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How green are MOO business cards?

Exploring sustainable business card options for your sustainable biz.

MOO is a popular choice for printing business cards. Heck, I printed my cards on their recycled cotton stock. But, how green are MOO business cards, actually? I did a deep dive into their paper stocks to find out! This included scouring MOO’s website, emailing MOO customer service, and researching the Mohawk papers MOO uses.

MOO’s paper stock options

MOO offers four different paper stocks for business cards: original, cotton, super, and luxe. Original is their least expensive option, cotton and super are in the middle, and luxe is their most expensive. Additionally, they offer a few other finish options. Design options for their super stock include gold foil, silver foil, spot gloss, and raised spot gloss. These options are inherently detrimental to the environment, but, more on that later. Aside from their super stock, MOO offers the option to add letterpress (a great green graphic design wow-factor) on their luxe cards.

So, we have paper options at a range of pricing. We have additional finishes we can add to each paper. But, what about the paper itself? This was surprisingly tricky to find information on. The cotton and luxe cards are printed on stock from Mohawk. However, the original and super cards are not linked to a paper company on MOO’s site. For those stocks, I reached out to customer service. The information they provided greatly helped my mission to find out how green MOO business cards could be.

MOO original business cards

If I was labeled as a single-use plastic, which is what I am, would you still want me?

The information customer service provided on the original business cards was wild. I went into this thinking “okay, original business cards being the cheapest option probably aren’t going to be the greenest but, they’re probably an okay option.” Boy was I wrong.

In reply to my questions, MOO began their answer by hyping up some of their papers and then dropped this bombshell towards the end, “As for the Original and Super paper stocks, these are not considered recyclable due to the laminates.” I was shocked! MOO is providing paper stocks that aren’t recyclable and aren’t telling anyone about it publicly on their website.

This is such important information. Just like how you want to know what’s in your food so you know what you’re putting into your body, you should have a right to know what’s in the materials you purchase so you know what you’re putting into the environment.

Looking back at MOO’s business card sample pack, it makes sense they have a laminate because of their plastic feel. But, not everyone orders a sample pack to decide on paper stock. So, anyone who orders the original cards because they’re the cheapest option isn’t going to necessarily know about the laminate. Because of this, they aren’t going to know they are putting more single-use plastics into this world.

MOO cotton business cards

The most green of MOO business cards.

The disappointment from their original cards thankfully does not apply to the MOO cotton cards. This paper stock is the greenest of the MOO business cards. First, it’s not made from trees, it’s made from cotton. Second, the cotton comes from t-shirt scraps that would otherwise have been wasted. Third, the paper is acid-free and 100% recycled. And, lastly, it can be recycled with the rest of your normal paper. So, MOO’s cotton business cards already have 4 positives over the original paper stock! And, they have a beautiful texture and a matte finish. They’re absolutely wonderful!

The benefits don’t end there, though. Mohawk produces this paper using wind energy, which is a huge plus. It is also Green-e Certified and FSC Certified. Read more about this paper line here or view the paper specs here.

MOO super business cards

Super as in…super damaging to the planet.

If your heart was as broken as mine about the MOO original business cards, pour yourself a drink before this section because there’s no good news here. As previously stated, the super cards are not recyclable due to the laminate on the paper. The laminate gives these cards a luxurious, waterproof, and tear-proof finish. This is widely known and referred to as “soft-touch.”

The laminate on soft-touch cards is made of plastic. This is what provides the feel and benefits that make them desirable to so many. While it’s a huge issue that these are widely created and used, that’s not the only problem. There is no statement to tell potential customers that these are not recyclable or even that they contain plastic. This is not acceptable.

A simple statement would stop so many from purchasing soft touch. How many people would purchase these if there was a big disclaimer saying “I am not recyclable, I am a single-use plastic,” next to them? I’m guessing not many. And that’s why there is no disclaimer. It seems big companies don’t care about doing what’s right, they care about their bottom line. It’s the capitalist society we live in. It doesn’t matter how they exploit the planet, its resources, or its people to make a profit. But, that must change if we want this planet to continue to be inhabitable for generations to come.

Optional finishes for super cards

Plastic soft touch with plastic spot coating, what more could you want (to never see again)?

If the plastic soft-touch laminate wasn’t creating enough damage to the environment, great news! The foils and spot coatings will increase this damage! (That was sarcasm…you got that, right?)

Foils contain heavy metals and toxins. Adding a foil also renders a paper unrecyclable. So, a piece of paper with a foil accent will end up in a landfill. Once there, it will break down and the toxins from the foil will leak into groundwater and soil. This, in turn, damages people’s lives and health. Is this worth it for a pretty accent? I think not.

The spot coatings, like the soft-touch laminate, contain plastic. The soft-touch finish already makes a business card a single-use plastic but, these coatings would do the same even if used independently from the soft touch. And, this is not true for just MOO business cards, this is true no matter where you produce them (learn more on my eco-standards page).

There are zero redeeming qualities to the super business cards. If super cards were the only option, my answer to the question of, “how green are MOO business cards?” would be not in the slightest. So, avoid MOO super business cards at all costs. They’re not worth the impact on the planet.

MOO luxe business cards

Luxurious, matte finish with a pop of color.

Unlike the super business cards, the luxe cards are middle-of-the-road when it comes to environmental impact. They are made using Mohawk’s Superfine Paper. This paper is produced using wind energy, is FSC Certified, and is Green-e certified. So, while the paper is not made from recycled material, they are doing everything else as green as possible in their production process.

A point of concern for these cards, though, was the fact that paper is glued together to get a colorful stripe in the middle. But, MOO customer service informed me that since “the cards do not have an excessive amount of glue, they are considered recyclable.” Which is great news! MOO, however, was not able to provide me any more specifics on the glue.

While these cards are created with ethically sourced paper and can be recycled, it is worth noting they use much more paper than any other MOO business card. These are thick cards and a lot of the paper is stuck in the middle. So, while they have a lot of things going right, these are still not the greenest MOO business cards and cotton would be a better option.

MOO’s ink and printing processes

We’ve covered MOO’s paper, but what about their ink and printing processes? These, while less of an impact than the paper choice, are still important to consider. MOO prints business cards using polymer-based inks. These inks are much less eco-friendly than their soy- and vegetable-based ink counterparts. However, the ink does get removed in the deinking process when recycled.

So, you still want to use MOO?

Now that we’ve covered how green MOO business cards are, you have a choice to make. It’s not realistic to get everyone to boycott MOO (although, I will no longer be using them for my business cards or any other materials). They are a convenient, low-cost option even if not the most sustainable or ethical (remember, a local printer would be much better for a variety of reasons). If you do decide to use MOO, though, please take your environmental impact into consideration. Choosing the original or super business cards will create single-use plastic. But, if you choose a cotton or luxe card, the planet will thank you.

Email transcripts

I’m all about being transparent in my research. So, below you will find the emails that I exchanged with MOO customer service.

AMY | INITIAL MESSAGE | JUN 24, 2020 | 10:05 PM GMT+1

Hello! I was looking for information on your paper stocks for business cards. I’ve attached a file as an example for what I’m looking for – this info is from Mohawk on the Super Fine paper. I’m an eco-conscious graphic designer and I recommend Moo to my clients for business cards (I ordered my business cards on the cotton stock and I love them!) and I want to be as upfront as possible to them on the potential environmental impacts of paper. I feel as if it’s my duty as a designer to walk them through that aspect because a lot of graphic design does impact our environment and it’s something we need to be aware of.

I was looking for information on your Original, Super (both glossy and the soft-touch if they’re different stocks), and Cotton business card papers. Basically, I’m looking for if they’re chlorine-free, sustainably sourced, if green energy is used to create them, and if they have any post-consumer recycled paper contents.

If you have this info you can send over, it would be much appreciated! Thank you!

Attachment(s) mohawk-info.PNG

MOO | REPLY | JUN 25, 2020 | 11:10 PM GMT+1

Dear Amy,

Thank you for getting in touch with the MOO team.

MOO prints nearly all of our products (except Letterhead) with polymer-based inks. We aren’t able to offer soy or vegetable inks at this time I’m afraid.

While we are not an FSC certified printer, a number of our paper options have eco credentials such as being elemental chlorine-free and supporting sustainable forestry. There’s also our Cotton paper for Business Cards and Square Business Cards, which is made from recycled t-shirt scraps. You can check them out here:

MOO’s Cotton paper is acid-free, 100% recycled, pre-consumer waste, and is made entirely of white cotton T-shirt offcuts. Which is the leftover when a T-shirt pattern is cut from a roll of fabric, something that would otherwise be wasted.

We take the offcuts from U. S. T-shirt manufacturers, all from cotton grown in America. These offcuts are then turned into pulp which Mohawk processes into a strong flexible, gorgeous paper.

While our ink is isn’t biodegradable, our Cotton Business Cards can be recycled following a process called de-inking, which removed the ink from the paper’s fibers – most recycling centers do this.

As for the Original and Super paper stocks, these are not considered recyclable due to the laminates.

I hope this is helpful and please feel free to contact me with any additional questions!

Best regards, [Name or replier]

AMY | REPLY | JUN 26, 2020 | 1:43 PM GMT+1

Thank you for the info! I did think of one other question. For the Luxe business cards, I see that they are made from Mohawk Superfine paper, but was wondering how the cards themselves are created to get the color seam. Are these glued together? And if so, what kind of glue and are these cards able to be recycled?

Amy Greenwald

MOO | REPLY | JUN 26, 2020 | 10:04 PM GMT+1

Hi Amy,

Thank you for your reply!

The Luxe cards do have an adhesive that connects the front and the back of the card with the colored seam. I’m afraid that this adhesive is proprietary, however, as the cards do not have an excessive amount of glue, they are considered recyclable.

I hope this information is helpful and please let me know if you have any further questions!

Best regards,
[Name or replier]

NOTE: All of this info was gathered in June of 2020. Things may have changed since then so it’s never a bad idea to reach out to MOO yourself!

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