It's in the Cards: Invitations, Programs, Placecards and Bentschers

The rabbis derived the concept of bal tashchit/not wasting from the Torah’s injunction not to destroy trees in wartime. You can bring the Jewish teaching not to harm trees to your own celebration by choosing environmentally responsible papers for invitations, programs, bentschers, and more ...

First, reduce the paper needed for your invitation, program, bentschers/prayer and song books, or thank-you notes. For example, in the invitation, in place of a paper insert with directions or hotel information, print a website url where guests can find more information online. Rather than enclosing an envelope and reply card, you can direct guests to RSVP by email or phone.

A postcard would eliminate the paper envelope; an email could eliminate paper invitations entirely! After you’ve reduced how much paper you plan to use for your celebration as much as possible, the savings may make it easier to afford recycled, greener papers for your remaining paper needs.

Choosing Papers

Look for recycled papers:
Consider recycled paper with the highest possible percentage post-consumer recycled content. “Virgin” paper doesn’t just hasten the destruction of forests, it is also incredibly water- and energy-intensive compared to the production of recycled paper. Look for papers with 30% or more post-consumer recycled content. For vendors of recycled paper invitations, visit Green America’s Green Business Network™,

Look for tree-free papers:
Paper doesn’t have to be made from trees, or even from recycled paper which was itself made from trees. Paper can also be made from fast-growing renewable crops like kenaf, sugar cane, hemp, and flax, and from agricultural residue like bagasse and wheat straw. Find vendors of tree-free paper invitations in Green America's
Green Business Network™,

Look for FSC-certified virgin papers:
After maximizing the amount of post-consumer recycled paper component, make sure that any and all virgin fiber in the paper is Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC), Buying FSC certified paper supports environmentally responsible, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. (Be careful not to confuse FSC with “SFI,” which is widely regarded in the environmental community as a timber industry marketing effort that doesn’t protect forests.)

Look for paper from Fair Trade Federation members:
Consider the many Fair Trade sources of paper. Several Fair Trade cooperatives make beautiful paper while supporting artisans, their families, and their communities. Find vendors of Fair Trade papers through the Fair Trade Federation:, Find Products: Cards/Stationery.

Look for paper that is unbleached and chlorine-free:
Regardless of its recycled content or other characteristics, look for paper that is unbleached or processed chlorine-free. The use of chlorine in bleaching paper produces dioxin, a toxin linked to birth defects.
Look for green printers:
Look for printers that use less-toxic inks and pollution-capturing devices. Look for a printer which uses non-toxic vegetable-based inks and which captures most of its pollution in Co-op America's National Green Pages™,

Look for printers where workers have a voice on the job:
Consider using a union, eco-friendly print shop for your printing needs. These collectives support the printers’ union and offer the chance for you to use the union label on your printed material, demonstrating your support for the labor movement. In Northern California, there is Ink Works Press,, (510.845.7111), based in Berkeley, and in Southern California, there is Continental Colorcraft,, based in Monterey Park.

Share your green and just paper choices

Look for ways to let your guests know that you made green paper choices. Consider including a statement on your invitation or program such as: “Printed on 80% post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based inks, and processed chlorine-free.” If you choose a union print shop, they will be happy to include a small union “bug” like this one at the bottom of your print job.

Place Cards
You can look for recycled paper for place cards, or substitute some other object that guests can take with them to their seats. One couple quoted in the Washington Post used pressed magnolia leaves with handwritten names as the “place cards” for their wedding reception.

If you are planning to print bentschers/prayer and song booklets for your guests, inquire about printing the booklets on paper with the green characteristics outlined above. Or, ask if you can procure environmentally preferable paper yourself and have the printer use it.

“When you besiege a town ... you are not to bring ruin (lo tashchit) to any trees …”
--Devarim/Deut. 20: 19-20

“And not only [does bal tashchit apply] to trees; rather, anyone who destroys dishes, or tears clothes, or demolishes a building, or stops up a spring, or destroys food in anger — [that person] transgresses the law of bal tashchit.”
--Rambam/Maimonides, Mishnah Torah Melakhim 6:10
“With the help of Cherish, a store in San Francisco, we printed our programs on paper that was made of flower seeds and recycled materials. After the wedding, we encouraged our guests to plant the programs in their home gardens.” – Karen Lichtenberg Scher, San Francisco
Her resource:

“We used a great invitation company that printed on recycled paper and designed the invitation to be able to fold into itself, omitting the need for an envelope. They were friendly, green, affordable, and made beautiful invitations! We sent our Save the Dates over email - so much better for the environment, and so much less hassle!” – Jaime and Tim Barry, Mar Vista
Their resource:

"For the simchat ben for our son, it was important to us that we honor him by making choices for the celebration that help ensure that the planet he grows up to inherit is just as beautiful and resource rich as the one we grew up in. To that end, we did an electronic invitation, printed the ceremony program on tree-free paper made from hemp and kenaf, and asked our caterer to use real dishes, table-cloths and napkins instead of paper disposables.” – Rachel Gold & Josh Miller, Berkeley

Have suggestions? Real-life stories using these or other ideas? Please share them with us for future versions of the Guide!