The Cardless Christmas Challenge

I am surprised every time a friend gives me a card. But not in a good way. Instead I’m surprised that I’ve been so subtle about my deep loathing of cards. (Apologies to all friends and family who have given me cards in the past. There’s a note to you at the end of this post.*)

Ok, maybe loathing is a little strong. I enjoy a beautifully illustrated or humorous card, but the negative points outweigh the positive. Our culture seems to be indoctrinated with the belief that cards are not an optional part of life. But they definitely are, if only people would stop and think about it for a minute. So here’s a little list for you:

3 (ok, 4) Reasons why Cards are Bad:

1. They’re bad for the environment. Cards are made from paper, which is made from trees (I’m sure you knew that, right?), they use resources like ink, energy from printing, and whatever else…only to be thrown away after the obligatory two weeks of being displayed in the home. Yes, many people stick them in the recycling, but that’s still a waste of resources, energy, and money, and the plastic sleeve in which one buys the card as well as many parts of the card (if it’s a fancy one with additional plastic or fabric bits) cannot be recycled.

2. They’re a waste of money. Where do you buy your cards from? The grocery store? Typical card/gift company? Chances are you’re just giving your money to some big business mass producing boring, cheesy, thoughtless cards. I know big businesses are people too (kind of), but can we not give our money to someone who needs it more? When I bought cards, I bought them from charity shops, thus the money goes to a worthy cause…but wouldn’t it have been better for that charity if I’d just given them the money in exchange for nothing? (Sometimes cards are not a waste of money though; I’ll get to that later.)

3. They’re unimaginative. “Oh, it’s [insert name here]’s birthday. I must get them a card.” No! You don’t have to! You have a choice! There are better and more creative ways to say happy birthday, or merry Christmas, and especially happy Valentine’s Day (in fact, you get extra points if you’re creative on Valentine’s Day). Most people don’t feel especially loved just because they’ve been given a card: these days cards are a little meaningless. If we stop giving people cards all the time, the cards we do give will be more special. So let’s make cards special again by…not giving cards. You see the logic there, don’t you?

(There’s a fourth reason, that’s probably the main reason for me: if you’re a sentimentalist (like I am) you end up keeping loads of cards, not having the heart to throw them out! Then they just get in the way, gather dust, take up space, and eventually get thrown out anyway, but you feel worse about it.)

So here’s the next list:

3 Imaginative ways to NOT buy cards:

1. Make your own. Most people’s excuses for not making their own cards are that they’re “not crafty” or they don’t have time. But it could be as simple as reusing a card that you’ve received by cutting the front page off and sticking a message on the other side. Alternatively, encourage a craft-loving family member by asking them to make you some cards. You could also make cards on the computer and email it straight to the recipient! Technology!

2. Write your message on something else. There are many other options. This is a great opportunity to think outside the box and help save the environment. Here are a few simple ideas: if you’ve bought someone a book, write a message on the first blank page; write your message on a long strip of paper and use this as a ribbon; or you can just write a message straight into the wrapping paper or the gift box. For those with more time: bake (or buy) a large cookie and write a message on it with writing-icing (combining gift and card in one!); stick a pretty piece of paper on jars or other packaging and write your message on it (this will make it look homemade and special); and if you’re making your own gifts, just include the message on the gift. Tip: calligraphy can make anything look good, even if you just grab an old envelope out of the recycling and write something beautiful on it.

3. Ask a child. When you’re stuck for ideas, find a child and ask them. They will no doubt have all sorts of imaginative ideas for you. They may also have their own artwork which you can send to family and friends with your message written on the back. Grandparents love that kind of thing! Bonus tip: Kids’ artwork also makes great wrapping paper.

If you HAVE to buy a card…

Remember how I said cards are not always a waste of money? It’s when you:

1. Support a local/small business person. There are many local card-makers, business owners, artists, illustrators, random folk who sell cards. Roam the local markets, pop-up galleries, and independent shops. Who knows what lovely things you’ll find? There’s a whole campaign thing about this called #justacard.

2. Support an illustrator or artist. Professional illustrators make the most interesting, funny, and beautiful cards. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t often afford the lovely things I see in craft galleries or artists’ studios. However, if I like the work of an artist or illustrator, it’s great to be able to take home cards with their beautiful work on the front. That way we support our favourite artists and illustrators and can share their work with others! Follow a few on Instagram and see their latest Christmas cards: Sarah Ray; And Smile; Ginger Twenty Two

3. Support a charity or someone in need. A nice easy way to raise money is to make cards and sell them, so there’s nothing wrong with buying them to help those in need. Here’s one option I’d recommend.

3 Other Eco-Friendly Christmas Ideas:

1. Go card-free. Well, that’s really the whole aim of this post: to challenge you not to buy, make, give, or get cards. Yes, I’ve given suggestions of where to buy cards and how to make them, but ideally I’m challenging you to go completely card-free this Christmas. That’s what I’ll be doing, and I’ll keep you updated on my success/failure on my Instagram feed: @robynfhepburn. Join in with the hashtag #cardlesschristmas.

2. Wrap up outside the box. There are a ton of ways to wrap presents that don’t involve buying wrapping paper! 1. Reuse old wrapping paper and gift bags, 2. use newspaper, jars, packaging, or other things that would otherwise be thrown out or recycled, 3. use children’s artwork, as I mentioned earlier, and 4. (the best one) use a present to wrap a present! For example, wrap a present in a lovely scarf, or tea towels, or a t-shirt, or…um…socks (why not?).

3. Come on now, I can’t give you all the ideas! I’m sure you can think of some yourself. Comment and let me know what you come up with, or show me on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #cardlesschristmas.

*My note to friends and family who have given me cards:

Thank you for your thoughtful, sometimes pretty, sometimes funny cards. I’ve appreciated them all (and the money or gift vouchers sometimes therein). Those with special messages, I’ve kept safe in memory boxes; those for special occasions, I’ve included in scrapbooks; and those with especially beautiful covers, I’ve reused in some way. So thank you…but please never give me cards again.


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