The 8 Best Eco-Friendly Holiday Cards of 2021

Sustainable holiday greetings coming your way.

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You want to send holiday cheer to family and friends, but traditional greeting cards have an impact on the environment. All those trees to make all that paper! Some eco-minded folks make the case for forgoing cards, or making homemade cards using recycled materials. But if you’re not crafty and still committed to sending out holiday cards, you can shop around to find more sustainable choices.

Look for cards and envelopes made on recycled paper that don't have embellishments like foil or plastic glitter (which should be banned, but that’s a whole different conversation). That way your cards can easily be recycled later. It also helps to take a look at how the cards are made to see if the company works to lower its carbon footprint.

Here are some of the best eco-friendly cards for sending festive messages this holiday season.

The Rundown
Beautiful photo cards and other holiday greetings made from post-consumer waste and wood alternatives.
If you have a lot of people on your holiday list, these postcards are a cost-effective yet eco-friendly way to greet everyone.
Best Variety:
Minted at Minted.com
Minted offers a wide range of formats, recycled paper options, and designs, including an exciting collaboration with The Met.
It’s like sending a wildflower bouquet with your holiday greeting.
Assorted collections of holiday cheer are made with recycled paper using wind and solar power.
Best Business Holiday Cards:
ForeverFiances at Foreverfiances.com
These corporate cards are for companies looking to green their holiday messages.
Best Card and Gift:
Soak it Up Cloths Clards at Etsy
Give a card that doubles as a dishcloth that can be used over and over again.
These holiday cards are made of junk mail and sport the recycling symbol.

Best Overall: Paper Culture

Paper Culture Card

All the cards and envelopes at Paper Culture are made from 100% recycled paper or bamboo. Anything made with cotton is crafted from either organic cotton or from cotton linters, which are the fiber fuzz that are typically wasted during cotton manufacturing. 

The paper is thick and matte and high quality, with a massive selection of photo cards, business holiday offerings, and general holiday greetings without photos. Themes range from classic to modern, rustic to fun with specialties like pop culture, nature, and winter scenes.

Paper Culture plants a tree with every order and, so far, has planted more than 1 million. The company plants locally but also partners with a national and international team of arborists to plant trees around the world. The company also offsets 100% of the carbon footprint of production by taking steps such as choosing offices based on proximity to public transportation.

Best Budget: Jack and Ella Paper Holiday Postcards

Jack and Ella Paper Holiday Postcards

If you have a lot of people on your holiday list, these postcards are a cost-effective yet eco-friendly way to greet everyone. The postcards are printed on heavyweight 100% recycled cardstock that is made in a paper mill that uses 100% renewable wind energy, according to the Etsy shop owner. Plus, using a postcard instead of a traditional card saves envelope waste.

The design features a tree ornament crafted from the peace symbol along with the word “peace.” But other customized designs are available and you can order more or fewer than 40 if that’s what you need.

Best Variety: Minted

Minted Holiday Cards

If you can imagine a holiday card, chances are you can create it on Minted, which offers a dizzying array of possibilities. Holiday categories include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year card selections, but also more specific options like photo cards, business-appropriate holiday offerings, and a special collaboration with The Met featuring holiday cards inspired by three millennia of artistic masterpieces. Once you have a design selected, Minted lets you further customize with multiple shapes, sizes, foil, folds, and color themes.

Their environmental credentials are similarly wide-ranging, with most cards offering multiple recycled paper options, including recycled papers optimized for photos and a luxuriously thick, three-layered paper with a matte finish. As part of their sustainability pledge, Minted also ships your cards in recyclable and compostable packaging.

Best Seed Paper: Botanical Paperworks

Botanical Paperworks Card

Sure, you can send a recycled card that can be recycled again. But sending cards printed on seeded paper (also known as plantable paper) is like delivering a wildflower bouquet. Your sender just plants the card in spring under a thin layer of soil, waters it, and waits for flowers to grow.

Seed paper made by Botanical Paperworks is tested to make sure it’s free of weeds and invasive species. It’s approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for planting in the United States, Canada, European Union, and other places around the world.

There are more than a dozen holiday card designs and many more corporate card selections. The company collects post-consumer paper waste from local businesses and schools to make the paper. It estimates this keep 10 tons of paper out of landfills each year. The products are packaged in biodegradable corn plastic. The company applies its eco-friendly message to its office as well, and has reduced internal paper use by 75% since 2000.

Best Pack: Tree-Free Holiday Card Set

Tree-Free Holiday Card Set

When you want a little variety but a great price, Tree-Free has dozens of different packs of 16 holiday cards with four different designs in each collection. They range from winter solstice to whimsical animal designs.

The cards are made with 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The paper is processed without chlorine, and Green-e certified, which means it's made with clean energy. Envelopes are produced from 80% reclaimed wheat straw, which is an agricultural byproduct.

The company’s printing and production facility is in one U.S. location and is powered completely by solar energy. Items ship in a box made of 100% recycled content and the packaging is recyclable.

Best Business Holiday Cards: ForeverFiances

ForeverFiances card

For companies looking to green their holiday messages, ForeverFiances offers six dozen corporate greeting cards ranging from traditional to more fun and modern. All cards come as either plantable, seeded papers or on recycled paper. 

All the recycled papers are FSC-certified, which means they are sourced from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. The recycled papers use up to 100% post-consumer materials and are also Green-e certified and acid-free. All of ForeverFiances' recycled papers are made in the United States.

ForeverFiances donates 1% of revenues to nonprofit organizations that support environmental causes and social good, like Charity Water.

Best Card and Gift: Soak it Up Cloths Clards

Soak it Up Cloths Clards

Here’s a greeting card that just keeps on giving. These “clards” have a second life as reusable cleaning cloths. Similar to Swedish dishcloths, they can be used over and over again before being tossed in the compost bin. Each one does the work of about 3,000 paper towels.

These come in two designs--a squirrel and winter mittens. You can add your personal greeting on the card with a fabric or permanent marker so your recipient will see your message every day at the sink for months.

DIY Idea:

You can also try this at home by buying a pack of plain Swedish dishcloths (view on Amazon) and customizing them with your own holiday design and message. Just choose a laundry or fabric marker to create your decorations.

Best Obvious Eco-Card: Green Field Paper Company 100% Junk Mail Holiday Cards

Green Field Paper Company 100% Junk Mail Holiday Cards

If you really want people to know your cards are a smart choice, choose one of the options made from tree-free paper created with junk mail. You can see little specks of the original junk mail in the cards, which also boast the recycling symbol for good measure. Choose from two existing designs: Joy or Happy Holidays.

The cards come in packs of four and have information on the back about how the junk mail was collected and the cards were made. 

Green Field also sells plantable holiday cards and ornament cards that contain wildflower seeds. They’re 100% recycled and contain non-invasive and non-GMO seeds and no chemicals or dyes. The hemp cards are made from 25% hemp, 75% post-consumer materials and are acid-free and chlorine-free. All of Green Field's cards are made in the United States.

Final Verdict

The place to start is Paper Culture where you can find a huge selection of photo cards and other holiday greetings made from post-consumer waste and wood alternatives (view at PaperCulture.com). Another great option are plantable cards from Botanical Paperworks, where it’s like you’re sending a wildflower bouquet with your greeting (view at BotanicalPaperworks.com).

What to Look for in Eco-Friendly Holiday Cards

Paper Materials

The most eco-friendly holiday cards are printed on 100% recycled paper without any embellishments. That way they can be recycled again when your recipient is finished enjoying them. Plantable or seeded papers are also a great environmental option. Typically these are made with recycled paper with seeds incorporated into the mix. So they get a second life growing flowers. 

For additional assurance, look for paper that is FSC-certified and/or Green-e certified. You can also see if paper is made without acids or bleach.

Packaging

Most products are shipped in a recyclable box; some are also made out of recycled materials. Some companies also avoid wrapping their cards in plastic and may use biodegradable materials instead.

Company Background

Some of these greeting card companies point out their commitment to a sustainable work environment with a low carbon footprint. They use solar or wind energy, have robust recycling programs, and/or purposely built a facility within a short distance from mass transit so employees don’t all have to drive to work. If the big picture is important to you, read up on the company’s policies, often found in the “About us” or “FAQs” section of the website.

FAQs

Can holiday cards be recycled?

Plain paper greeting cards and envelopes can be placed in the recycling bin once you’ve enjoyed their sentiments. But if there are any special touches like glitter, ribbon, foil, or felt, then they can’t be recycled. (If the added bling is easy to remove, that’s an exception.)

You can also reuse gift cards by tearing off the front and using it to make a new card. Or cut out pictures and greetings and use those snippets to make gift tags for presents or add them to a scrapbook.

Another option is to donate the cards to a charity like St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. Children who have been neglected or abused will learn entrepreneurial skills by making new cards out of used ones. (Hallmark, American Greetings, and Disney cards aren’t accepted due to copyright laws.)

Are there other eco-friendly alternatives to holiday cards?

The simplest, earth-friendly solution to sending traditional greeting cards is sending an e-greeting. You can choose one that is already created from a greeting card site like Ojolie or the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or send a holiday letter with family photos attached.

You can also reach out to friends and family and organize video chats or phone calls instead of paper greetings. Some people also donate the money they’d spend on cards and postage to a charity, like a local food bank.

Why Trust Treehugger?

We searched for holiday cards that are recycled and recyclable, plantable, and reusable. We particularly looked for certifications and for cards that are made without bleach or acids. Then we also took a look at the company’s sustainability policies.

For more than 25 years, Mary Jo DiLonardo has covered a wide range of topics focused on nature, pets, health, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place. She has spent more than six years with Treehugger, formerly under the Mother Nature Network brand. Treehugger has been reporting on natural and eco-friendly products for over a decade.