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Follow my au naturel lead...

It's birthday season at GreenlifeGP HQ and that means time for my annual quest to scour York for the best selection of cards that fit the exacting criteria of my junior editors. Unfortunately I have a rather sizeable plastic radar these days, sigh, though whilst that makes the shopping trip more complicated, I do love a challenge. Plus it means exploring more shops that I might have done pre-Plasticgeddon. So whether you prefer to browse on the hoof, or look online, read on to see what juicy options I've found for you, friends!

Let's start with walk-in shops. My go-to has long been Sainsbury's, with a large selection of cards sitting there in their naked paperyness. Market research for this article involved looking for a range of categories: age-specific, funny, charming, wistful, and of course, the ones I seem to gravitate giggling towards: rude (though not for my junior eds, I hasten to add, ahem). But, as many have done before me, there's a 100% certainty I'll forget to remove the price label on the back. I think this is the only downside of not having a slippery sheath on the outside of the card. Still, gone are the days when you could buy a card for mere pence, therefore a £2.50 statement on the back (why do we always turn them over?!) could be seen as a bold-as-balls statement of "this was more than £1 therefore it's officially posh. Well done me!".

Well there are other options. Paperchase is a really bright and cheery store that you can get totally lost in, and end up emerging on the rough side of £20 with a pile of magazine boxes, small stocking fillers that won't be required for many months, and enough notebooks stacked up to replace a mini step-ladder. And try your local Post Office! My surgery is round the corner from Bishopthorpe PO, which has a brilliant selection of plastic-free cards, and with the counter and stamps just an arm's reach away, it's a pretty convenient way to do correspondence. And therefore there's really no excuse for me being late with anyone's birthdays. Ooops!

I've mentioned Oxfam Unwrapped before, but they really deserve another mention here as they do both present and card in one feel-good package. Usually these cost £5 or more, and your money goes towards e.g. medicines, clean water, shelter or education for families in less developed countries. Pop into one of their branches or have a look at their website. But have some tissues handy, yes? And finally try your local zero waste shop. Locally we have Bishy Weigh (Bishopthorpe Road) and The Little Green Weigh (Clifton Moor), both of which sell lovely hand made cards, some with exciting seeds embedded into them! And look out for The Little Green Weigh on 'Local Heroes' very soon...

Online obsessive? Then try &Keep, which sells a heart-warming range of eco-friendly loveliness, from paper tape to bee-themed wrapping paper. In fact I briefly considered giving up my job to see if I could remould my future in sustainable stationary, but haha - don't worry Andrea (my lovely and very tolerant practice manager). Or how about The Good Lyfe? They sell homeware items too, and their cards are bold and colourful. Have you any other suggestions? I would love to hear these and give them even more publicity.

And don't forget postcards. These are naturally plastic free, and you can get yourself a sheaf of envelopes, and hey presto - instant plastic-free cards! So next time you visit a coastal town or tourist attraction, stock up in the gift shop as you're also supporting a small business or a National Trust or English Heritage-ish place.

So it's time for me to persuade you that there's a healthcare angle here. Well how's this: do you ever send cards at times other than national holidays or birthdays? Does there need to be an occasion? How many of us have changed jobs or moved house recently? Perhaps there aren't so many other milestones to celebrate in a year when we've not been able to get out and do much, but is there someone you could send a little card to to tell them how awesome they are? Think of the joy that would bring! And joy is all good as far as this doctor is concerned. Happiness helps keep us motivated, confident, and helps us to be more productive at work. So anything that props up dopamine levels (happy hormones) is a green light for mental and physical wellbeing. It's the opposite of a vicious circle; a luscious square, perhaps?! Ah - well I've just been reliably informed it's "virtuous circle"?!

Everyone needs help to stay happy. In our yearly appraisals as doctors, we have a section called 'compliments' but it never seems to get as much air time as 'complaints', which is of course draining emotionally and often brings back stressful memories. Of course we strive to learn from complaints, in order to improve how we work and ensure any mistakes don't recur. But, we're human, and we need our hardworking brains to be pampered as well as critiqued, and we like to be told when we've done something well. That's why we LOVE cards from patients saying 'thank you'. They go on a noticeboard in Reception and we pore over them as though searching competitively for a hidden clue, looking hopefully for our individual names. And imagine if a work colleague found a card on their desk wishing them a happy weekend, or with a flapjack recipe inside that you know they enjoy? Or do you ever leave out a card for your postman or milkman? Or is there an older person living alone on your street who might really appreciate a little written "Hello there"?

So my message to you, friends, is this: try and ditch the plastic around cards next time you shop. Buy some postcards as well! Send a card to someone you care about. For a good reason or absolutely no reason. At all. And if you've ever sent your doctor a 'thank you', then thank you!

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