6.5 Million Tons: You Can Stop Waste as Close as Your Mailbox

     When you think about saving the planet, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  For many it is saving trees in the rainforest, making sure to recycle, turning the lights off or reducing the amount you drive, but opportunities for sustainable behavior can be anywhere.  Junk Mail is the epitome of waste, but the scale of this waste is revealed in a CBS news report on the subject revealing that, “advertising mail accounts for 59 percent of all mail Americans receive. But only half of that mail is ever read, according to the United States Postal Service.”  The sheer magnitude of waste is very impressive.  In a report released by ForestEthics, we learn that junk mail accounts for 6.5 million tons of paper and 3.7 million cars worth of Greenhouse Gas resulting from the manufacture of that paper, and that is not even including the carbon cost of transportation and distribution.  Most people don’t even think of what a massive waste this is and wouldn’t know where to start trying to stop it.

What can you do?

     There’s good news, it can all stop with a few simple steps.  The Federal Trade Commission and usa.gov have both provided us with a list of instructions for stopping junk mail ourselves.  The first step is through the Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service.  The Direct Marketing Association(DMA) is an organization that compiles all publicly available consumer habits and information about you and markets it to those companies that are sending you junk mail, but the DMA allows you to place yourself on a “delete” file which is sent to companies that will take you off the list.  All you need to do is visit their website or send a $1 processing fee with a request to remove you to the following address:

     DMAchoice;  Direct Marketing Association;  P.O. Box 643;  Carmel, NY 10512

     This process only takes five minutes but has been known to take some time to take effect.  This is a good first step, but once you have been removed from the DMA lists, you may still have to contact a few of the companies sending you junk mail directly and ask them to remove you from lists they rent or sell.  To remove yourself from lists that provide pre-approved offers of credit or insurance call the credit reporting agencies at 1-888-567-8688 or visit their website.  These are just the basics, it should take less than thirty minutes to reduce the flow of junk mail to a trickle.

How to get even less junk mail

     There are more advanced tips that you can use provided by Global Stewards’ website.  This article on treehugger.com also shows us a few paid services that will save you the trouble and may provide a more complete reduction of junk mail.  Not as hard as we all thought after all.