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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Greening Your Greetings: Recycling and Reusing Greeting Cards

I confess--I love greeting cards. While shopping for my sister's birthday card in February, I saw three cards perfect for Paper Mommy's birthday in April--two suitable for public display, and one that will send her into paroxysms of private giggles. (Even professional organizers have areas of "aspirational acquisition".)

According to the Greeting Card Association, U.S. consumers purchase approximately 7 billion greeting cards each year. Another 700 million are sold in Canada. That's a lot of cards! In fact, that's about 128,000 tons of paper and 3 million trees!

Paper Doll readers may recall that we've covered greeting card strategies before--we focused mainly on how to cope with letting go of them. I've never counseled eliminating greeting cards, however, because a carefully-selected card with a heart-felt, handwritten message has the power to uplift, motivate, and comfort in a way that an email often cannot. Most of us find that the cost (financial and environmental) is outweighed by the intended emotional impact of sending a card to a friend or loved one.

Now, some new, inspired products have developed a way for you to to feel comfortable with buying and letting go of cards, while helping the environment a teeny bit, as well.  If greening your greetings appeals to you, check out these options.

At the 2010 Green Products Expo in New York City a few weeks ago, one cute entry presented a new way to recycle and reuse greeting cards.

regreet™ uses labels and special mailing supplies to give new life to your previously-received (OK: used) greeting cards, while saving money (on new cards) and saving the planet.

regreet™ doesn't make cards, per se. They actually create a Greeting Kit, which includes all the components (made with recycled materials, of course) that you need to reuse/repurpose greeting cards, including:

4 journey labels
4 signature labels
4 sheets of notepaper
4 envelopes

The Greeting Kit also includes four "hop along" sets (get it? frogs...hop? Too cute!) with the same contents as above. With each card you send, you include a "hop along" set to enable cards to go on future journeys. (You can also buy regreet™ single sets, with one label each for journey and signature, one piece of notepaper, one envelope and an instruction sheet.)

To start a card you've received on a new journey, apply an adhesive-backed signature label over what the prior sender wrote, and use the matching notepaper if you want to write more. Then affix a uniquely-coded journey label to the back of the card. Put the card and "hop along" set into the regreet™ envelope, and mail it off.

For an added twist, they've designed "journey codes" so you can track where your card travels over time. When you enter the code from the back of the card, you'll see a mapped tour of the card's journey to you (if you didn't originate that card's journey) and each successive trip, with a summary of miles. You can even click to see the city, state and zip code, plus date received, for each trip, and the miles traveled on each hop.

OK, so there's a bit of a privacy issue, especially if you know your friends' friends' zip codes. If you send your best buddy a card via regreet™, but find she eventually re-regreets it to your high school frenemy, will you feel betrayed? Would you still be proud of your spouse for saving the environment if you learned he/she sent a birthday card to a a long-ago ex? Well, Kermit did say it's not easy being green. But, if you're green and confident, regreet™ may be the way for you to go.

regreet™ donates a portion of profits to charitable organizations. This year, their non-profit partners are Susan G. Komen for the Cure, 4H, and the Nature Conservancy. You simply enter the Direct the Donation code from the back of your regreet™ Kit on the donation screen and select the non-profit from the drop-down menu, and your vote, collected with others, determines the proportion of profits that go to each charity.

Last week, Lisanne Oliver, Australian professional organizer, author and blogger, helped spread the word regarding recyclable cards from Australian card-maker Merry-go-round.

The Merry-go-round cards aren't just green, but gorgeous. Their designers are well-known Australian children's book illustrators with a collective warm sensibility that melted even mean old Paper Doll's heart. Of these artists, Merry-go-round says:

...the group of artists who have produced images for the cards have reflected on the theme of "earth-love". They are celebrating the beauty of the earth and reminding us of our own connection to it.

Take a peek below and visit the artists' page to click on the thumbnails of these limited edition cards and to get a closer look.

(Via Merry-go-round)

The cards are designed with slits (you know--tab A goes into slot B) to attach your message, written on a separate piece of paper. Your recipient, once he or she has marveled at the loveliness of the card and the pitch-perfect sentiment of the message, can keep the words, but recycle/reuse the card by replacing your message with a new one for a new recipient. Every card includes two message slips to get you started, and instructions on how to make more and continue to reuse the card.

So, you send your daughter a card of congratulations for graduating middle school. She tucks your message in her box of secrets (hidden where she thinks you'll never find it), and sends the card on to a friend, with her own message, written in that disemvoweled text-speak so popular these days. And so on...

The cards are green from the get-go, using uncoated 100% post-consumer recycled paper stock via a manufacturing process that would make the greenest heart swoon: Process Chlorine Free (so no nasty chemicals in the bleaching process), production-related waste water is recycled and cleaned, they use natural gas to power the process, and manufacturing waste is recycled into good stuff like fertilizer and cement.

The beautiful cards can be purchased online, directly from Merry-go-round, in sets of six or as individual cards (or sets of four of the solo designs). The time management aficionado in me adores Slow Down, but all you parents might get a particular warm fuzzy out of The Kiss. (Please do share your favorites of any of these cards in the comments section, below.)

Of course, if you eschew online stores and prefer to stand in a card shop and "take inventory" (as PaperMommy says), perusing and comparing each card to the next, be prepared to travel. Merry-go-round cards are not sold in North America and are available only through Australian and New Zealand vendors...but I bet if we spread the word, distribution will grow wider.

According to Lisanne, who has already had the opportunity to send a card, there are little heart-shapes on the reverse of the cards. These are apparently designed to let you color in a heart each time the card is used to track the number of lives it has had. This allows users to swell with pride at their part in the chain of eco-sustainability without risking the jealousies inherent in the journey code tracking above.

I should note, regreet™ isn't the first trackable card, nor has Merry-go-round cornered the market on reusable cards.  Our neighbors to the north have that distinction.

Slingshot Cards bills itself as the "World's First Reusable and Trackable Greeting Card". First, the cards are FSC-certified and made of post-consumer recycled cardstock. (They're made much like the Merry-go-round cards, but with wind energy to power the manufacturing.)

Next, the cards are hand-finished to include hemp fiber SlingShot strings (to hold the message inserts in place). Each card comes with two blank inserts--one for the buyer to write to the first recipient, and one for the first recipient to pass on. To keep the cycle going, Slingshot Cards provides MS Word and PDF versions of their Greeting Template (from which you can impart your own message), but you could also slide photos, newspaper clippings, coupons or anything else under the SlingShot strings:

Each Slingshot card has its own tracking number. When you get one of these cards, visit the tracking page, enter your card number, and then your name, plus a general location (city/state/country), occasion and date received. (In a world where people declare their exact locations on FourSquare throughout the day, Paper Doll is probably woefully old fashioned in suggesting you replace your real name with a privacy-protecting nickname or non de plume...but that's just the way I roll.)

Slingshot has added an email notification system, so that you can get a message each time a card you've registered arrives somewhere else, and Slingshot's goal is to have every card make 20 separate journeys.

You can shop Slingshot's online store (remember, these are Canadian dollars!) for individual cards or 4- or 8-pack sets of outdoor and nature themed cards. (Paper Doll is a fan of the lighthouse, beach and sunflower themes.)

Five percent of Slingshot' profits go to The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, an international non-profit focused on fighting hunger and improving the environment.

So, if you also love sending greeting cards -- Paper Doll's birthday is coming up in just a few weeks -- get going on greening those greetings!

posted on: 3/2/2010 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Discuss This Post

by Janet Barclay, Organized Assistant on 4/6/2010 7:44:07 AM:

I had no idea that the greeting card industry was so huge, especially in this age of e-cards and saying happy birthday by writing on someone's Facebook page! And, other than people crossing out what was written on a card they received and giving it to someone else (usually as a joke), I didn't know about reusable greeting cards either. How on earth do you find out about these things? I'm especially proud to see that Canada is on board with this too!

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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