You will never get a greeting card from me, not because I am forgetful, but because I think greeting cards are pointless.

According to the Greeting Card Association, 7 billion greeting cards are purchased every year with the annual retail sales of cards estimated to be more than $7.5 billion. The average household buys 30-50 individual greeting cards a year, and women account for about 80 percent of sales, all according to the Greeting Card Association. Hallmark and American Greetings are the largest producers of greeting cards. Recycled Paper Greetings, started in the 1970s but is now a part of American Greetings, prints cards on 100 percent recycled paper and gives credit to its artists.

Picking out a card can be time consuming, you have to make an effort to go to the store, pick out a card, which probably doesn’t say exactly the right thing, and then you pay anywhere from $2 to $10 for the card. But guess what else? Greetings cards are one of those products that may have a mark-up cost of 100-200 percent, because they are so cheap to make. I think I have spent about 3 hours one day just trying to pick the right birthday card for my mom. Just a complete waste of time and paper for something she will eventually (and hopefully) recycled. I could have spent that time writing her a personal note.

So, here are some greeting card alternatives:

  • Handwritten Letter. It’s simply more meaningful. But if you do choose to buy a greeting card, make the effort to write something substantial in it and don’t simply sign your name.
  • Homemade Card. Be crafty and make your own card to send to someone. Yes, it make take extra time, but it’s so much more personal than a generic from a store. Don’t forget to write something good in there.
  • Home-Cooked Food. This is especially for those times that call for a sympathy card. Honestly, who really likes giving or getting sympathy cards? It’s just a harsh reminder of their sadness. I seriously doubt anyone keeps sympathy cards in their memory boxes.
  • Plants. Comforting, happy and excellent for any occasion – happy or sad.
  • Personal Visits. If you care enough to send the best, then send yourself! When my friend’s mother died, I flew up (not for the funeral) but to help her clean out the house. This quality time kept her sanity and was worth more than a card, it the closeness of our friendship.
  • Gift Cards. Most especially for birthdays, graduations, baby showers, new home. – If anything do it for $10, the cost of a card!
  • Actual Gifts. You can’t go wrong with that, if you can afford it.
  • Photo Cards. These are best suited for Christmas, you know everyone wants to see how everyone else is doing (or looking).

Anyone who knows me, probably thought I was going to talk about killing trees with the paper from greeting cards – not so! Greeting cards can be green products – most are made from recycled paper and use soy-based inks. Also, there are the virtual greeting cards or e-cards (although these may be considered spam or junk mail, so I don’t recommend). Although I did read online somewhere that one greeting card is printed in a quantity of 400,000 using more than 4,000 sheets of paper in an hour!

Greeting cards are not a complete waste, especially if you actually write something more than your name to the person or send a photo or a news article.

My recommendation, if you must buy cards, invest in BLANK cards for ANY occasion and force yourself to write something. It will mean so much more to the person, I promise.

the author

Originally from Virginia, Jennifer C. Sellers is passionate about sustainability and conservation in South Carolina and throughout the world. She earned her BA in English from Coastal Carolina University and her MAS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She is a university sustainability coordinator that implements programs and teaches people about going green and being sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @MyGreenGlasses

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  1. Brian Druckenmiller on December 27, 2011

    I always have a box of blank greeting cards–the way I see it, Hallmark, American Greetings, Papyrus, or whichever company is in question…none of them know my family and friends, and none of them are celebrating their milestones, achievements, and their existence…so who are they to wish those I hold dear the best of luck when I am the one wishing them luck? Besides…my messages are always better 😛

  2. Jennifer C. Sellers Author on December 27, 2011

    Exactly! Great idea and using some that are recycled would make it an even better idea! Thanks!

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