Monday, March 31, 2008

Junk Your Junk Mail

Generally speaking the greatest waste to come out of any house is in the form of paper and the largest contributor to that number is junk mail.

Junk mail is generally a pain as most of us don't want it, and a huge amount of it doesn't even get recycled. In addition, think of the resources, fossil fuel, and time that are wasted as a result. A lot of people look at what I've been up to and after I've tackled the sanity question, they always ask what i do with all the junk mail and are shocked to find that we hardly get any.

I've been working on this for a while and at this point, we sometimes don't get any mail, and at the very least, rarely get any junk mail at all. I can't even remember the last time we got a catalog - and when you think about the fact that the average american gets around 88 a year, that's a major undertaking.

So here, in simple bullet points, is how I went about stopping the junk, and then below that are some other alternatives.

  • For starters, check out Greendimes costs $20 a year, but for that price they automatically remove you from several lists, plant 10 trees, and continually monitor your account. I did this thinking the trees alone made it worth it, but the junk mail actually fell off from just that pretty quickly. In addition, when stuff does get through, you just go on the site, plug in the info, and they do the rest. I've heard pluses and minuses about them, but I'm a believer.
  • Next was the mail from orgs that we give money to. I thought about this for a while and what i do now is call/email them and tell them that for reasons involving saving resources, I have decided to no longer give money to orgs that send me paper solicitations, but will gladly consider them if they send me email solicitations and give them my email addy. In every situation this has proven to be effective so far, and I usually get an email of thanks back.
  • As for bills, I pretty much pay online and do auto withdrawal so after all is said and done, not much left. We do occasionally get a Penny Saver ad or something similar, but a call to the number in the editorial section takes care of that and eventually they stop showing up.
Now some people will balk at paying to not have something you haven't asked for not be sent to you in the first place, and I can't really blame you. It's wrong and the problem should be theirs, not yours. That said, it's a question of time versus money. So if you want to go about it on your own, here are some tips.
  • Head over to The Direct Marketing Association and for $1 (I think that's a legal requirement) they'll get you off a whole mess of lists. Your request will be active for 5 years at which time you'll need to renew.
  • Catalog Choice is a free service that will help get rid of unwanted catalogs for ya.
  • Optout will put an end to most unsolicited credit card and insurance offers.
  • If stuff continues to come in, rather than recycling it right off the bat, call the 800 number and asked to be placed on their "do not mail" list. Legally they have to and most will oblige.
  • Apparently the USPS sometimes sells forwarded address lists to solicitors, so if you are moving, mark your forward preference as temporary for six months rather than permanent. As a result, your addy won't be sold and you won't bring all that junk mail to your new house.
  • Any time you fill out a warranty card or subscription, you are giving advertisers the right to buy that information. To keep this from happening, write "Do Not Rent, Sell, or Trade My Personal Information, Name or Address" on the bottom of the card in big block letters.
  • You can also check out 41 lbs which gets it's name from the average amount of junk mail an adult receives in a year.
Bottom line is don't give up. Some things will stop right away, and some will take up to two months as that's how far ahead they plan their mailings, but eventually you'll see a big difference. I kind of treat it like a game and it actually keeps it fun in a weird way.

Good luck.

Live Sustainably



L.A. Daddy said...

Heard you on KROQ this morning. Thanks for doing all that you're doing -- I'll try to spread the word!

Salar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dagny McKinley said...

Thank you so much for all the information. I thought I was pretty well up to date on how to get rid of junk mail, but didn't know there were so many resources.

Have you ever thought about going bigger? There was a successful campaign against Victoria's Secret a few years ago where they got them to reduce the number of catalogs they sent out as well as the incorporating recycled paper into their catalogs.

Great blog.
Thanks again,

Dagny McKinley
organic apparel

Crafty Green Poet said...

one of the most annoying for me is the huge amount of advertising that is delivered with the free local newspaper. I don't really like free papers either,

Dave said...

Thanks Dagny,
Any thoughts in particular on "going bigger"? Would love to discuss. Drop me an email.