetary donation into a charity box. Easily recycled after Christmas, still giving money to charity and, like the Secret Santa cards, probably saved around 2000 cards being exchanged (even accounting for the fact that some people wouldn’t have written any cards or wouldn’t have sent them to everybody).

For businesses, there are now lots of online opportunities to send a Christmas greeting electronically, often for a donation to charity. But, actually, do you think your clients really want your Christmas card – whether electronic or posted – or do they just want your continued good service throughout the year? For the record, I don’t want to receive business Christmas cards at all. If you are a business and you are still sending business Christmas cards, why not be brave, take account of the increased awareness and tell your customers and clients early on in the New Year, that you are going to do thinks differently from now on.

Secret Santas, Recycled Christmas Greetings Trees, Ecards with a charity donation or a message on your Facebook page are all great ways to reduce your Christmas Card Carbon Footprint.

However, I do still like Christmas cards, and do still want to send some to my friends and my more distant family members. And I’m not alone in that.

So let’s tiptoe a bit further down the Christmas Card Waste Hierarchy and look at …

Reusing and Recycling

Last year I managed to find some remade Christmas cards in amongst the remade birthday cards that I like to buy. But there were only a few so I still bought my usual charity cards as well.

Making sure that our choices involve cards that are from sustainably sourced paper, preferably with recycled content (though I didn’t manage to find any that said recycled content) is the next best thing we can do and we need to make sure they can be fully recycled. So what does that mean? A nice pretty picture with no glitter and no sticky out bits (you really don’t need your reindeer to have a sticky out nose!). When I was Christmas card shopping this year, I was horrified at the amount of glitter and yes, sticky out reindeer noses (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE – PLEASE THINK ABOUT THIS FOR NEXT YEAR!!).

So let’s recap…

NO GLITTER! – that’s tiny bits of plastic that mean our cards can’t be recycled and they will likely end up in the environment.

NO STICKY OUT BITS  – that means they have been stuck on with probably more plastic! Another recycling nightmare.

NO SEQUINS – yes more plastic.

The long and the short of it, is that please can cards be made of card. JUST card.

Onto the actual recycling. If you can find an outlet, such as a local supermarket, to take your cards for recycling, that’s probably the best way to deal with them. If you are recycling them in your kerbside collection, then cut off the glittery bits first. I use the glittery bits to make labels for next year’s gifts rather than buying labels, and I recycle the rest.

There’s a lot of interest this year in making Greener choices, I’m really glad to say, but we’ve got a long way to go. The more we can get people to think about the Waste Hierarchy in everything we buy, the faster we will move towards greener choices being the natural choice.

I’d love to think that next year, the glitter and sticky-out noses will be gone, that all the wrapping paper we find in the shops is 100% recycled and 100% free of sparkly bits, that all the cards I receive are from friends, not businesses and that the sale in second hand Christmas jumpers far outstrips the number of new ones. That’s what will really put the glitter into Christmas.

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Anna Pitt

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