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Every great once-in-a-while, in our endeavor to be good stewards of the planet, we get to do something that has a positive impact on the environment and requires no sacrifice on our part whatsoever. There is one such thing that we can all do that is absolutely painless and yet it yields enormous environmental benefits while saving us a bit of aggravation almost every day.
I’m talking about reducing the amount of junk mail that finds its way into your box day after day. It’s a real pain in the tuckus to stroll out to the mailbox every day and retrieve (mostly), nuisance pieces. But the real problem is much bigger than that.
I have enough credit cards, thank you. And though the Victoria’s Secret catalogs aren’t altogether unpleasant they mostly just remind me that I’m not 21 anymore (or 41 for that matter). And since I have a significant other, I don’t really need anyone else reminding me that I’m not all that anymore.
My mailbox used to seem like a huge vacuum, sucking in every unsolicited offer of credit, every useless catalog, every life insurance offer (yet another unwanted reminder that I’m not 21 anymore), and all manner of other aggravating pieces of direct marketing junk mail.
But not anymore. I fought back. I no longer need a wheel barrow to retrieve my mail. In fact, I sometimes go two or three days without any mail at all. And I couldn’t be happier about it. Ending the assault was not all that difficult but before we get into that let me hit you with some numbers (you knew I was going to didn’t you?), because we all need to understand that junk mail isn’t just a nuisance. It is actually a serious environmental issue as the numbers below reflect.
Junk Mail Facts from DoNotMail.org
Some of those numbers boggle the mind, don’t they? And if that isn’t bad enough, it has been estimated that junk mail produces more C02 each year than 9 million cars! As you can see, there is much to be gained by ridding ourselves of this plague. After all, who couldn’t use another 8 months of leisure time in their lives?
I’m not sure what this says about me as a person but my favorite way to strike back at the invisible enemy throwing all those useless and unwanted solicitations at me is to simply throw them back. I take them out of the box, scribble “refused, return to sender” on them and drop them right back in the box. That way some of my aggravation is somewhat assuaged by knowing that I’m aggravating them back. And it has the added advantage of being effective.
If that seems petty and immature to you, (two words that my ex-wife suggested I have tattooed across my chest), there are other effective ways to deal with the onrush of unwanted mail but none of them please me in quite the same way.
The Federal Trade Commission offers some excellent advice and instructions for removing your name and address from junk mailers’ lists here. They can also help you reduce interruptions by telemarketers and even avoid junk email. Their site is an excellent place to start.
There are also a number of other free online services that can aid you in your quest to become junk-mail free. Some of the best of these are the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. They will add you to their Do Not Mail database which will help reduce the mail you get from some of the largest offenders in the country. Most of them have figured out that it doesn’t pay to send marketing materials to people who have taken action to stop it.
The Consumer Credit Reporting Companies, (Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion), maintain a website called OptOutPrescreen.com which allows you to opt out of “prescreened” offers of credit or insurance. This service alone can greatly reduce the amount of wasted paper in your mailbox.
If unwanted catalogs are a problem at your house, and I’ll bet that they are, another good free resource is Catalog Choice. This service will help reduce the number of catalogs that make it to your door.
Then there is 41Pounds.org which takes its name from the amount of junk mail that each American adult receives each year. For $41 they will reduce your junk mail by 80 – 95 percent for 5 years. This is a good choice for those who don’t want to contact multiple companies or organizations multiple times to reduce the amount of useless mail that they receive.
Finally, there are a couple of other things that you can do to help stem the tide of unsolicited junk mail that rolls in every day. When you begin a relationship with a new company that requires your contact information, ask that your personal information not be used for marketing purposes and insist that it is not to be sold.
And be very careful about signing up for things like in-store rewards cards, sweepstakes and warranties that don’t require much information beyond name and address. These are often little more than ways to collect your contact information which can then be sold to marketing agencies which will send you 41 pounds of junk mail over the next year.
When it comes to ridding your mailbox of junk mail, a little vigilance goes a long way and whatever effort you expend to stop the flow of waste paper through your mail receptacle is well worth it. It will pay handsome dividends toward your own sanity and toward protecting the environment as well.
by Jeff Whitaker