Are Greeting Cards an Endangered Species?

Photo: Stewf/Flickr.

When was the last time you sent a paper greeting card? I sent one in August, for my father's 70th birthday, but I can't remember when I bought one before that. Maybe sometime in 2009?

I'm not the only one who isn't sending birthday wishes, congratulations on a new home or even Christmas or holiday greetings. Hallmark Cards recently announced that is will close the Kansas factory that used to make about one-third of the company's cards, and The Wall Street Journal reports: According to a U.S. Postal Service study, correspondence such as greeting cards fell 24 percent between 2002 and 2010. Invitations alone dropped nearly 25 percent just between 2008 and 2010. The survey attributed the decline to "changing demographics and new technologies," adding that younger households "both send and receive fewer pieces of correspondence mail because they tend to be early adaptors of new and faster communication media."

While some may bemoan the decline of cards, here's why I don't:

Online greetings are interactive and easier: For many of us, cards have been replaced by Facebook, which allows you not just to receive a lovely greeting or congratulations, but to respond to it — not to mention respond to and send out more greetings than ever before (I definitely send Facebook "Happy Birthdays" out to far more people than I used to send cards to). Online communications win that round. (And for those who like a more personalized 'card,' there are a host of free and even paid e-cards with which to make your own unique statement. Or you can design your own!)

If you forget to send cards, no worries: I forget important dates about 50 percent of the time. That means that back when card-sending was the norm, about half of what I sent were belated greetings. But with the instant-ness of the Internet, when I remember my friend's birthday the day-of, I'm totally covered.

Online greetings are more planet-friendly: Even if you are crafting your greetings from recycled cards, or buying handmade, locally produced cards printed with soy ink and happen to pick them up when doing other errands, there are still the costs in fossil fuels that it takes to transport a physical card and envelope to your recipient. And if you buy, say, a Hallmark card, you need to add the energy it takes to cut the trees, make the paper, transport the paper to Hallmark factories, print the cards, and then ship them to my local store (that I likely drive to). Yes, the Internet uses energy, but for a single greeting, online wins the energy-use competition.

Online is just as meaningful: To those who argue that receiving a (what I see as wasteful) card in the mail, hand-written by the person who sent it is more meaningful, I say that meaning is where you find it. Knowing that my friend took the time to send me a message or choose an e-card, or type a message, as opposed to writing it, is just as meaningful to me. Maybe not to you, and that's your call, but some of us don't put a premium on an object which just clutters up life and has to be sadly recycled anyway. Which brings me to....

Online greetings cut down on clutter: It's hard not to want to keep your friends' sweet messages for years; when they are online, I can always go back and read them, since everything is stored automatically. But if I kept all the cards I got from age 4-30, it would take several garbage bags to hold them all. I have enough physical clutter in my life as-is.

Do you still send paper cards? Why or why not?