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What kills 100 million trees a year, uses 28 billion gallons of water, and weighs about 70 pounds?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, those useless flyers, magazines, and pamphlets you get alongside your bills and magazine subscriptions every month are taking a serious toll on the earth.

According to the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting responsible consumerism, the average American receives 11 pieces of unsolicited junk mail each week (they obviously weren't averaging in the amount I get each week). Regardless it's time to step up and take your name off the list ... you'll be saving yourself and the environment.

All it takes is a few minutes of your time. Just follow these steps from The Wvb:

De-list your name. Most senders of unsolicited junk mail get your name and address from one of three sources: Abacus Catalog Alliance (catalogs), Direct Marketing Association (fliers, brochures, etc.), or the credit bureaus (credit card and insurance offers). Take the time to wipe your name from these lists.


  • Abacus Catalog Alliance: Signing up permanently halts the catalog mailings from association members. Email optout@abacus-direct.com with your full name and current address.
  • Direct Marketing Association: Stops direct mail marketing from association companies for five years. There is a $1 fee. Access forms here for online or mail-in submission.
  • OptOutPrescreen.com: This joint venture of the three credit bureaus puts a stop to prescreened credit and insurance solicitations. Sign up to halt these mailings for five years, or stop them permanently. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT, or fill out a form.
Pick up the phone. Unfortunately, not every company sending junk mail your way belongs to one of these big three. Plus, companies with which you have a business relationship - from your credit-card issuer to that Internet retailer you ordered from once - can (and will) continue to send you mail. When you get a stray piece of junk, curb that initial impulse to throw it out, give the company's toll-free number a call and ask to be removed from the mailing list. Look for a customer number on the label, which may help the reps access your records more quickly.

Mind your mail forwarding.
Here's a dirty little secret: One of the biggest generators of junk mail is the post office itself. So once you move - and fill out the mail-forwarding form at the post office - your new address can wind up back on every junk mail and direct marketer's list. And asking the post office not to give out your new info won't work - providing your new address to any company that wants it significantly cuts the cost of rerouting your mail. So here's what you do: Mark your move as temporary for six months. This way, your information won't get passed along, says Stephens. Keep in mind this will involve more work for you: You'll need to contact those companies with whom you do business (magazines, doctors, insurance companies and so on) to let them know individually of your new address.

Spread the word.
To more effectively reduce the amount of junk mail you receive, encourage your family to follow your lead. Joint holders on a credit-card account, for example, will continue to get prescreened credit-card offers until both have opted out of receiving them.

Maintain your privacy.
Any time you give out your address - whether you're filling out a warranty card, entering a sweepstakes or purchasing an item online - you're signing over your information for direct mailing. Limit the number of companies you disclose your contact information to and always look for a box to opt out of allowing the company to share that personal information.

Keep at it.
Once you're off a company or group's list, you'll stop receiving mailings within 60 days. But unless your opt-out comes with a specific time frame (Direct Marketing Association, for example, requires you to renew your request every five years) it's easy to end up back on a list.

If you don't want to do it completely yourself ... Greendimes will do its part to help with junk mail by helping do it for you. Sign up for their service, and for ten cents a day, they will stalk, scream, and stop the madness on your behalf. But they don't stop there. They also help reforestation by planting a new tree for every member monthly.

Choose from three membership levels: Seedlings pay $3 a month (plus credit card fees), Saplings pay $36 per year, and Trees are freed from junk mail for life for just $360. This is no small feat on their end -- because as mentioned above -- each time you move, donate money to charity, buy something from a catalog, or even get a new credit card, your name gets sold to more lists.



Source

  • Margot

    Gidday Tanya,
    You have some great information in your post, and you are so darn right about "Picking up the phone" and "keeping at it". I would like to add that, if you do it yourself, there are 2 more things you should know. Make sure you tell each company not to "RENT, SELL or SHARE" your personal information and keep a record of all the companies you call or mail to. I would like to refer you to a blog entry I wrote about Stopping Junk Mail, What is your time worth? If I may I will do a track back.
    Cheerio, Margot at stopthejunkmail.com

    Reply
  • Peter

    I have been using the DMA method only for years (I didn't even realize they charged now). We receive almost no junk mail, no credit card offers and no telemarketing calls. It does work.

    Reply
  • Kyears

    On a similar note - I saw from a group that I work with that consumers also pick up the tab for all of those credit card offers you get too - check it out here http://www.unfaircreditcardfees.com/site/press/consumers_picking_up_tab Its kind of amazing that we pay billions of dollars every year in these hidden interchange fees the credit card company tack onto all of our purchases and then they use the money to try to sell us on more credit cards which results in so much junk mail. They have a lot more info on that site too on how the credit card industry is hurting consumers. Thanks for sharing this post - I really can't stand all the junk mail - and especially all the credit card offers I get. Hopefully both of these campaigns will have some success in stopping all of this waste.

    Reply
  • mike critelli

    As an executive at a leading mailstream company, I agree with some of your comments, but there are others that need a response:

    • As a general matter, I agree with the notion that people who do not want to receive particular marketing mail should have a way of opting out. You are performing a valuable service by directing recipients of unwanted mail to the various registries available to them to screen out unwanted mail.
    • You also make a good point about paying attention to the processes by which you inadvertently give your permission to have your name and personal data used in ways that you might not have wanted them used.

    At the same time, you made two other points that demand a response:

    • You have incorrectly conveyed the impression that unwanted marketing mail follows people when they move. Most marketing mail is a standard mail postal product that, by postal guidelines, is not forwarded when a person has moved. On the other hand, we provide the fulfillment service for the U.S. Postal Service for movers. We offer a catalog preference service by which a mover can elect what is or not to be forwarded. The catalog list is not complete, but it does help the mover screen out some catalogs he or she no longer wants to receive, as well as those he or she wants to start receiving.
    • The whole argument about preserving trees is flawed. Forest product companies plant 4-5 trees for every one that is cut down. The U.S. has more forested land today than it did a few decades ago. Moreover, much of the paper used in catalogs today is recycled.

    The most fundamental issue I have with your line of argument is that individuals should stop receiving catalogs and direct mail pieces in total. The better alternative, toward which the Direct Marketing Association registry is moving, is a selective registry that allows recipients to receive some catalogs, but to stop receiving others.

    Every piece of marketing mail that is “junk” to one user is welcomed by others. No one knows in advance what they might want to buy through the mail or not buy. If standard marketing mail did not work for a sufficient number of users, no one would be sending it in the first place. It gets sent because many people respond favorably to it.

    If an individual makes a decision to get off all mailing lists, what is the environmental impact of the alternative they will select for shopping for the items they would have bought from the catalog? If even a small portion of these individuals get into a car and go to a retail store, the environmental impact from the air pollutants emitted from the automobile they are most likely using is far more damaging. There needs to be a study of what people do when they get off mailing lists, relative to the items they used to buy from catalogs or direct mail pieces. Only then will we know with a high degree of certainty whether unwanted direct mail is worse for the environment than stopping that direct mail and encouraging other kinds of commerce.

    Reply
  • mike critelli

    As an executive at a leading mailstream company, I agree with some of your comments, but there are others that need a response:

    • As a general matter, I agree with the notion that people who do not want to receive particular marketing mail should have a way of opting out. You are performing a valuable service by directing recipients of unwanted mail to the various registries available to them to screen out unwanted mail.
    • You also make a good point about paying attention to the processes by which you inadvertently give your permission to have your name and personal data used in ways that you might not have wanted them used.

    At the same time, you made two other points that demand a response:

    • You have incorrectly conveyed the impression that unwanted marketing mail follows people when they move. Most marketing mail is a standard mail postal product that, by postal guidelines, is not forwarded when a person has moved. On the other hand, we provide the fulfillment service for the U.S. Postal Service for movers. We offer a catalog preference service by which a mover can elect what is or not to be forwarded. The catalog list is not complete, but it does help the mover screen out some catalogs he or she no longer wants to receive, as well as those he or she wants to start receiving.
    • The whole argument about preserving trees is flawed. Forest product companies plant 4-5 trees for every one that is cut down. The U.S. has more forested land today than it did a few decades ago. Moreover, much of the paper used in catalogs today is recycled.

    The most fundamental issue I have with your line of argument is that individuals should stop receiving catalogs and direct mail pieces in total. The better alternative, toward which the Direct Marketing Association registry is moving, is a selective registry that allows recipients to receive some catalogs, but to stop receiving others.

    Every piece of marketing mail that is “junk” to one user is welcomed by others. No one knows in advance what they might want to buy through the mail or not buy. If standard marketing mail did not work for a sufficient number of users, no one would be sending it in the first place. It gets sent because many people respond favorably to it.

    If an individual makes a decision to get off all mailing lists, what is the environmental impact of the alternative they will select for shopping for the items they would have bought from the catalog? If even a small portion of these individuals get into a car and go to a retail store, the environmental impact from the air pollutants emitted from the automobile they are most likely using is far more damaging. There needs to be a study of what people do when they get off mailing lists, relative to the items they used to buy from catalogs or direct mail pieces. Only then will we know with a high degree of certainty whether unwanted direct mail is worse for the environment than stopping that direct mail and encouraging other kinds of commerce.

    Reply
  • Kari Richmond

    I disagree with the suggestion that an individual who stops receiving all marketing mailings is then going to damage the environment by hopping in the car and polluting all the way to the mall. Most folks who don't want marketing mail are probably conscientious enough to shop online.

    Also, the argument that we have more forested land than we used to is so obsolete. Maybe we do have more forested lands, but are those lands covered with the same old-growth forests we started with? Do the newly planted trees represent the natural diversity of flora and fauna we started with? No! Cutting trees to make paper is wastefully destructive when there are many many alternative pulp sources that are more environmentally sustainable. Using recycled paper is best, but there's also hemp, kenaf, cotton, dryer lint, linen, synthetics like Tyvek, and even excrement!
    (http://www.poopoopaper.com/)

    Reply
  • David Scissorhands

    The lead to this story is really a stretch -- but you see it repeated so many times, that you almost think its true.

    ** "kills 100 million trees a year"
    Almost all of the trees "killed" for paper are from tree farms, raised exclusively for paper. The clear-cut days for paper are over. The industry plants far more trees than they use.

    How many corn stalks do we 'kill?" How many hemp plants are 'destroyed'. A farm is -- a farm. THings die, but we can replant and replenish.

    ** "28 billion gallons of water." This is a really interesting stat. But, I cannot disprove it.

    ** "And weighs about 70 pounds" -- The average piece of bulk mail is about 1.5 ounces. That means all 300 million citizens would have to EACH receive about a 1,000 pieces of mail a year to get to this total.

    We should each be careful about our consumption, but honest about how we get to our conclusions.

    Reply
  • David Scissorhands

    "hemp, kenaf, cotton, dryer lint, linen, synthetics like Tyvek, and even excrement!"

    Kari -- Something tells me your love letters don't have the intended affect, do they?

    But seriously, how much labor and energy is expended creating alternative papers. The industry is very efficient.

    Reply
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