Thank You Notes Via Email? Are They Eco-Proper?

hand & bookish in north park

Updated:  12/11/2011

Life is full of dilemmas where you struggle to do the right thing. I am sure all of you have been in this situation where if you do one thing or the other, there is a consequence to your choice. Kind of like a no-win situation.  Here is mine at the moment. Can I send email thank you notes for gifts my son will be receiving for his upcoming bar mitzvah?

Why the Email Thank You Note Problem?

Let me back track a minute and give you the whole issue.  The thank you notes are only part of the issue.

My son is being bar mitzvahed in a couple of weeks. I am trying to green this event as much as possible. In doing so, I had to look at my carbon footprint.

My first hurdle was the invitations.  I considered the amount of paper that would  be used to create a one of a kind invitation that would end up in the trash.  In each invitation, there were separate pieces of paper for the response, directions, and separate party cards. I am just getting started how far reaching impact of these invitations.

Then I thought about all the fuel used to truck those invitations across the country and then some to truck the responses back to me (which of course never make it back to me by the due date.)

Given these factors, I could not bring myself to do the paper route.  I decided to create an invitation website that was fun and creative to keep me out of the dog house for not sending out formal invitations. I even became a celeb since people remarked how much they liked the website.

Are you starting to get the picture of where I am going here with the thank you notes?

Went Green on the Invitations?  How Do I handle the Thank You Notes?

Whew! I crossed that invitation bridge with very little repercussions from older relatives and friends.  So, now my son is receiving gifts from those guests who can not attend.  Here comes that darn Earth dilemma again.

When you receive gifts, what are you suppose to do? Yes, I see Emily Post’s hand waving in the background to answer the question. I’ll call on her since she is definitely the maven on manners. She says,

“All gifts should be acknowledged with a note, unless the goodies were opened in front of the giver—then you have the chance to thank them in person. An important exception: many of an older generation expect a hand-written note. Providing them with one is an appropriate gesture of respect and consideration.”1

But, Carbon Footprint vs  Etiquette?

What about the trees, chemicals, and fuel used to say “thank you.” How do I reconcile being a Mother Earth lover and doing the right thing? Is emailing a thank-you on a designed card via a website like Pingg proper?  Wouldn’t it be tasteful, cute, and fun?

Or rather, is emailing thank-you’s just too cold and impersonal even if done in the name of my fearless leader, Ed Begley, Jr.?

Some people would say the heck with it. Do what you think is right in your heart.

Although my mother is no longer here with me, she taught me that manners are very important. She even went so far as to tell me that  if I could not attend a function, I should always send a gift. Doing the right thing was very important to her.  Most important, you always sent a thank-you note for a gift.

In my mother’s world, class and manners were the same. She even had a copy of Emily Post’s book.  I kept her book to remind me of what she taught me.

Seeking Guidance through Social Media.  What Do my Peeps Have to Say?

I posed the question with to my  Twitter followers hoping they would give me some guidance. (Twitter is like the new instant messaging for adults. My feed of my posts are on Twitter so people can follow what I write about along with any inane comment I want to make including if I am going to the bathroom.) Unfortunately, no answers from the followers.

I even did some “googling” to see if others have asked this question and found the following:

On Ask Yahoo, a reader posed the following question:  “When is it appropriate to send a thank-you note via email rather than mail?”

The staff replied in short:

“The most formal of thank-you notes is probably the wedding-gift thank you. These notes are traditionally handwritten on formal stationary cards. This personalized “thank you” is absolutely required of brides and grooms because it shows appreciation and sincerity. Emails (and phone calls, for that matter) will seem far too hasty, and they show none of the thought and care that goes into a handwritten note.”

What Does Ophra Think?

What does Ophra think? (Yes, we are tight.  So, I posed the question to her.  She referred me to her website.) On, in the Relationship section, the etiquette columnists weighed in:

“It also depends on whom you’re sending it to. If you have a person who lives on the Internet, you can get a thank you card that that is animated and dances and does all kinds of fabulous things. If that person would love to get an e-mail thank you, that’s the person you send it to. Your momma doesn’t want that. She wants appreciation and handwritten notes!”

“Kim Izzo, etiquette columnist, says,

“It’s making the effort. People really appreciate getting mail that’s not a bill, for one thing, and just taking that extra bit of time to write a thank you note really means everything….

Harriette Cole, syndicated columnist:

“It also depends on whom you’re sending it to. If you have a person who lives on the Internet, you can get a thank you card that that is animated and dances and does all kinds of fabulous things. If that person would love to get an e-mail thank you, that’s the person you send it to. Your momma doesn’t want that. She wants appreciation and handwritten notes!”2

Now, someone is kind of on my side. What about the green part, ladies and gentlemen?Should my son save the world like spider man by sending out cute emailed thank-you’s or go the paper and pen route with Emily sitting beside him saying, “dear, make sure you address it properly?”

Join the Conversation:

  • Do you only send written thank you notes or have you sent email ones as well?
  • What do you think the rules are on sending email versus written thank you note?
  • Do certain occasions warrant only written thank you notes?

PS. I hope you got my joke with the photo by Susan Williams. Get it? Hand written thank-you’s?  I know my sister is laughing.

Update:  12/11/2011:  I ended up using seeded paper thank you notes for son #3’s bar mitzvah.  However, for son #4, I opted to send out Pingg email thank you notes to the kids and computer generated thank you notes on hemp paper from Greenfield Papers for the adults.

When I posed the question to my friends about sending them a email thank you note, I was emphatically told I must send personal hand written thank you note.  Sheeesh.  You can’t win.


1Etiquette Everyday ~ Communications. Being Thankful: A Thank-You Note Q&A.”Emily Post Institute (accessed August 7, 2008.)

Thank you Note Etiquette”, Relationships (assessed August 7, 2008).

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  1. 1


    Thanks for asking my opinion! It’s wonderful to hear you’ve made such an effort to keep the Bar-Mitzvah as green as possible. As for thank-you notes, I’m a big traditionalist above all else, and if it was me, I’d send a snail mail thank you over an email any day. Finding eco-friendly notecards is a lot easier these days, and it fits in with the tradition of becoming an adult and stepping up responsibility, etc. It’s a true right of passage!

    I hope this helps in your decision, and Mazel Tov!


    Stefanis last blog post..Celebrate Breastfeeding Awareness Month!

  2. 2


    i think im going with harriette coles opinion on this, it should come down to whether an email/snail mail is appropriate to the person you are sending the thank you note to… and oh yeah, i got the joke with the photo.. :)

  3. 4

    H M says

    good question…I look forward to hearing more opinions on this…hopefully cross-generational. You need to do what will allow you to sleep at night; however, realize that email thank yous may offend people, something i know you would never mean to do. That being said, why not be creative with a snail mail thank you such as one that has seeds embedded in it where you just “plant” the entire thank you? If you end up going snail mail, feel good knowing you lessened your global impact with the invite and card and equally important, advertised awareness!

  4. 5

    Green Talk says

    HM, I would be curious about what people that in their 60s and 70s would have to say about which way to go snail mail or email. You must have read my mind since I am looking into the seeded wildflower option. Anna

  5. 6

    Kathy G says

    I do think it depends on your audience, but typically the older generation is offended by email thank-yous. In the best of both worlds, you can handwrite on eco-friendly paper to your elders, and email to your peers and the younger generation. And I didn’t get the joke about the hand until you explained it – pretty funny!! You have manners AND a sense of humor!

  6. 7


    Oh I work so hard at being green, but I love getting mail. I have to side with the good old hand written letter. I think it is important to put pen to paper and write the occasional personal missive, and thank you cards are the perfect occasion. 100% recycled, with high post consumer content and locally printed of course.

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