According to 41pounds.org, the website of a non-profit organization whose mission is to eliminate junk mail, the average American citizen receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year. Almost half of this unwanted correspondence goes into a landfill unopened. Should your business send holiday cards to customers? The answer is a resounding, “No!”
The true cost of holiday cards
The strongest argument against junk holiday cards is the negative environmental impact. Even though many trees used for paper production these days are grown in sustainable tree farms (meaning they plant new trees at a rate that allows them to harvest for their needs and still maintain a steady number of live trees), these trees still require carbon energy to plant and harvest, as well as water to grow. The harvested trees must be transported to a production plant, using more carbon energy, and made into paper. Yep, still more carbon energy. In fact, the process from paper plant to card company to your mailbox is laden with carbon-based energy waste. The most egregious point, however, is the knowledge that these cards will eventually fill up our landfills, many unopened and almost all unappreciated.
The cultural faux pas
In your business database, do you maintain information on each client’s race, religion and nationality? I didn’t think so. If not, and you send a holiday card, you risk insulting the client by sending a Christmas card to a Jewish client. Or maybe they celebrate Kwanza. You see the dilemma.
Alternatives to paper cards
If you are determined to send holiday greetings of some sort, consider that we live in the Internet age. Instead of sending paper cards, build an email address database for your customers and send electronic cards. Electronic cards can be customized to include company logos, colors, and even music and animation. The carbon footprint of an electronic card is minimal. Printable coupons included with the card might make the full inbox even more palatable to your target market.
The greenest solution
If you make the “green” choice and decide not to send cards at all, use that decision to your advantage. If your business sends monthly bills or statements, include a statement explaining that you will no longer be sending holiday cards out of concern for the environment. Quote the facts and build goodwill among your environmentally-conscious customers. If you don’t send regular bills, hang a banner in your lobby and put a splash on your website. The public is becoming more environmentally conscious every day, and some percentage will undoubtedly appreciate your efforts.
If you run a small business with regular, personal contact with your customers, you might reconsider. If you know your clients by name, recognize them in the grocery store or cheer for their kids on the soccer field, a more personal contact might be acceptable. Otherwise, avoid adding to the junk mail pile. Respect our world…and respect your clients’ rights not to have to lug 41 pounds of waste in from the mailbox each year.
41pounds.org, Stop Junk Mail, Stop Catalogs with 41pounds.org