I have my friend Naomi to thank for this action, as she clued me in to a new resource which helps me address one of my big pet peeves. Junk mail. Argh! Not only do I get too many catalogs, but I get too many catalogs I never asked for, never wanted, and am entirely unlikely to ever order anything from. American Girl Doll? Nope. Oriental Trading Company? Somewhat antithetical to my anti plastic tendencies. Nautical notions? Ok fine, I just made that one up, but I wouldn’t order from that either.
Its not just that a whole bunch of junk mail is annoying. Junk mail is also no small potatoes when it comes to contributing to wasting resources and contributing to emissions. Some fun facts about junk mail and waste include:
- more than 5 and a half million tons of junk mail end up in US landfills every year;
- junk mail creates annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 9 million passenger vehicles;
- 44% of junk mail is thrown away without being opened; only half of that is recycled, the other half ends up in the landfill (see above); and
- the 100 billion pieces of junk mail we get in the US are estimated to use 100 million trees to produce them.
Donotmail.org has even more stunning factoids on the climate impacts of junk mail: I highly recommend their eye-catching pdf on the subject, available here.
There are several online websites that help you stop this kind of unwanted mail– including Catalog Choice, DMA choice, DirectMail, and 41 pounds. You can also email Abacus, an alliance of catalog and publishing companies, with your name and address and ask to opt out of their mailing list. Ever notice that when you donate to an organization, soon after you get a flurry of mail from related organization? Its always a good idea that if you send a donation to an organization, you include a note to please not sell or share your name with other organizations- they don’t have to listen to you, but they might. Its probably a good idea to address junk mail through several venues such as those listed above, as there are literally thousands of mailing lists out there and we’re likely to be on more than a few of them.
Its not like this isn’t time consuming- if, like me, you do order occasionally from catalogs or online, you inevitably end up back on these lists, and the junk mail can creep back in despite our best efforts. I do know that at least Catalog Choice, which Ive personally used, necessitates searching their database for the correct item and, if they don’t have it, painstakingly entering all the information in order to request to opt out. But what if, hypothetically speaking, we’re really lazy about these things and want to get rid of catalogs we don’t want with pretty much one push of a button? In the smart phone era, we’re getting more options like this- and one new option is Paper Karma.
Paper Karma is a free app for your smartphone that lets you snap a photo of the back of the catalog that has your address and the mailer’s address, send it and have them make a request on your behalf to remove you from their mailing list. Because Paper Karma is pretty new, and Ive only just started using it, its hard to say how effective it might be, but Im gonna give it a try, along with an all-of-the-above approach, to try to reduce my junk mail footprint.