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CHRISTMAS SPAM

Where to place all those adorable photo holiday cards? The trash

AP Photo/Hans Edinger
Can we not?
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Dear sender:

Your kids and pets are adorable, no doubt. You have a very handsome family. But with respect—with love—unless you’re the president or a royal, no one really wants your family portrait greeting cards.

Let’s be real: An auto-generated holiday card is junk mail. In fact, these personalized photo cards are worse. Unwanted advertising is easy to chuck out, but a glossy family photo presents a conundrum. Do you put it on the fireplace mantle? String it around the tree? Do you have to keep it forever? I’ve hoarded shoeboxes full of these cards, burdened by the guilt of discarding the mass-mailed memento.

This year, with sincere apologies to family and friends, they’re going straight to the recycling bin.

I’m not the only one taking a harsh stance. A segment of etiquette-minded Brits is embracing the “Don’t Send Me a Card” movement this year, the Telegraph reports. And with good reason: A Stanford University holiday waste prevention initiative points out that “the 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the US could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less [each year], we’d save 50,000 cubic yards (38,228 cubic meters) of paper.” That’s enough paper to fill the entire volume of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool—with enough leftover pulp to fill five more Olympic-sized swimming pools.

We’re drowning in junk. And why? Do people really think an online template, a cute photo, and a cheerful non-denominational seasonal greeting add up to a heartfelt felicitation?

Perhaps it’s today’s overburdened work-life schedules that delude otherwise reasonable adults into thinking a hundred custom-printed cards can replace a thoughtful note. In these last frenzied days of the holidays, it’s tempting to upload your whole address book to an internet print shop. Stop.

If you’re going to mail a friend or family member a greeting card, make it count. These days, the real gift is time and attention. Send a belated handwritten letter. Surprise your loved ones with a phone call—or visit! Send a short email. Text a greeting. Heck, send an emoji—🎄🎅. Even that is better than clogging someone’s mailbox with generic greetings.

(Adapted from a 2015 Quartz post)

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