In the age of digital dominance, a surprising and heartwarming trend defies the wave—millennials’ and Gen Z’s preference for physical greeting cards. Even though these generations are digital natives, recent studies and surveys reveal that many prefer the tangible charm and personalization of paper greeting cards over their e-counterparts.
According to a recent poll from online card and gift giant Shutterfly1, more than half (54%) of Americans say they still mail their greeting cards versus sending via digital and social platforms.
The new survey of 2,000 U.S. adults split evenly by generation revealed that two out of three prefer to receive physical cards as opposed to digital ones, including younger respondents who are millennials (62%) or are part of Gen Z (59%). Personalization was a big deal to survey respondents, preferring to include family, vacation, or pet photos with cards.
One of the key factors contributing to the sustained popularity of paper greeting cards is the emotional resonance they carry. Recent industry research has shown that about 80% of people keep cards that represent a life or relationship milestone. And over the years–especially since the pandemic–young people have taken the reins on greeting card messaging, launching independent lines that have found their way into retailers large and small. Many prefer cards that speak to their specific problems and joyful moments that haven’t been largely seen in traditional greeting cards.
Retail insights on consumer habits2 support the idea that there is demand for traditional greeting cards, and demand for personalization, digital integration, and representation. To that end, Hallmark Video Greetings launched in early 2022. Card buyers can scan a QR code in the physical card, and once they’re online, they can add videos or photos and invite others to join via email or text. Once everyone’s content is submitted, Hallmark stitches it together into one video, which the recipient can view by scanning the QR code. The big two–Hallmark and American Greetings–are also meeting the demand for representation by diversifying their offerings to reflect North America’s modern demographics.
A year into the pandemic, the industry found millennials and Gen Zs not only wanting to connect with people they couldn’t see in person but also experiencing screen fatigue and activity looking for ways to describe their unique experiences in the world. And this generation is more likely to send a card just because it fits the recipient, letting go of pressure around card-centered holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Like previous generations without digital options, people today appreciate the effort and intentionality required to select, customize, and send a paper card. It becomes a tangible representation of the relationship between the sender and the recipient, making the experience more meaningful and enduring.
Small businesses also continue to send an enormous number of holiday cards each year. A 2022 report from the Greeting Card Association3 shows that one-third of companies send a holiday greeting, and 87% of them are physical, not e-cards. This adds up to an estimated 150 million greeting cards mailed by small businesses during the winter holiday season, and those rates are likely to remain constant or slightly grow.
The vast majority of small businesses that send physical holiday cards send them to current customers to show gratitude and build relationships. Given that direct mail is much more likely to get a meaningful response than email or other digital outreach, building relationships with greeting cards during the holidays is a sound business decision.
The preference for paper greeting cards among consumers and businesses is a testament to the timeless appeal of tangible expressions. In a fast-paced digital world, the intentional act of sending and receiving physical cards has become a powerful and cherished tradition.
1 Shutterfly Report, Nov. 2023 https://nypost.com/2023/11/09/lifestyle/millennials-gen-z-still-prefer-physical-greeting-cards-over-digital-ones/
2 Canadian Grocer Report, Feb. 2023 https://canadiangrocer.com/digital-driving-consumer-habits-there-still-value-traditional-greeting-cards
3 Small Business Use of Greeting Cards, Greeting Card Association 2022 White Paper https://omsgca.wpenginepowered.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Lind_WhitePaper-GreetingCards-2022-v1d-1.pdf
As consumers increasingly voice their environmental concerns, industries worldwide are actively seeking sustainable alternatives to reduce their carbon footprint. Not surprisingly, corrugated cardboard packaging has emerged as an environmentally sustainable choice, boasting benefits that other packaging materials simply can’t match. Reports and surveys, including a comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) recently published by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) and the 2023 US Trend Tracker Survey commissioned by Two Sides North America, shed light on the environmental impact of cardboard packaging and illustrate why it is fast becoming the preferred choice of brands and consumers around the globe.
Published in October 2023, the 2020 Life Cycle Assessment of U.S. Average Corrugated Product found that the corrugated packaging industry has achieved substantial reductions in the environmental impacts of a typical corrugated cardboard box.
Specifically, the LCA shows a 50% per unit reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between 2006 and 2020, tackling the most urgent and predominant causes of climate change. Meaningful reductions were also achieved in ozone depletion (13%), energy usage (13%), water usage (18%), acid rain (41%), smog (44%), respiratory effects (54%), and eutrophication, which leads to algae blooms and dead zones in bodies of water (30%).
The industry achieved this progress through energy improvements, the creation of a strong recycling infrastructure, sustainably managed forests, and a commitment to continuous environmental improvement. The industry continues to shift to cleaner burning fuel, has increased its participation in a greener U.S. electric grid, and made investments in energy efficiency.
Cardboard packaging is a standout choice in terms of raw material sustainability. Using wood fiber from purpose-grown, sustainably managed forests ensures that the extraction process is both responsible and renewable. The LCA reveals that sustainable forestry practices, when paired with efficient management, contribute to the overall favorable environmental profile of cardboard packaging.
The fresh wood fiber used to manufacture cardboard, which is continually renewed in sustainably managed forests, aids in the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while recycling old corrugated cardboard avoids carbon dioxide and methane emissions from landfills. This combination of fresh and recycled fibers in cardboard production maximizes fiber reuse and enables circularity.
Significant advances in manufacturing technology and processes have increased efficiency and decreased energy consumption in cardboard production, leading to reduced environmental impacts. In addition, the industry’s proactive approach to water recycling and conservation, along with the increased use of renewable energy, further reduces cardboard’s environmental footprint.
Cardboard’s lightweight nature contributes to lower transportation costs and emissions compared to heavier packaging materials. Lighter weights translate into lower fuel consumption during transportation, thereby decreasing the overall carbon footprint. This is particularly crucial in a globalized economy where goods are transported over long distances.
Cardboard’s recyclability is a critical factor in its circular life cycle, and the corrugated industry has enabled increasingly higher recycling rates with billions of dollars in voluntary infrastructure investment over the past 30 years. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, cardboard is the most recycled packaging material in the United States. The American Forest and Paper Association reports that the recycling rate for cardboard boxes was more than 93% in 2022.
In January 2023, Two Sides North America commissioned its biennial Trend Tracker Survey to better understand changing consumer preferences, perceptions and attitudes toward print, paper and paper-based packaging. The survey, conducted by international research firm Toluna, showed a growing awareness among U.S. consumers about the environmental impacts of packaging materials and a preference for sustainable packaging.
The survey findings reveal that consumers prefer products with paper or cardboard packaging for various reasons, including its ease of recycling and home composting. Half of consumers believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment than other types of packaging, including plastic, glass and metal. In addition to expressing an overall preference for paper-based packaging, 56% of consumers prefer that items ordered online be delivered in paper packaging, up from 52% in 2021. 50% say they are actively taking steps to increase their use of paper-based packaging, up from 41%. 47% would avoid shopping with a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce its use of non-recyclable packaging, up from 39%.
Despite the expanding body of scientific evidence supporting the inherent sustainability of paper-based packaging and consumers’ efforts to make sustainable choices, many misconceptions about cardboard and its effects on the environment remain. You can help set the record straight by arming yourself with the facts. To learn more, visit www.twosidesna.org/mythsandfacts.
Across all environmental issues related to the manufacture of paper-based products in North America, the harvesting of trees for wood fiber is arguably the most familiar, yet also the most misunderstood. Decades of misguided marketing messages that suggest using less paper protects forests along with deliberate anti-paper campaigns by environmental groups that twist scientific facts to suit their own agendas have left many feeling guilty for using products that are inherently sustainable. They are made from a renewable resource, are recyclable and are among the most recycled products in the world, and are manufactured using a high level of renewable energy – all key elements in a circular economy.
So, what’s the most effective way to reverse the misconceptions of those who believe the North American print, paper and paper-based packaging industry is shrinking U.S. and Canadian forests? It’s simple: Show them the data.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been monitoring the world’s forests at five- to 10-year intervals since 1946. The FAO’s 2020 global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) presents a comprehensive view of the world’s forests and the ways in which this important resource changed between 1990 and 2020. The data from 236 countries were collected using commonly agreed upon terms and definitions through a transparent, traceable reporting process and a well-established network of officially nominated national representatives. These include the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Canada.
Since 1990, there has been a net loss of 440 million acres of forests globally, an area larger than the entire state of Alaska. A net change in forest area is the sum of all forest losses (deforestation) and all forest gains (forest expansion) in a given period. FAO defines deforestation as the conversion of forest to other land uses, regardless of whether it is human-induced. FAO specifically excludes from its definition areas where trees have been removed by harvesting or logging because the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of sustainable forestry practices.
In contrast, despite deforestation by urban development, fire, insects and other causes, total forest area in the United States actually increased and forest area in Canada has remained stable since 1990. This is due in great part to sustainable forest management practices implemented by the North American paper and forest products industry, the highest percentage of certified forests (nearly 50%) in the world, and laws and regulations aimed at protecting forest resources.
The world has a total forest area of around 10 billion acres or 31% of total land area. More than half (54%) of these forests are in just five countries – the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States and China.
Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020 at 9.6 million acres, followed by South America, at 6.4 million acres.
While the net loss of 440 million acres of forest is troubling, there is some improvement in the global numbers. The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially over the period 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation (establishing forest where none existed previously) and the natural expansion of forests. The annual rate of net forest loss declined from 19.2 million acres in 1990–2000 to 12.8 million acres in 2000–2010 and 11.6 million acres in 2010–2020.
While an estimated 1.04 billion acres of forest have been lost worldwide to deforestation since 1990, the rate of deforestation also declined substantially. Between 2015 and 2020, the annual global rate of deforestation was estimated at around 25 million acres, down from 30 million acres between 2010 and 2015.
Globally, 54% of forests have long-term forest management plans. FAO defines forest management as the process of planning and implementing practices for the stewardship and use of forests targeted at specific environmental, economic, social and cultural objectives. Around 96% of forestlands in Europe has management plans, 64% in Asia, less than 25% in Africa and only 17% in South America.
U.S. and Canada Data
According to the 2020 FRA, the United States and Canada account for 8% and 9%, respectively, of the world’s total forest area.
In the U.S., total forest area increased by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, which averages out to the equivalent of around 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Canada’s total forest area remained relatively stable over the 30-year assessment period at approximately 857 million acres.
Approximately 59% of forestlands in North America has long-term forest management plans.
Help Spread the Word!
The North American print, paper and paper-based packaging industry plays a significant role in keeping U.S. and Canadian forests sustainable for future generations, and that’s something to be very proud of. One of the best ways to show that pride is by taking every available opportunity to bust the myth that the production of paper products destroys forests. For more facts to help you spread the word, check out our Two Sides fact sheet on Paper Production and Sustainable Forestry here.
A four-year project examining the results of 54 research studies with 170,000 people has concluded that print is vital for effective education.
The argument that reading on paper results in deeper comprehension and retention, concentration, vocabulary building and memory has been given immense weight by a groundbreaking new study.
The research examined the results of 54 studies with a total of over 170,000 participants from 19 countries, and found overwhelming evidence that comprehension of text is much stronger when reading from paper as opposed to a screen, particularly when the reader is under time pressure.
Concerned by the effect of increased time spent reading from screens in schools, Intergraf, the European federation for print and digital communication, has called upon policymakers and educational organizations at both national and European levels to ensure that print retains a significant role within education.
Better progress with print
Titled E-READ (Evolution of Reading in the Age of Digitisation), the study is a thorough project. Taking place over four years, it involved a network of almost 200 academics from all over Europe carrying out empirical research and debates about the effects of digitization on reading, especially for students and young people.
E-READ found that print readers have a better recall of the relationship between events and are able to reconstruct the plot of a text better than screen readers. It was also found that the advantage for print was greater under time constraints and that scrolling resulted in a significant disadvantage for digital reading.
With regard to education, the digital disadvantage during elementary school was found to be two-thirds of the yearly increase in reading comprehension, meaning that students potentially only progressed one-third as much as they would have done had they been reading on paper instead of on a screen.
Paper a technology of proven strengths
The fact that young people only learn one-third as well when reading from a digital device is clearly alarming, and so Intergraf has called for urgent action to be taken at all levels to “ensure that education in Europe is not degraded by the rapid and unsubstantiated introduction of screen reading in schools”.
The statement continues: “The development of students’ reading comprehension and critical thinking skills must be immediately safeguarded. A failure to act on the advice given in such studies creates an immediate risk that students’ learning outcomes will be negatively affected by the increasing tendency of schools in Europe to promote reading on digital devices without the necessary tools and strategies to ensure this does not cause a setback in reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Products that are proven to facilitate comprehension and critical thinking, such as paper books and other printed informational texts, already exist and should not be overlooked. Paper is a technology of proven strengths.”
Urgent action required
The results of the study and its recommendations entirely chimes with the work of Two Sides and the results of our recent study into people’s preference for print. The study, titled Busting The Myths, found that 68% of US consumers preferred to read books in print, with 65% preferring print for magazines and 53% for print newspapers.
There are many studies that show that reading in print improves the understanding of information, as well as memory and recall, which is essential for the education of people of all ages, but especially for young people. This study is a vital piece of work that proves that print has great advantages over digital for learning. Let’s hope the governments and institutions are listening.
For more information about the E-READ study, click here
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CHICAGO, IL (June 18, 2019). The results of a new survey commissioned by Two Sides reveal a telling insight into the public’s perceptions and attitudes towards print and paper.
Carried out by independent research company Toluna, consumers from across the U.S. (n= 2,094) and Canada (n= 1,044) were surveyed on environmental topics and preferences relating to paper and print.
It is clear from the survey that consumers are concerned about the environment, but there are some obvious gaps between consumer environmental perceptions and the real facts. This is particularly evident for questions related to forest management and recycling.
Out of 6 choices, Americans and Canadians rank urban development (first), construction (second) and pulp and paper (third) as having the most impact on global deforestation. Agriculture was ranked as having the least impact. However, agriculture is the top cause of global deforestation and, in most developed countries such as the U.S. and Canada, pulp and paper is not a cause of forest loss due to government regulations, sustainable forestry practices and forest certification programs.
When it comes to paper purchasing behavior, 70% of Americans and Canadians believe it is important to use paper products from sustainably managed forests. However, only 22-27% pay attention to forest certification labels when purchasing paper.
Out of 8 common materials and products, wood is considered the most environmentally friendly material, followed by paper and glass. Plastic and electronic devices are considered the least environmentally friendly.
When it comes to reading books, magazines and newspapers, print is preferred over digital.
Further to print being the preferred medium for reading, the digital push by many corporate service providers (ex: banks, telecoms, utilities, insurance) appears to be unpopular with many consumers. 82% of Canadians and 86% of Americans believe they should have the right to choose how they receive their communications (electronically or printed) and a further 66% (Canada) to 74% (U.S.) agree they should not be charged to receive paper statements.
“It is great to see that print as a communications medium is still preferred by many consumers. Clearly, people also recognize the sustainable features of paper when compared to many other products, especially electronics and plastic. However, there is a need to educate consumers on sustainable forestry practices, the real causes of deforestation and the great recycling story of print and paper,” states Phil Riebel, President of Two Sides North America.
TO OBTAIN A PRINT COPY OF THE REPORTS, CONTACT US AT INFO@TWOSIDESNA.ORG
Greenhouse Gas Emissions:
About Two Sides
Two Sides is an independent, nonprofit organization created to promote the responsible production, use, and sustainability of print and paper. Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. Our members span the entire print and paper value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes, and postal operators. For more information about Two Sides North America, please contact us at 1-855-896-7433 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Two Sides website at www.twosidesna.org and follow Two Sides on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) has released its 2018 Sustainability Report, which highlights the U.S. pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and wood products manufacturing industry’s contributions to sustainability across the value chain, including members’ progress toward achieving the Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability goals.
The full sustainability report, a video of highlights and other information are available at https://sustainability.afandpa.org.
Highlights from the 2018 AF&PA Sustainability Report include:
Explore the 2018 Paper and Productive Learning report from the Paper and Packaging Board to discover the many ways paper remains essential in today’s technology-fueled culture. Some of the interesting facts in the report include:
This recent article published in the May/June 2017 issue of PostPress Magazine is full of great facts about the environmental and social benefits of print and paper.
Following the introduction, Chapter 2 provides an overview of mitigation in the forest sector, addressing the handling of forests under UNFCCC. Chapters 3 to 5 focus on forest-based mitigation options – afforestation, reforestation, REDD+ and forest management – and Chapters 6 and 7 focus on wood-product based options – wood energy and green building and furnishing. The publication describes these activities in the context of UNFCCC rules, assessing their mitigation potential and economic attractiveness as well as opportunities and challenges for implementation. Chapter 8 discusses the different considerations involved in choosing the right mix of options as well as some of the instruments and means for implementation. Chapter 8 also highlights the co-benefits generated by forest-based mitigation and emphasizes that economic assessment of mitigation options needs to take these benefits into account. The concluding chapter assesses national commitments under UNFCCC involving forest mitigation and summarizes the challenges and opportunities.
A Two Sides Survey of U.S. Consumers conducted by Toluna Inc., June 2016
As the world of communication continually shifts towards digital, many consumers are being given a message that this is better for the environment.
Corporations and governments are increasingly driving communications online and either withdrawing paper-based documents such as bills and statements, charging consumers who wish to receive them, or making paper more difficult to access.
This survey provides an insight into how consumers view the above initiatives including the environmental impacts of digital versus paper-based communications and how they perceive and use paper in their daily lives.