Saturday, March 28, 2015

How I eliminated junk mail

Several years ago, I decided to tackle our junk mail issue.  Our mailbox was filled with catalogs and other junk mail every day and I realize this amounted to an enormous amount of waste despite the fact that I recycled everything.   The idea of cutting down trees, printing catalogs and mailing them to a recipient who immediately disposes of them is the epitome of an unsustainable reality and I wanted no part of it.

I took several approaches to eliminating junk mail.   First, I subscribed to the TrustedID - one of several direct mail preference services and entered my preferences on their website.  This organization effectively handles the rest for you, here is what they say on their webpage:
We act on your behalf to protect your consumer rights and get your opt-outs processed. You can keep track of your opt-outs, and if you receive the mail again, we will follow up. We work with over 8,000 companies — and the largest data brokers — to honor your choices and protect your privacy. We have processed over 25 million opt-outs by over 1.7 million account holders. 

The direct mail industry also offers another option known as the National Do Not Mail List.  Both are good examples of an industry policing themselves in order to reduce their own costs.   Here is how they explain their service:
As direct marketers ourselves, we know that mail-order companies don't want to waste their money sending mail to people who don't want to receive it.

They'll gladly take your name off their lists when they're asked to do so. But with countless mail-order companies doing business today, you just can't contact enough of them on your own to make a difference. The postage alone would cost a fortune!

A similar option is available from  which also offers an option for reducing junk email.

Incidentally, if you have not already signed up with the National Do Not Call Registry - a service of the Federal Trade Commission, you can certainly reduce the number of telemarketing phone calls that way.  I have signed up for that service, but occasionally get solicitation phone calls.  The way to eliminate these is to refer to their caller ID and call them back, many of them offer an option of "press 1 to be removed from our calling list", and if not some of them will connect to an actual person who will remove you from their list if you ask nicely.  I feel that is important to be polite when asking to be removed - the person you are talking to is not the bad guy here, just an employee.

Finally, when all else fails I made a simple rubber stamp that prints the following:
please remove
from your mailing list

This is particularly useful when they provide you with a postage free return envelope.  All I do is remove the return section, stamp it next to my address and stick it in their envelope.  They get the message eventually!

I also reduce mail in general by paying most of my bills electronically either through direct debit or paying through the company's web portal.  Also, over 95% of my income comes in via PayPal rather than my clients mailing checks to me.  This includes the consulting income for my electronic product design business and the solar energy products that I manufacture and market over the web.

At this point I can honestly say that we rarely get any junk mail whatsoever.  We still do get a few catalogs and mailings from companies we do business with - such as the friendly oil change reminder/sales flyer from our car dealers etc.

According to another junk mail reducing web site: "the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year of which 44% goes to the landfill unopened" (or hopefully it is recycled).  They have more statistics that make the idea of reducing this waste very compelling.  They have a $35.00 one-time fee and use $10 to support effective non-profits like Habitat for Humanity.

If more of us took this simple action, we could have a significant impact.

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