Ditch Your Business Cards for the Sake of the Planet

When I first started looking for jobs as a senior in college, I had a batch of business cards printed. I think I was getting a lot of Vistaprint advertisements while streaming music on Pandora, and it seemed like the right thing to do—design cute and colorful cards and distribute them to anyone who might be a promising connection.

But it was 2013—most job hunting and connections were being made over the internet. Guess what. I still have that stack of business cards, minus only a few, and touting an old phone number I don’t even remember anymore.

The thing is, I don’t think I’ll reorder. And I’m not alone. People are paying more and more attention to their contributions to the country’s landfills—cutting back on paper to-go cups at the coffee shop, and even dumpster diving to take food out of the waste stream. The least I can do is avoid creating unnecessary waste by purchasing business cards that will likely go unused because of technology that can help us collect and store contact information.

(Yes, business cards can be recycled. But, even so, a lot of resources were already used to create them, according to Recycle Nation.)

If you want to reduce your business card footprint, what are some viable alternatives?

1. Snap a pic

Business Cards pbs rewire
Take photos of the business cards you collect to cut down on clutter in your life.

I have a coworker who does a lot of networking in her job. Instead of collecting business cards that would just become desk clutter (or end up in the recycling bin once she’s entered the information into her contacts list), she snaps a pic of each one with her phone and hands them right back.

If you’re at a conference where you’re meeting a lot of people at different events in rapid succession, you might want to take the time after each one to organize the photos into an album on your phone and label it with the name of the event. Otherwise, enter the contact information from the pics into your email or phone contacts list when you have time. Bonus: If you’re traveling for work, you won’t have to worry about misplacing an important card in the shuffle.

2. Rely on apps

But all that photo snapping doesn’t help you transmit your own information paperlessly. For that, you can turn to apps like Wantedly People, CamCard or Haystack—all three allow you to create a digital business card that can be shared with others.

Haystack‘s entire focus is to eliminate the need for paper business cards. You can create a card for free on the Haystack website and customize it in the app. Then share your digital card via QR code, email or text with anyone you’d like to connect with.

Business Cards pbs rewire
A networking event with nary a business card in sight.

Wantedly People allows you to share your digital card via email and a few other ways. CamCard provides you with a QR code that another CamCard user can scan to get your info. The app will scan your surroundings for others who are using the same program. Unfortunately, that method only allows you to trade digital cards with people who have the same app as you.

If you don’t want to deal with apps, you could design one card to print off on sturdy paper and ask connections to snap a photo of that rather than handing out stacks of paper business cards.

When it comes to collecting others’ contact information, Wantedly People lets you capture batches of up to 10 cards at once and automatically imports the information from them to a contact list. It also stores an image of the card just in case. The technology is actually pretty cool. CamCard is better for scanning one card at a time, though it can do batches, too. Haystack will import information from scanned cards into your existing email lists.

All three apps are interesting tools to look into and play around with before your next big networking event.

3. Go recycled

If you’re in an industry where the business card is still king, consider printing your cards on recycled paper. (If you get cards through your workplace, find out what kind of paper they’re printed on. Maybe your company would be willing to consider getting them printed on recycled material instead.) There are a bunch of companies that are trying to cut down on the impact of printing on paper by using recycled materials. Here are a couple standouts:

MOO: This hip business card company offers cards printed on 100 percent cotton material made from recycled T-shirt scraps taken from the fashion industry waste stream.

Green Printer: This company’s whole thing is environmentally aware printing. One of the things they print are business cards. Handy little icons tell you how many resources you’re saving by printing on recycled paper.

Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.