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Practical Sustainability: No More Catalogs, Please!

Did you know…

  • Each adult American receives approximately 41 pounds of junk mail annually, according to 41pounds.org
  • About half of the junk mail we receive goes straight to the landfill…unopened.  That’s over 5 million tons of unwanted ads and catalogs
  • Included in the tally are unopened preapproved loan and credit card solicitations – a boon for identity thieves
  • The industry responsible for the largest use of water in manufacturing activity is the pulp and paper industry
  • The response rate to all of this resource hogging direct mail is a paltry 4%

Fairly recently, I opened a plastic shrink-wrapped collection of catalogs from a direct mailer who claimed to be mailing all of its annual catalogs at one time in order to reduce its carbon footprint.  The only problem?  The catalogs weighed over 15 pounds in total and I dumped all but two of the multiple “books” directly into my recycling bin.  Not a very environmentally friendly marketing strategy, IMHO. 

And this is what I came home to today...2.2 pounds of junk mail (for the record, we have two adults in our household, so if every day were like today, we'd receive about 300 pounds EACH of junk mail annually):

One day's junk mail...2.2 pounds of catalogs and direct mail solicitations

One day's junk mail...2.2 pounds of catalogs and direct mail solicitations

This month’s Practical Sustainability column offers tips that you can use to reduce the junk mail you receive, shrink your carbon footprint and save our forests. 

First, tap into the direct mail industry’s free resource, the National Do Not Mail List.  Operated by DirectMail.com, a service provider to the direct mail industry, enrollment in the service takes just a few minutes.  DirectMail.com doesn’t promise that the service will eliminate all unwanted mail (they specifically don’t handle mail addressed to “owner” or “occupant”), but the company maintains the list and says that “mail-order companies don't want to waste their money sending mail to people who don't want to receive it. They'll gladly take your name off their lists when they're asked to do so.”

DMAchoice.org (which is operated by the Direct Marketers Association, a consortium of direct marketers) says its nearly 3,600 member companies “must follow the DMA member guidelines, including honoring a consumer's request to be removed from future mailings.”  The service is free if you sign up on line (there’s a small fee if you want to submit your preferences by mail).

I signed up for both services, each of which only took a few minutes.  Note that you’ll have to verify your email address when you set up your account – and the first email I received from DMAchoice.org went into my spam filter!

OptOutPrescreen.com, operated by the major consumer credit bureaus, provides a free service to manage the “preapproved” offers you receive for credit cards and insurance products.  Senior citizens, who may already have all of the credit and protection products they need, are good candidates to opt out of future mailings, as seniors are more vulnerable to identity theft and therefore may want to reduce the number of preapproved offers they receive. 

CatalogChoice.org is another free service that allows you to communicate your preferences to direct mailers.  Its parent company is TrustedID, a for-profit identity theft protection service.

Want to stop receiving Yellow Pages and other telephone directories?  Visit the National Yellow Pages Consumer Choice & Opt-out Site to opt out. 

There are several direct mail management services that you need to pay for, like StopTheJunkMail.com and 41pounds.org.  They claim to contact direct mailers individually on your behalf, so may be more effective than the free services.  As with any paid service, check user reviews before you make a purchase and understand exactly what the service is going to do for you.

While this article addresses the catalogs and direct mail solicitations that clog your physical mailbox, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes information on how to stop unsolicited phone calls and emails as well.  You can access their report here.

By reducing the volume of junk mail you receive, you’ll be saving our forests and our water supplies, and will reduce the carbon emissions from manufacturing and transportation.  Now that’s what I call Practical Sustainability!

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