I Send Greeting Cards to Feel Less Alone and You Should, Too
When I was ten, my grandmother started working at a Hallmark Gift Store housed in one of the many strip malls in our suburban town. Swayed by a store discount, she began buying a now legendary amount of branded paraphernalia and paper goods. As an artistic kid, Hallmark’s product placement in my life had the desired effect — I was impressed by (and maybe a little jealous of) the merch I began receiving for birthdays and holidays. The glitter! The vague, corny sentiments! I loved it all. But, being a child, I did not have access to that sweet discount (or money in general) to buy said cards. I did, however, have a serious collection of art supplies and a DIY spirit. I soon launched my own brand of competing “Lizmark” cards — an entrepreneurial failure but a sentimental success — that family members still preserve alongside old photos and ticket stubs.
My family was tight at that time in my life. We lived next door to my great-grandparents and a block away from my mother’s parents, in addition to other family members nearby. The cards I made embellished the time we were already spending together, rather than being an indirect form of communication. Now that we don’t all live so close together, maintaining bonds via communication is more complicated than a well-designed Lizmark card.
Today people are more connected than at any other point in history, but, confusingly, many of us have never felt more alone. Humans are social beings, and we have an increasing body of research that underscores just how damaging loneliness is for us. According to the sadly-named “Cigna U.S. Loneliness Index,” just under half of the 20,000 people surveyed reported sometimes or always feeling alone (46%) and/or feeling left out (47%). The same study found that levels of in-person interactions are more likely to predict loneliness than social media usage, so let’s think of correspondence as a precursor to IRL connections. Taking communication deeper can help cultivate stronger, lasting relationships, which are ultimately better for everyone’s wellbeing.
For this reason, I urge you to write and send notes to the people in your life, even if you don’t get a response — especially from those in the most painful of circumstances. And when you elect to do this, please don’t put people on blast for not getting back to you. We all have someone in our lives that has 7,161 unread texts. If you are mentally and physically healthy, consider it your honor to generously give your time and sentiments to those you love. Below are some ways to more consciously do so.
Putting a modern — and, let’s be honest, convenient — spin on the classic card does not make it any less thoughtful. You can still take the time to choose a design with your recipient in mind and share a sweet message, just like you would if you were browsing your local stationery shop.
Greenvelope actually emulates the traditional experience of opening a card — online. By not using paper, they can take credit for a whopping 180,000 pounds saved by their customers so far. And to further back up their tree hugger cred, they are a member of 1% for the Planet and donate one percent of their annual revenue to nonprofits including Mountains to Sound, the National Park Foundation, and the National Forest Foundation.
Environmental raves aside, what I like best about Greenvelope is that you can put your spin on any design and envelope with different colors, fonts, spacing, messages, etc. Artists such as, ahem, myself can even upload our own designs to take advantage of Greenvelope’s guest list management, sending, and RSVP tracking features. Lizmark 2.0 here I come!
Paper Cards & Stationery
Ok, so maybe you want to go old school sometimes. Using a resource like trees for a note that will likely get trashed (sorry, it will!) can be problematic, environmentally-speaking. However, there are a few ways to diminish the impact your paper greetings will have. First, skip the foil and glitter versions — you can't recycle them, and they won't biodegrade. Second, look for post-consumer recycled materials, FSC certified paper, or tree-free options (more on this below) when buying new. Finally, don’t overlook DIYing cards with upcycled materials from around your house. I can confirm that everyone loves a handmade card :)
Paper Culture uses post-consumer waste and tree-free alternatives, offset their carbon, and, for every order, they plant a tree where reforestation is most needed. (They’ve planted 650,000 trees and counting.) Paper Culture’s cards also allow for a great deal of customization, and you can even request free designer assistance at the end of your personalization. Here again, you can design your own — just skip the foil details if you do.
Green Field Paper Company
California-based Green Field Paper Company crafts a variety of eco-friendly cards and paper in their San Diego facility. Conscious options range from handmade paper to 100% Junk Mail paper to tree-free options like hemp, garlic, denim, and coffee chaff. Also, they offset 100% of their electricity use by purchasing wind energy credits and reclaim and recycle the water used to make their handmade paper.
Decomposition by Michael Roger
Michael Roger, a family-owned and operated company since 1949, designs and produces eco-conscious products with a whimsical aesthetic. They use eco-friendly methods and materials for each project and manufacture their products in the USA whenever possible.
Good Paper’s cards are all made with handmade recycled papers. In addition, their cardmakers are women who have escaped sex trafficking in the Philippines and young adults orphaned in Rwanda.
Postable says, “no trees were harmed in the making of any of our cards.” All of their cards are either 100% tree-free cotton or 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper. Other perks: their “real” handwriting fonts can make it look like you handwrote your note, and they print, stuff, stamp, address, and mail your cards for you.
Craft Boat works as a design and manufacturing studio from their base in Jaipur, India where they create gorgeous sustainable and recycled paper products.
Tree-free Ecopaper creates products out of agricultural waste from bananas, coffee, sugarcane, mango, and tobacco, and are studying how to make fibers from pineapple, orange, and palm hearts.
Colorado-based Artifact Uprising uses recycled papers and reclaimed options throughout their USA made product line, including FSC Certified paper and Mountain Beetle Pine. Note: skip the foil versions and be prepared to upload your own concept or pics for their photo-heavy designs.
E-waste, while a serious issue, doesn’t really apply here because you likely already have a phone — just keep the one you have as long as you can and mash the buttons in communicative fervor in the meantime. Use emojis, attach a photo of yourself or your favorite meme. Just keep in touch by any means necessary.
Remember how jazzed everyone was about receiving emails in You’ve Got Mail? Yeah, it’s not like that anymore. More often than not, an email equals an ask, so I’m cringing a little at this recommendation. However, I know there are weirdos out there for whom email is their primary communication, so I don’t want to take this option off the table entirely.
Obviously, to receive an e-card you will have to receive an email. But for people without the bandwidth — literal and figurative — to sit down and send e-cards, dashing off an email from your phone on the go is totally encouraged.
Let’s be real. Texting is almost as good as a phone convo (especially for us introverts). Use your messenger of choice (well, maybe not this one) and pop off a quick text that doesn’t ask for anything in return. You’ve got gifs, e-stickers, photos, and a camera, all at your fingertips so no excuses, please!