Monday, July 18, 2011

We can all do this one: Stop Junk Mail!

It's one thing to produce waste when you are doing something productive or particularly enjoyable.  It's a whole new thing when you are contributing to waste while being annoyed!  It is infuriating that Zach and I receive up to 20 credit card and insurance offers a week in our mailbox.  These are in addition to coupons, city news flyers, catalogs and ads.

Paper junk mail is incredibly wasteful (of trees, water, energy, plastic, and my time!) and completely unnecessary in this day and age (though I hate junk email only a little less).  

Consider that:

  • On average, American households receive approximately 69 pounds of unwanted mail each year.

  • The number of trees used to produce this mail is hard to account for, but according to Recycled Papers: The Essential Guide it takes an average of 24 trees to produce one ton of the paper most used in junk mailers and catalogs. That's approximately 96 million trees per year in the US alone.

  • The EPA states over 50% of junk mail is not recycled, meaning 48 million trees are thrown away. That's the equivalent of chopping down a tree in every other yard across the nation.

  • With each ton of paper using between 2,500-6,000 gallons of water, the junk mail industry uses 10-24 BILLION gallons of water each year.

  • With the typical direct mail response rate at about 2%, that means 9.8-23.5 billion gallons of water, 23 and a half trees, and enough energy to power 245,000 homes is wasted each year. (sustainable baby steps)

  • 44% of junk mail is discarded without being opened

  • It is estimated that 250,000 homes could be heated for a single day's junk mail (OCAPP)

  • Junk mail produces more carbon dioxide emissions than 9 million cars (41

  • WIthout proper disposal junk mail can lead to identity theft.

  • To me, this was more than annoying, it was appaling so I set out to get rid of our junk mail.  I am already enjoying the results.  Here's how you can do it too:

    1. Visit Opt Out Prescreen to remove yourself from credit card and insurance companies' mailing lists.  You need to add yourself and your spouse, or whoever lives in your household, separately.  Otherwise you will stop receiveing junk mail from Chase, but they will not.  You need Social Security Numbers for these (this site is actually listed on all those credit card offers as the only way to get out)
    2. Cancel catalogues and use online ones (I know, I love the photos and the feel of paper too, but it is really worth it?) I have only ever bought one thing and William Sonoma (a pizza stone a few years back) yet they send me every little catalogue, including their "Wine Lists".  Call Cusotmer Service and ask to be removed from their paper mailing list. Being nice (yet firm) will increase chance of their cooperation.
    3. To calcen catalogues and phone books you can also use  It's free and can remove your name from some mailing lists or give you information of how to easily do it yourself.
    4. Use to find out how to speak to a human customer service representative.  I have spent SO MUCH TIME listening to the automated "press 1 for.." recordings that I almost wripped my hair out.  If the company you are trying to cancel with is not available through, then call whatever number you can find on the junk mail.  Have the junk mail in front of you when you call as they may ask you questions about it. 
    5. Through your provider's website, sign up to receive and pay electronic bills whenever possible.  You can do this for electric and gas, internet, phone, credit cards, and others.  
    6. If you belong to organizations or groups who send out paper newsletters email or call them and ask if an electronic version is available.  If it is not, see if you can help establish this option.  Most people would prefer to recieve an email about such thing anyway. 
    Make one or two phone calls at a time, while waiting for your pasta water to boil or while holding a baby, don't try to do it all at once -- it can be quite overwhelming. 
    If you'd rather, you can pay $41 to 4
    1 to do this work for you.  They stop all your junk mail and donate 30% of their profits to a non-profit agency.  

    Don't get discouraged, you will be making a big difference.  Today, after being on hold for 20 minutes and enduring a sales pitch, Frank with Frontier told me there was no way I could be removed from the mailing list because "they are automatic, I can only remove you if you a customer." Can you believe that?  Fortunately, I went on their website and found a "media representative" and called their direct line.  She picked up right away and gladly put me on the "do not contact" list.  Take that Frank!

    I know that some of these environmental things I talk about may have an "oh man! but I LIKE my hummer!" type of responses -- they seem like a great sacrifice.  But this is a good environmental deed we can all do and feel good about. 


    tom + lisa said...

    I think this is a GREAT idea Ksenia. The other big let down for me is that I always walk back to the house with a huge stack of mail, giddy for all the personal cards and invites I must have received, and then much to my dismay it's all from Chase. :) I'm totally going to start plugging away at this list, thanks for doing a lot of the leg work already!

    Emily said...

    Thanks for the info Ksenia!

    Darcy Taylor said...

    I did whatever is required to stop getting credit card offers a couple of years ago or more (can't remember which route I took to do that), and it was sooooo worth it. We still got phone books this year, though, despite Chris calling or doing something last year that he thought was going to prevent this year's delivery. I have yet to tackle the many other forms of junk mail we get. One day, when I feel ambitious, I will revisit this blog post.

    Cameron said...

    Ksenia, can I pay you $41 to get rid of all my junk mail for me? :)