Posted by Janet Harriett on Feb.03, 2009
How much of your mail is something you really needed to receive, or even asked for in the first place? Chances are, not a lot, so most of the paper shoved into your mailbox goes straight into the wastepaper basket. Recycling your paper is great, if the little plastic windows and coated paper don’t interfere, but nothing beats the environmental impact of not creating the waste to begin with. The greenest junk mail is no junk mail at all.
With five simple steps, you can cut the amount of unsolicited or unnecessary paper your mail carrier delivers each day. Some can be time consuming. After all, companies make their money off of the results of advertising. The time you spend now getting rid of junk mail will pay dividends with less time spent later sorting through, shredding and recycling it.
Contact the Direct Marketing Association
The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) represents about 80% of the companies that send direct mail advertisements–a.k.a. junk mail–and maintains the mailing lists that member companies use to send out solicitations to prospective new customers. To remove your name from their list for free, sign up at https://www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action for an account to manage your direct mail preferences. Account activation requires an email verification.
Once you have an active account, you can request to be removed from mailings from individual companies or request a blanket removal for several categories including catalogs, magazine subscriptions and miscellaneous offers. Requests can take 30-60 days to become fully effective as member companies update their mailing lists. Requests to the DMA only cover cold solicitations, though, not mail from companies you have done business with in the past. Solicitations from those companies are likely coming from their customer database.
Opt Out From Individual Companies’ Mailing Lists
Unfortunately, you can count on being put on a mailing list just about every time you give a company your name and address. Head this off by not giving out your name and address unless it is actually necessary to complete the transaction, for instance if you are ordering something for delivery to your home. Warranty registration cards are more often than not marketing tools for further offers, and are usually not required for the warranty to be honored. Sometimes, particularly with online transactions, you have an option of opting out of further offers from the company at the time of purchase, even if you need to provide an address for billing or delivery.
If an initial opt out is not an option, you can contact the company through their customer service or marketing department and request that your name be removed from their internal mailing list and not rented to other companies. It may help to have a mailing that the company sent you handy when you call them, as the label may contain a code indicating where that company got your name. Companies, especially charities and nonprofit organizations, often rent lists rather than keeping a mailing list themselves, so you may need to make a couple of calls to find the source and get off the original list.
As with the DMA, requests directly to a company or charity may take several weeks to take effect, as mailings are often in the works well before you receive them.
Cancel Unread Catalogs and Mailings
Catalogs and magazines are double-whammies for green living. Not only do they use more paper than other types of mail solicitations, but that paper is usually color printed and glossy coated, making it unsuitable for many paper recycling programs. If you receive mail order catalogs you never order from, contact the company to be removed from their mailing list. Canceling unread magazine subscriptions also saves a little bit of cash.
Stop Credit Card Offers
Even with the credit crunch making it more difficult to qualify for credit cards and mortgage refinancing, the preapproved offers don’t seem to be letting up much. These are generally compiled from information from one of the four major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian Innovis or TransUnion.
Call 1-888-5OPT-OUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to be removed from the lists that are used to send the pre-screened credit offers. Should you ever find yourself in need of a line of credit, you can always contact the credit card issuers yourself and shop around for the best terms. Stopping the pre-approved credit offers will not only reduce your paper waste from junk mail, but also cut off a potential avenue for identity theft.
Switch to Electronic Statements and Billing
Mail waste does not just come from unsolicited advertisements, How many envelopes do you get for bills and bank statements each month? Lately, even the bills are ad opportunities, with more paper going toward glossy inserts touting the latest product or service than the bill itself.
Many banks, utilities and insurance companies offer an option for e-statements and electronic billing, allowing you to eliminate the paper bills and statements, along with the glossy paper ads. By setting up e-payments, you also save paper from checks and envelopes, plus postage for mailing the bills off.
Many banks offer comprehensive online bill paying services, and there are also independent services for online bill management. One I have used for years is PayTrust, which manages online bill paying and will even receive paper statements from companies that don’t support e-statements. PayTrust manages the paper waste in bulk at their facility while sending you an electronic scan of any paper bills
Bear in mind that if you get electronic statements only to print them out yourself, you don’t really save any paper. Consider archiving the statements electronically, either burned to CD or saved to a flash drive or hard drive, if you think you may need to have the records later.
Green Bonus to Reducing Unwanted Mail
While the biggest greening of your mailbox comes from not having to deal with the waste paper and eventually reducing the amount of junk mail that gets created, the reduced junk mail load cuts carbon emissions from mail carrier tailpipes, too. All that junk mail adds up to a lot of weight, and added weight makes vehicles like mail trucks less fuel efficient. Your junk mail doesn’t add a lot of weight to the truck every day, but the junk mail from the entire route does.
Posted under Eco-Friendly Ideas.
Article By: Janet Harriett
Profile: Janet Harriett, Green Diva Mom's fomer editor, has been a writer and editor for print and online media, specializing in education and environmental issues since 1999. She lives on 2 acres in central Ohio with her husband, a 275-square-foot backyard garden and a home orchard growing 25 varieties of fruit. Janet holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
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