Sustainable Cards Offers Alternative To Plastic Gift Cards

The gift card market is expected to exceed $140 billion in sales by 2016, according to CEB TowerGroup. Consumers who receive these cards are likely to discard the material after they use them, many times not even considering the amount of plastic (specifically PVC) used in the manufacturing process. This process leads to a production of unnecessary waste that ends up decaying in landfills.

Sustainable Cards is a wooden card manufacturer that was founded to provide a green alternative to plastic gift cards and hotel keys. The cards are designed to reduce the millions of tons of toxic and petroleum-based plastics sent to landfills each year. The biodegradable cards are made from Nordic Birch wood and produced with 30% less energy than their plastic counterparts. Depending on intended use, the cards can be customized with a magnetic strip, RFID chip, signature panel, scratch-off panel and barcode, allowing them to function exactly like a plastic card, including compatibility with most POS systems.

According to Johan Kaijser, Head of Sales at Sustainable Cards, the cards serve as a “call to action against plastic in a global perspective,” reaffirming the company’s goal to reduce plastics worldwide.


Sustainable Cards has partnered with card manufacturer CPI since 2008, when the companies provided wooden hotel keys to attendees of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The partnership has continued over the years, producing gift cards for retailers such as Whole Foods and Starbucks. Whole Foods has replaced all plastic gift cards with Sustainable wooden cards and paper-based cards. As part of Sustainable Cards’ latest campaign, Whole Foods has partnered with artist Jason Middlebrooks to design a special assortment of gift cards.

On average, a wooden card produced by Sustainable Cards costs 10 cents to 15 cents, making it a pricier option than the average plastic gift card — seven cents to 10 cents — when ordered in bulk.

“[The idea] has been a Eureka moment, but the path to develop a wood card that could measure up to a plastic card has definitely been a work in progress and something to continuously improve, both in terms of quality as well as in terms of cost,” Kaijser said. In addition to the environmental benefits the cards provide, Sustainable Cards is able to leverage its partnerships through sheer novelty. According to Kaijser, 95% of gift cards are presently manufactured using PVC, making it very easy for cards of other materials to stand out.

“Wood is something that most people can relate to,” Kaijser said. “It’s easy to understand that this is a part of our natural circle of life, and that it’s probably better than all these synthetics that we use with plastics. Most of the companies that we have been able to work with so far have come back and told us they want more of the wood grain, and by doing so, they have actually been able to show increased figures when it comes to the revenue of their gift card program.”

Sustainable Cards is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of global forests. The company was founded in 2006 by CEO Peo Akesson, and has offices located domestically in Erie, Colorado and abroad in Sweden. 

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