Dominic Smith ⇓

qsl cards: an environmental perspective

This page is archived. It was last modified in September 2005 and it will probably not be updated.

qsl cards: an environmental perspective

Are you about to send me a QSL Card? Stop. Do you really need to and do I really need it?

If you send me a QSL card for an expedition I am QSL manager for, your card will probably go through the bureau or postal mail system. Eventually, it will come through my letter box. I will answer it but then what happens? It goes in the bin (a recycling bin admittedly, but it is still considered 'waste'). Surprised? Well, I only have space to keep cards which are actually for contacts with me.

consider the waste of resources

Every year, hundreds of acres of forest are chopped down to provide paper. Some are so-called 'managed forests' but other card is made from rainforest wood. The article about Asia Pulp and Paper on the Friends of the Earth website provides more information.

We need trees to replace the carbon dioxide with which we pollute our atmosphere and to stop erosion. Many of the world's poorer people also live off the land around these forests, until the lumberjacks come.

Your QSL card is the remains of some of these trees.

there are other ways

For a start, I accept electronic requests for QSL cards (but not eQSLs due to the autentication issues surrounding that system). If you are reading this, the likelihood is that you have email access. So please use it and request a bureau card from me that way. If you need to send a card direct, please put as many contacts as possible on your card. This will also reduce your mail costs. Above all, if the card is for a managed callsign, think:

  • Do you need the card for an award? If not, why are you sending it? If your answer has anything to do with 'the final courtesy of a QSO...', ask yourself whether this is really appropriate in the twenty-first century for environmentally-conscious people.
  • Do you only need this card for DXCC? DXCC credits are available for all my logs electronically via Logbook of the World. If our contact isn't in there, you'd better email me anyway, to find out why.
  • Do you need this card for an award program not supported by LoTW? Send me your request via email or my online log search if you can. I'll put a real card in the bureau for you but at least we'll have saved the card flowing one-way. Meanwhile, pressure your award body to accept electronic credits. (Except IOTA, because I'm involved in a project which will eventually see LoTW credits accepted for IOTA.)
  • If I want a card from you for my own callsign, I'll send you a request for a card by email if you advertise that you are willing to accept that, otherwise I'll send you a real one.

If all radio amateurs in the world did this, the total amount of card used would be significantly reduced, the bureau would function faster because there would be fewer unnecessary cards, and your award applications would be quicker because putting a log online is a lot quicker than dealing with sticky labels and postage stamps.

Sure, some people actually do like to collect QSL cards as souvenirs of the QSO. I have no problem with that as such. But please check with the recipient while you're speaking to him/her on-air that they really do want the card, before you write it out.

i wish...

I would hope that by 2015, I would be able to say that I will no longer send any paper cards to amateurs living in the richest countries by GDP per capita. Obviously I wouldn't do that unless I felt it feasible nearer the time but it's a goal I'd like to aim for. I'm not against QSL cards per se, but I feel they are overused by many radio amateurs and are no longer appropriate.

a final thought for people who insist on qsl-ling 100%

How many people receive your card? Do you check for QSL managers or bureau membership for every person you contact before you send the card? How many times has your card been wanted as a souvenir and how many times has it been binned? How many man-hours has getting your cards through the international bureau system taken and is this worth it for the propotion of cards that are really wanted and kept by their recipients?

This article represents only my personal opinions, but I would be delighted to hear some feedback. I have a feeling many of these comments will be contentious, but it's a debate that is long overdue. In the interests of balance, if you are opposed to these thoughts, I'm happy to put your ideas on this page too (though I reserve the right to edit them).

[x] Me

I am Dominic Smith and this is my personal website.
I am a radio amateur, Agile project manager and website developer living in Cambridge.   More about me »