Greener greetings cards: Go plastic-free this Christmas

Where do you stand on the Christmas card debate? To send or not to send?

There are many reasons why keeping the tradition up is not good for the planet. Not least because so many cards are covered in synthetic glitter, foil, plastic film and other shiny things. A recycling nightmare. Most old cards just end up in the bin so why add to that problem?

Well, this year, more than ever, you may feel a strong need to connect with family and friends you can’t be with.

Perhaps the answer is a half-way house. A curated Christmas card list, if you will. Real, physical cards with hand-written messages for just a few people. Especially those who aren’t digitally savvy or able to access an e-card.

The Curious Pancake

If you search hard and if you’re lucky, you may find one or two greener cards in some supermarkets and mainstream card shops. These tend to be “naked” cards without cellophane wrapping. Made from recycled or FSC-certified card, without any crazy embellishments (AKA glitter, ribbons etc). But, sadly, these are a rarity.

My go-to for greetings cards without plastic is an online store called The Curious Pancake. Run by an illustrator and designer called Claire Senior, The Curious Pancake are working hard with their suppliers to reduce and, in many cases, eliminate plastic packaging.

Claire’s own cards and those of the eight suppliers listed below are all plastic-free. Links to their websites are also below:

Stormy Night
Ohh Deer
Egg Press
Paper Bird
Whoa There Pickle
Card Nest 

As the next best thing to choosing naked, two cards I bought from The Curious Pancake by a supplier called Jo Clark Design were wrapped in NATIVIA bio-based film which is fully compostable and recyclable.

What’s also encouraging is that The Curious Pancake do not stock cards with artificial glitter. Any sparkle used on the cards is plant-based and biodegradable.

Many of their suppliers also print their cards on FSC-certified and/or recycled paper. Further details about the cards and suppliers (including eco-credentials) are on their website.

The Curious Pancake’s own packaging is plastic-free. Your order will be sent in a sturdy brown cardboard envelope or box.

The Curious Pancake also welcome fellow illustrators to submit their work and ideas. So they’re a platform for supporting independents in the creative industry. What’s not to like?

Finding the right cards

Dull cards are out at The Curious Pancake. The cards they sell are quirky and fun. Some are a bit rude, like the kind you see in shops like Scribbler. Great for partners, siblings and close pals. But there are plenty of wholesome options for sending to older relatives or friends with young kids, if you need to play it safe on the humour front.

As with most online greetings cards businesses, you can search for cards by occasion, recipient, age and style. And by artist too. Very handy if you find a card you like and want to see other designs from the same person.

Most of the cards stocked are size A6 (10cm x 15cm).

How about the prices?

Ever winced at the cost of buying single cards from the supermarket or other shops? I know I have.

They can be pricey, unless you go somewhere like Card Factory. But there is so much plastic in there! It’s also hard to know if the supply chains for such mass-produced, cheap cards are genuinely ethically and environmentally responsible.

The Curious Pancake’s greetings cards range from £1.60 to £4.20. So, certainly comparable with supermarket prices and shops like WH Smith. But without the plastic overload and supply chain fears.  

There’s also 15% off for your first order when you sign up to receive the monthly newsletter. A great excuse to buy in bulk for other occasions too (e.g. birthdays in 2021).

Dispatch and delivery options

There are two dispatch options available. Curious Pancake can either write your message in the card(s) and send directly to your nearest and dearest. Or they can post you the blank cards for you to write and send out yourself. 

I’ve always plumped for option 2 because I like to write my own messages. I also like to bulk buy cards in one go and hang on to them until I need to send. Often months later.

But if you’re mega short on time this Christmas or keen to save on transport emissions and delivery costs, then the first option is a great idea. I’m presuming you’ll be charged Royal Mail postage costs on top of the card cost.

Orders from The Curious Pancake are dispatched within 24 – 48 hours. Same-day if you order before 11am. The standard option is a second class Royal Mail service. For five cards (all sent to me) I paid just £1.00 for delivery. 

This time of year, I’d expect second class to take at least 4 – 5 days as Royal Mail are very stretched. If you’re in a hurry, The Curious Pancake offer a next-day delivery option. 

Finally, delivery is free for all orders over £30. Another good reason to buy in bulk for all occasions you have coming up in 2021.

Charity cards

Now, I know that Christmas charity cards can be a vital source of funds and support for many charities. If you’d prefer to stick to that option and buy multipacks instead of single cards, then choosing plainer cards that can be widely recycled is a good start. Steering clear of plastic boxes will also help. That can be easier said than done but things are starting to change. 

But if you’re after plastic-free, single cards with personality as well as a way to support small creatives, do check out The Curious Pancake and also their eco-conscious suppliers as linked to above.

If you have any thoughts on this or on buying sustainable greeting cards generally, I’d love to hear in the comments below. 

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