Sending electronic greeting cards is definitely the greenest way to go, but there are times when nothing will do but an "old fashioned" paper card. Fortunately, you have a nice variety of environmentally-friendly choices.
When buying paper cards, search out options made from recycled paper printed with soy-based inks. Ideally, the card would be made from 100 percent post-consumer waste. Look for specific recycled content on the back of the card, not just the recycling symbol, which could simply mean the card is recyclable. Also look for cards made from bamboo, elephant dung (no kidding!) and other kinds of paper-free materials.
Hallmark's Shoebox line is printed on recycled paper, but only with a minimum of 20 percent recycled fiber - not a standout in the recycled card line, but better than no recycled content if you don't have another choice. Cards from environmental groups like the Sierra Club are also made from recycled paper with soy-based ink.
Some cards are so eco-friendly, you can plant them. Green Field Paper makes cards embedded with seeds so the recipient can plant them. The company also offers cards made from junk mail, garlic paper, and coffee chaff. Peaceful Valley sells a boxed set of eight "plantable" cards.
Hallmark's Business Expressions Line uses paper made with 50 percent sugarcane by-products and 50 percent recycled paper content. "No new trees have been cut down to make these cards," claims the company.
Then there are cards, like the National Wildlife Federation's Zero-Waste line, that are designed to be returned so they can be recycled into a new card. Each envelope includes an integrated postage paid method to make it easy to return; materials are made from certified non-toxic plastic and printed with healthy UV cured inks.
Zazzle and many other "u print" companies let you customize your own postcards, but they're usually not printed on recycled paper or with soy-based ink. The only advantage to using a postcard is that it skips the envelope (and postage will be a bit cheaper).
Make Your Own:
If you can't find a card you like among these, why not make your own? It's easy to find recycled paper at any office supply store. Use non-toxic markers and crayons to personalize a design on one side of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet, then fold it into thirds, tape the top closed, and write the address on the blank outside. No envelope necessary! Or, rather than buy paper new, recycle wrapping or cards you've received in the past. My mother and her cousin have sent the same card back-and-forth to each other for years, in a tradition that makes both of them laugh when they send and receive the card.
Recycle and Reuse:
I do try to make the most out of every card I receive. If it's a postcard, it eventually ends up in my recycling bin. If it's a regular greeting card, I often cut the card in half, recycle the signed part, and re-use the decorated part as a gift tag - it works like a charm.