Most professionals don’t think twice about the little cards in their wallet or desk. They’re an ubiquitous accessory most of us couldn’t network without, but those tiny cards have a big environmental impact. According to Statistic Brain, 10 billion business cards are printed each year in the U.S. alone. There’s got to be a way to hand a new business acquaintance your contact information that doesn’t eat up so many trees. Fortunately, there are countless ways to introduce yourself that are not only eco-friendly, but more memorable and creative — and isn’t that what you want when someone looks at your card, anyway?
Use Recycled Paper
The simplest and easiest way you can have more sustainable business cards is to make sure the cards are printed on recycled card stock. Some printing companies make printing on recycled paper a core part of their standard practice. When choosing recycled paper, look for the “post-consumer” recycled content. The higher the post-consumer percentage, the more the paper is actually made from recycled stock. A 30 percent post-consumer content means 70 percent of the card is made from virgin stock, which kind of defeats the purpose of buying recycled cards.
The environmental benefits of recycled paper go beyond the trees themselves. Paper is the fourth highest energy-intensive industry in the U.S., not to mention the air and water pollution it generates. The process of producing paper consumes water and uses toxic chemicals such as chlorine dioxide in the bleaching process.
Use Soy- or Vegetable-Based Inks
When ordering your cards, check the source of the ink, as well. Vegetable-based or soy ink is more environmentally-friendly than standard petroleum-based inks, which contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They are far more biodegradable, as well. Also, soy inks work better with that recycled paper you’re using.
Print Business Cards from a Digital Source
The just-in-time approach to printing your own cards can be more cost-efficient and sustainable, because you print only the number of cards you need when you need them, rather than ordering thousands of cards at a time. It’s inexpensive to print business cards online in batches as small as 250 cards, so even the smallest business can have professional-looking cards ordered and shipped in just a few days. If you are computer-savvy and have a high-quality printer, you can print professional cards yourself only as you need them. Just make sure the quality and environmental cost of using your own printer ink offsets the impact of ordering and shipping cards from an online store.
Why even use card stock at all? Your cards will have a far greater impact if you get a little crafty with the material you print your information on. Go further than recycled paper, and use reused paper. Rather than tossing or recycling your used paper, use the back side for cards. Old envelopes or cardboard can be used, as well. If you’re a small business, hand stamp your own cards on whatever piece of paper you have handy. It will look odd — but it will also stand out, and that’s what business cards are for, after all.
Use the Material from Your Business or Industry
Are you a steel manufacturer? Stamp cards out of your scrap steel. Are you a dressmaker or textile company? Print your company’s information on scrap fabric. If you’re an eco-company, or plant shop or nursery, put seeds in tiny envelopes with your name on it. Recycled rubber, magnets, coasters — the possibilities are endless. Small mom and pop shops can hand stamp cards one at a time, which saves even more money on printing. But large companies may have the resources to turn their scrap materials into distinctive calling cards.
It’s Good Business
A report by the Edelman Good Purpose Study shows 73 percent of consumers would switch brands if they thought a brand supported a good cause over one that didn’t. Your environmentally friendly cards will advertise not only your unique message, but your conscientiousness as a business. So think outside the box — or the card — and get your company’s message out in a way that is not only sustainable, but memorable.