Can a Green Nation Forsake Its Business Cards?

google business card

I see ads all the time for green business cards at sites like Green Printer. What sets them apart?

Their little squares for doing business are printed on 100% recycled paper using soy and veggie zero-VOC inks with chemical-free plate processing and scuff-resistant, non-toxic aqueous coating. Some of the newbies are not even squares at all, but 3×3 disks for “making a unique impression.”


But what kind of impression are we making when we swap paper at a time we’re eschewing the over-foresting of our natural landscapes to produce the pulp, and envisioning a paper-less lifestyle? Perhaps trading information this way isn’t in the cards.

As the senior editor of an environmental blog, it can be awkward to produce a paper card for a new contact, despite the greener alternatives of jotting down my data on a piece of scratch paper or asking Daryl Hannah and Brad Pitt to program my number into their iPhones. I’m down for it, but are they?

Business cards have traditionally been the preferred networking tool of the working world, long before social networking via Facebook and LinkedIn became available. These sites function well for all the uses cards provide: Applying for jobs, hiring for jobs, passing along a name, planning a lunch or golf date, even tossing your name into a hat for winning stuff.


The question remains: Have these habit-forming cards become obsolete in the electronic age? According to TechCrunch, they should die once and for all. It’s just a matter of improving the handset alternative.

Crunch contributor Jason Kincaid finds, “The cell phone market could easily put business cards out of their misery, but instead of conforming to a single standard for contact exchange, handset manufacturers offer proprietary solutions or none at all.”

Examples he cites include apps like Friendbook, an iPhone “handshake”  connector from Tapulous, and rmbrME (“remember me”), a service launched last spring that costs 50 cents every time you wanted to add a new contact. A poor response to the model has led the company’s founder Gabe Zichermann to offer a premium service in the future.

Still, an etiquette column in the Newbury Port News takes the opposing view, arguing traditional cards are not just pieces of paper, but an integral part of doing business that can never be replaced.

To support this claim, columnist Judy Bowman points to the Japanese example. In Japanese, the business card, or “makke,” literally translated means “my face,” and represents one’s life.

“The business card you receive from someone speaks volumes about them and the firm they represent,” Bowman says.


Bowman goes further to describe the elaborate dance of the Japanese business card exchange, apparently as dramatic as the tea ceremony: “Our Japanese friends suggest an almost ritualistic way to present and receive business cards. Present the printed side up with both hands, a thumb and forefinger carefully holding each top corner. Respectfully hand the card forward, almost with a bow-like gesture, as a show of respect. This is the most formal way to present a business card.”

The Japanese – who are among the world’s most enthusiastic users and makers of electronics – are clinging to swapping cards almost as a cultural meme, a meme that shows they value tradition at a time of tremendous advances in global communication. But that doesn’t convince me to have a set engraved any time soon. After all, the Japanese are also still slaughtering whales.

Images: Jeff McNeil, Green Printer, TechCrunch, Japan Print

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.