I like to thumb through catalogs as much as the next girl but while collecting the mail last week, one of our staffers wondered out loud how many trees were wasted every year in the making of junk mail. We went in search of the answer and, well, it is pretty scary.
Did you know that 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills every year and that the average American household receives junk mail equivalent to 1.5 trees every year? That adds up to more than 100 million trees felled for unsolicited mail every year.
We knew that junk mail was out of hand but those statistics really floored us so we set out to figure out a way to reduce the amount of junk in our mailboxes. Here are some of the best tips we were able to unearth:
1. Start with the big dogs.
If you want off as many national mailing lists as possible, your first step is to contact the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. You must re-register after five years.
When you register, your name and address are placed in a “do not mail” file that is updated monthly and distributed to DMA members quarterly. This includes retailers whom you have not directly ordered from. DMA members are required to update their lists at least quarterly, and some do it monthly. The DMA estimates that listing with their mail preference service will stop 75 percent of all national mailings.
By spending 15 minutes on this website, we were able to almost completely stop the catalogs we were receiving, which at one time were in the dozens every month. You can choose specific retails that target you. Since some retailers are worse than others when it comes to sending catalogs — you know who you are Pottery Barn — having the ability to address those companies individually is helpful. You can register online here.
Not ready to give up the remote shopping habit completely? To learn about sales and other promotions from the comfort of your own home, simply change your preferences from snail mail to email so you can dream about purchases on screen, rather than on paper.
2. Stop residential mailers in their tracks.
Huge sources of junk mail are those flyers and coupon booklets addressed simply to “resident” or “occupant.” To get your name of some of these lists you can take the following steps:
ADVO: According to its own website, ADVO is the nation’s largest targeted home-delivered print advertising provider, with 25 mail processing facilities, 33 sales offices nationwide and in Canada. You can remove your name and address from ADVO two ways: either call ADVO’s Consumer Assistance line: (888) 241-6760 or fill out and submit a form on ADVO’s website.
PennySaver (in California) or The Flyer (in Florida): You can remove your name and address from these mailings two ways: By phone, you can call PennySaver at (800) 422-4116 or The Flyer at: (813) 626-SELL. Or you can contact the companies below at the following addresses: Circulation C/O Pennysaver 2830 Orbiter Street Brea, CA 92821 and Circulation C/O Flyer 201 Kelsey Lane Tampa, FL 33619.
Val-Pak Savings Coupons. Val-Pak maintains regional lists, not a central one. Send your request to the address printed on the envelope you receive. If you receive the blue envelope you can also remove your address from their website by clicking here.
3. Save a tree. Protect your identity.
Many of the companies you do business with provide data to credit bureaus about how much you owe and how promptly you pay your bills. The four credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis.
While the credit bureaus do rent lists, they do not disclose specific financial information to marketers like how much you make, what you owe or to whom. Instead, they compile lists based on consumer characteristics and if you fall into a one of their categories, you will receive “pre-approved” credit card offers in the mail. The insurance industry also uses these lists to solicit business, which is why you are likely getting offers for reduced car insurance… even though you don’t own a car.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and some states’ laws require credit-reporting companies to delete any consumer’s name and address from mailing lists if the consumer so chooses. This is the DO NOT CALL of junk mail and it does work.
Call (888) 5OPTOUT. With this single number you can call to prevent all four credit bureaus from sharing your characteristics with retailers and marketers. Not only will this save paper, but disposing of these mailings improperly can lead to serious problems like identity theft if your offer falls into the wrong hands.
4. Give catalogs, mail order lists and magazines – not trees – the axe.
When you buy something from a catalog, your transaction is likely to be reported to Abacus, owned by DoubleClick Digital Advertising. Members of the Abacus Alliance, mostly catalog companies and publishing companies, contribute and exchange information about their customers. Your name may also be sold to other catalog and publishing companies. One way or another, when you ask for one catalog, will likely get catalogs from other companies as well.
To opt out of the Abacus database, send an email to email@example.com. Include your name, including any middle initial, your current address, and if you’ve moved recently, your previous address.
You can also go to ProQuo to select specific catalogs you receive and have them stopped.
If it seems easier to just let the junk mail flow into your home and be recycled, this statistic might motivate you: In the course of a lifetime, Americans spend an average of 8 months opening junk mail.
Canceling it using these four steps takes a lot less time.