Last week, I wrote a column about understanding your paper footprint. Many people quickly responded that they were upset about the amount of junk mail coming into their homes and mailboxes.
I sympathize. According to the US Postal Service itself, the average family gets 848 pieces of junk mail per year. That's an average of about four pieces of unwanted mail per day! Think of all of the paper and greenhouse gases that are wasted on all of this crap you didn't even want in the first place!
Luckily, there are several solutions available to you, from the quick and easy to the down and dirty. Let's start with the most effective...
1. Let the Direct Marketing Association do the work for you. The DMA runs a great service called the Do Not Mail list
. It's free, and once you sign up, it will reduce your junk mail by about 90%. I've used this for years, and I swear by it. It takes about three months for the list to fully take effect -- there's a lot of mailings already in process that you won't see at your home for weeks -- but trust me, it's worth it.
2. Go commercial. If you don't trust the DMA, there are several commercial services that do the same thing. For example, Tonic.com's Precycle
, which costs $10. It will take aim at your junk mail, cutting it off at the source. In exchange for the fee, they will plant five trees in your honor, as well as send you a reusable shopping bag and two CFL light bulbs. Pay $20 and you'll also get two CFL bulbs and a reusable Chico shopping bag.
3. Take direct action. Every time you get a piece of junk mail you don't want, whether it's a catalog or a credit-card application, call the company up and demand to be taken off their lists. Sure, this requires some one-on-one calling on your part, but they have to do it if you ask them to. (Again, this can take weeks or months to fully take effect, but it will work.)
4. Read the fine print. Many companies not only get an "in" to send you direct mail if you do business with them, they also get the right to sell your name and address to other companies, who will then send you even more junk mail! AUGH! Don't let this happen to you. Opt out of future mailings and list sales whenever possible.
5. Let the power of an environmental charity help you. The Forest Initiative has a Do Not Mail lobbying effort that is trying to stop almost all -- if not all -- junk mail from ever being mailed in the first place. Read more about it here
Give it a try. In a few months, your efforts will pay off, you'll have a lot less junk to content with, and the environment will be better off for it.