Today is December 1st and the holiday season is now upon us. One of the great traditions of Christmas in the United States is the Christmas Card, where people send special holiday cards and updates to their loved ones near and far. The tradition actually began in England during the 19th Century and gained popularity on our side of the pond during the 20th Century.  Now living in the 21st Century, the use of snail mail and the waste of cards has slowed the Christmas Card mailings.  On top of this, many cards are made in China with questionable labor practices. However, there are ways to keep the Christmas Card dream alive and responsibly spread holiday cheer! Below we have outlined a few great ideas for ethical

E-Card: Aww the good ol’e e-card. This is probably the most environmentally friendly replacement for the traditional Christmas card. Plus there are so many great options, you can even send your own audio message.  You can even find great Hanukkah e-cards as well! All you have to do is gather you email addresses and hit send! Far more faster and environmentally responsible than purchasing physical cards.

Recycled: Even though e-cards may be easier in some respects, nothing quite beats the romanticism of receiving a card in the mail. When you go to purchase your cards, try to buy those made with recycled paper.  You can find many options online and even at your local store. Check out Cards with a Cause, recycled FSC certified cards that benefit charity.

Fair Trade: Believe it or not, there are fair trade holiday cards out there! A great source for fair trade cards is through Ten Thousand Villages, who have a wide variety of choices for the holidays. Another great place to look is your local fair trade store such as Global Exchange or try Cards from Africa, which benefits families affected by AIDS living in Rwanda.

Handmade: You can also purchase local handmade cards at Farmer’s Markets and street fairs in your area. If the weather is too chilly for that, try sites such as Etsy for unique handmade cards. It’s always great to support your local artisans, especially around the holidays.

Thrift: It may seem odd, but you would be surprised how many un-used holiday cards end up at thrift stores. You can find whole packs of them around the holidays! Also, some thrift stores normally carry bins of old un-used cards, perfect for the eco-responsible shopper. Plus you have the added bonus of finding some odd ones from the 70’s and 80’s, nothing beats vintage kitch!

Make Your Own: A fun holiday project for the family would be to make your own cards. You can use stamps, old Christmas cards, old wrapping paper, and just about anything you have laying around the house. There are some great ideas online on handmaking cards!

Photos: Another somewhat responsible way to go, is to print out a family or fun photo on your own printer. You can use recycled paper to do so! You can just print out your photo and slap a stamp on the back, as photos can be used as postcards and cost less than sending a card in an envelope. Plus this can be a fun and whacky way to update your loved ones on your family adventures of the year.

Recycle and Re-use the Cards You Receive:  After all the month of December is said and done and you have a pile of cards you’ve received, be sure not to just through them out. You have a few eco-friendly options including recycling them. But if you want to do something a little more fun, keep the cards around to make your own handmade cards next year. You can also use them to make a collage, ornaments, wrapping paper, or even gift boxes! Here are some other fantastic re-use ideas!