Did you know?

  • The first person known to receive a written Christmas greeting was James I in 1611. He and his son were sent a decorated manuscript with a Christmas and New Year greeting by Michael Maier, a German physician
  • Over 200 years later, the celebrated inventor, Sir Henry Cole, commissioned some Christmas-themed greeting cards, illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in May 1843. Cole had been instrumental in setting up The Post Office 3 years earlier, so this was a shrewd business move, as some 2,050 cards sold that year for a shilling each, distributed by the new postal service for one penny
  • By the 1860s, Christmas cards were common and by 1870, the cost of sending a postcard or Christmas card had dropped to only half a penny, meaning even more people could send them
  • In the early 1900s, it was popular to send handmade cards which were often delivered by hand because of their delicate decorations
  • In 2001, one of Cole’s original cards (sent to his grandmother), sold for a record £22,500 at auction
  • According to the Greeting Card Association, every year the UK spends £1.7 billion on 2 billion greeting cards
  • The conservation charity, the Woodland Trust, in conjunction with Marks and Spencer ran a recycling campaign (2008 – 2016) which recycled more than 600 million Christmas cards and raised enough money to plant over 140,000 trees – the equivalent, in carbon emission terms, of taking more than 5,000 cars off the road
  • Charity Christmas cards originated in Denmark and now raise an estimated £50 million each year for charities

We Brits love to send greetings cards, and despite sales declining in recent years, we still all love to send each other a traditional Christmas greeting. But what happens to all those Christmas cards, packaging boxes and wrapping paper once the lights on the Christmas trees have finally faded? And where does the paper come from in the first place? How can we be sure we are not adding to the problems facing our world as we come together in celebration?

The answer to these questions lies in the choices we make both before, during and after the festive season. The hard truth is that our reliance on consumerism and physical goods is costing a lot more than money, and we are currently in a climate emergency that threatens not just Christmas, but our entire way of life. Global warming is happening at a faster rate than ever:

  • Global annual temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.07°C (0.13°F) per decade since 1880 and over twice that rate +0.18°C (+0.32°F) since 1981
  • From 1900 to 1980, a new temperature record was set on average every 13.5 years; since 1981, it has increased to every 3 years

And whilst some politicians still argue about the cause, their rhetoric does nothing to stop the polar ice caps from melting, our sea levels rising and our forests from being destroyed. We are all being called upon to ‘do our bit’ to limit our impact on the natural world, to try to reverse the changes and save our planet before it is too late. And what better time to make a change than at Christmas, a time of love, tolerance, and hope for the future?

Start small, start with YOU!

Many of us are concerned about global warming and the impact we have on the environment and we may find ourselves talking to our friends and family about it, possibly even getting into an argument or two about the merits of one possible solution over another. But then how many of us leave the light on unnecessarily at times? Or forget our shopping bags and need to buy new ones, or turn the heating up instead of putting on a jumper? We may feel small and insignificant on our own, but when we work together, we can create a momentum of change that can not only ‘move mountains’ but the seas, rivers, forests and everything in between too.

Recycling Christmas cards is one easy way to make a difference. With no Woodland Trust initiative currently, the onus is on us as consumers to choose cards that are sourced sustainably and recycle our wrapping paper and cards through the proper channels such as a local council recycling centre. So here are our top tips for ‘going greener’ this Christmas.

  1. Buy cards and packaging which carry the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) kitemark which certifies products that are made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources. It applies to wood, paper and other forest products too.
  2. Why not try making your own cards and wrapping paper using old magazines, newspapers or reusing delivery packages?
  3. Collect all your recycling together and either put into your recycling bin or make a trip to your local recycling centre. You may need to check opening times and what they recycle now, as a lot of centres have consolidated operations to comply with COVID-secure requirements. Reducing the number of times you travel also helps the environment, so you might want to organise a collection of old Christmas cards and wrapping paper at your setting to help get the little ones involved too. Children will model adults’ behaviour, so this is a great opportunity to set a good example.
  4. If you want to recycle the cards yourself, you can cut them up to make gift tags for next year. You can even reuse those bows and ribbons too. This is a lovely craft activity which helps get the children into good habits.
  5. Remember you can’t recycle things that have glitter or embellishments such as ribbons, bows, or jewels so remove these items before recycling.
  6. Folded up paper takes up less space than scrunched up paper so encourage everyone to fold up their discarded paper to help with storage.

Remember to recycle your Christmas trees too and to plan your Christmas shopping to reduce waste. Zero-waste shops are becoming more popular nowadays so do a search online to find out where your nearest one is and how it can help you cut down on packaging generally.

Finally, remember that ‘every little helps’ to coin a well-known phrase, but when it comes to saving the environment, it is so true.

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