I was lucky enough to have a post office box for many years, so I wasn’t aware of the madness that is “junk mail” until I moved to Los Angeles and started receiving mail at my home address. Personally, I receive piles and piles of junk mail per week. I have to wade through it in order to find a bill or piece of mail that is addressed to me instead of “Current Resident”.
Think about how much junk mail you receive daily and then think about every single person in your neighborhood receiving the same amount. Then expand that thought to every person in your city receiving that amount of junk mail. Then the thought becomes every person in your state. The country. It’s unimaginable how much junk mail that adds up to be. According to a report by ForestEthics, junk mail leaves a carbon footprint equal to 9 million cars, seven U.S. states combined, or the emissions generated by heating nearly 13 million homes for the winter. Junk mail is a big environmental problem. Every year, the forests get a little smaller and the landfill gets a little fuller. More than 100 million trees’ worth of bulk mail arrives in American mail boxes each year. That’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months (Center for a New American Dream calculation from Conservatree and U.S. Forest Service statistics).
Statistics show that only 2% of sales come from mail offers. The advertisers know that 98% will by tossed, but it’s worth it to them to continue bombarding us with trash. It’s an obnoxious invasion of our time. It truly is.
To be honest, stopping junk mail from hitting your mailbox is an uphill battle. Although, the battle seems impossible to win there are success stories. Earlier this year, the city of San Francisco became the first in the nation to pass the ‘Do Not Mail’ registry and I hope other cities follow suit. There are a few things you can do in order to cut back on the amount of junk mail you receive. Spending time upfront may help save you time– and hopefully your sanity. Here are a few tips if you find yourself knee deep in paper:
- Sort & Recycle. Junk mail can be a waste of time and overwhelming if it piles up too much, so I highly recommend sorting the junk mail into your recycling bin as soon as you pick it up. Don’t just lay your mail on your counter without sorting the junk mail out first. Recycle whatever junk mail you can.
- Do Not Mail Registry. Add your name to the Forest Ethics petition. More than 108,000 have joined in the fight to end junk mail. Forest Ethics is the organization that helped pass the registry in San Francisco and they’re working hard to do the same in other cities. Your name on the petition is used as leverage and speaks volumes as they fight to help pass legislation in other cities.
- Online tool. Sign up for the Forest Ethics online tool to help you get less junk mail.
- Catalogs. Any catalogs you may be receiving (Victoria’s Secret, Sears, J. Crew), find the phone number within the catalog and call them. They should stop showing up once your removal requests are processed. They’ll ask you for the Customer ID number on the address label, so make sure the label is intact.
Also, you can stop catalogs using Catalog Choice.
- Opt-Out Prescreen. Call 1-888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT) or go to OptOutPrescreen.com. This number opts you out of credit card offers. Choose the 5 year opt out online or permanent opt out which requires you to send a form by regular mail.
- Sweepstakes. To stop Publishers Clearinghouse, email requests to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Shopping coupons and flyers.
Val-Pak: The blue envelopes full of coupons can be stopped by filling out the removal form at: Cox Target Media: Mailing List Removal Request.
RedPlum: Contact Advo/Valassis at 1-888-241-6760 or contact consumer support online.
Penny Wise: Contact Harte Hanks Direct Marketing at 1-800-422-4116 or fill out the Mailing List Removal Request.
- Credit Bureaus. Contact all three (Equifax http://www.equifax.com, Experian http://www.experian.com, and Trans Union http://www.transunion.com) and request they no longer release your information. There is an opt-out phone number created from the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which was passed in 1996 that applies to the credit bureaus. Customers are given an opportunity to “opt-out” if they don’t want their information shared with other companies who may want to solicit them for business. If you dial (888) 567-8688, that will accomplish your opt-out request with the top three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans-union. Visit the Federal Trade Commission site for more information.
- Direct Marketing Assocation. DMA makes up about 80% of the credit card, insurance, and magazine subscription offers stuffed in your mail box. Setting your preferences should take care of a large bulk of your mailings. Online registration is free, while it costs $1 by mail.
- “Do not sell my name”. For future purchases, tell the catalog or company to make sure they list your name/address as “No Solicitations”. No offers or promotional materials– and “No” to having your name sold to third-parties.
- Contact Vendors. Get in touch with your cable company, cell phone provider, bank, charities, and insurance companies and ask them not to sell your name to third parties or send promotional materials.
With these steps you will hopefully see a big difference in the amount of junk mail you receive within 3 months to a year. If you have any suggestions or success stories on the ways in which you beat the junk mail– or if the junk mail won– please feel free to add your input!