Tree mail is the new e-mail

WITH people zapping messages to each other at the touch of a button, this doesn't look like the very latest technology – but this is tree-mail.These postcards from the hedge can be sent by through the post for the cost of a normal stamp and are environmentally-friendly because they can be used again and again .

WITH people zapping messages to each other at the touch of a button, this doesn't look like the very latest technology - but this is tree-mail.

These postcards from the hedge can be sent by through the post for the cost of a normal stamp and are environmentally-friendly because they can be used again and again . . . and again.

The wooden postcards are a new idea developed by Suffolk artist Jason Gathorne-Hardy and a team of students who receive specialist educational training at Otley College.

The postcards are an innovate business venture by the college's Busy Bees Enterprise programme and students are hoping they will take off in a big way.

Mr Gathorne-Hardy said the postcards were made from oak wood off-cuts and complied with the standard 1st and 2nd class weight categories for post.

"They can be re-used over and over again by being sanded down and then a new message written on them, though it is probably just as easy to simply stick a new piece of paper over the previous writing," he said.

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To make the scheme more environmentally-friendly, it is planned to also use wood from trees which have died and also coppiced wood.

"This all started when one of my friends sent a piece of driftwood to me through the post from Aldeburgh beach," said Mr Gathorne-Hardy, an artist, research worker and landowner.

"It suddenly occurred to me that people are constantly e-mailing so why can't that be tree-mailing? Hence a business idea was born.

"The Royal Mail is just brilliant and will deliver almost anything. When you think how many pairs of hands a wooden postcard has to go through en route, it could be rejected at any stage, but they have all got to their destinations.

"Since involving students at Otley College, the project has really gained some momentum and all profits gained from this idea will go back into expanding the business, helping the students and any money left over will be given to other local charities such as The Suffolk Wildlife Trust."

The students at Otley are processing and packaging the postcards, preparing them for sale either individually or in packs of five.

Course tutor Sophy Jones said: "It gives our students an opportunity to be a part of a real business project. They have shown great interest and enthusiasm for this assignment and it is fantastic to see them so engaged."

The enterprise programme is part of the college's pre-foundation studies department, which supports students with special educational needs. Students have been working on several projects, including the college Christmas card.

The wooden postcards will be sold at cafes and coffee shops in east Suffolk.