How to Remove Yourself from Mailing Lists and Eliminate Junk Mail
My blood boils when I have a full mailbox, but not one item is personal in nature. And just because I reuse and recycle the reams of useless paper, applications, and coupons that I am sent is no justification for the waste my mailbox produces.
If you aren’t sure why you should go through all this effort, here are a few facts:
- Junk mail destroys 100 million trees a year — the equivalent of deforesting all of Rocky Mountain National Park every four months.
- Largely due to deforestation, junk mail manufacturing creates as much greenhouse gas emissions annually as 3.7 million cars.
- More than half of unsolicited mail is discarded unread or unopened; the response rate is less than 2%.
- Junk mail creates four million tons of unnecessary waste per year.
- Calculating the weight of the junk mail trash from EPA data, it works out to 13.4% of 1276 pounds per household; that's 170 pounds of trash per household per year.
- Don’t just think about the waste that junk mail produces; consider the energy required to produce the mail, and the emissions required to transport it to your home. And even if it gets recycled in the end, a great deal of energy is expended in the recycling process.
Are you sold yet? Here are some ways to reduce your own share of junk mail.
Credit Card Applications
The first couple of times we are pre-approved for a credit card, we feel special. Somebody is noticing my financial prowess! But when the dog also receives a pre-approved credit card application, all of a sudden it doesn’t seem so special. The next two dozen applications tend to hit the recycling bin before they are even opened.
Opt-Out Pre-Screen will ensure no pre-approved applications arrive in the mail. The online form is accepted without having to enter your Social Security Number. (Available to US residents only.)
Virtually all credit card and insurance companies get your mailing and credit information from one of the three major national credit bureaus, who share their lists between one another. Pursuant to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (1997), consumers can call any one of the credit bureaus, and upon request can have their name removed from all three lists.
- Equifax: PO Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123 - Phone: (888) 567-8688
- Experian: Target Marketing Services Division, 12606 Greenville Ave, Dallas, TX 75243 - Phone: (800) 353-0809
- TransUnion: 555 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL 60661 - Phone: (800) 680-7293
Direct Marketing Association
The Direct Marketing Association is apparently responsible for 75% of all national mailings that come to your home. By calling or writing them and requesting that you be added to their Do Not Mail List, your name won’t be on the many mail order sales companies that use the D.M.A. to generate mailing lists.
D.M.A. Preference Service, Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735 - Phone: (212) 768-7277
As much as I was convinced that I would eventually hold one of those beefy checks written by Ed McMann, I never did. And I got really (really) tired of the constant reminders that I hadn’t yet won.
To remove your name from major nationwide sweepstakes mailers, contact:
- Publishers Clearinghouse, 101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050 - Phone: (800) 645-9242
- Readers Digest, Readers Digest Road, Pleasantville, NY 10570 - Phone: (800) 234-9000
- American Family Publishers, PO Box 62000, Tampa, FL 33662 - Phone: (800) 237-2400
Again the first couple of times I received these coupon packs, I was sure I would save heaps of money. More often than not, I was wrong. Visit Cox Target Media to remove your name.
Catalog Choice will remove you from many (if not most) catalog mailing lists.
Miscellaneous Ways to Reduce Junk Mail
DMA Choice.org will remove you from mailing lists for $1. Interestingly, they also encourage you to think twice before taking yourself off a list (see the end of this article for an argument against removing yourself categorically from mailing lists).
Tonic MailStopper (formerly Green Dimes) promises a cleaner mailbox in 90 days for $20. They’ll also plant 5 trees on your behalf.
Directmail.com has a National Do Not Mail List, which is free to enroll in.
When you order something from a catalog, your name and address is likely given to Abacus, an alliance of mostly catalog and publishing companies. To have your information removed from Abacus, contact them with your name (including your middle initials), current address, and previous address if you moved recently. Abacus can be reached either via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by mail: Abacus, Inc., PO Box 1478, Broomfield, CO< 80038.
41Pounds.org costs $41 for a 5 year membership, and guarantees to effectively get you off mailing lists. They’ll also donate $15 to a non-profit organization of your choice.
Opt for electronic statements from your banks, utility companies, and other services you use. This way, the only mailbox that gets filled is your email inbox.
If you live in San Francisco, you may be interested in the Do Not Mail regulation which was recently passed.
Do you have a fax machine? Look for the fine print at the bottom of your unsolicited faxes and unsubscribe. And if you are feeling like a good Samaritan at the office and nobody else is doing it there, you will do favors for more than your boss.
Better yet, if you can, set up your fax machine to send the faxes to a computer, so only the necessary ones need to be printed off.
When you place online orders, be sure to uncheck the box that is usually ingeniously checked (and surreptitiously hidden) when you sign up allowing them to send you promotional materials.
Have you donated money to charity, and now they send you 15 letters per year asking for more money? Use one of the postage paid return envelopes to expressly tell them to stop mailing these requests to you. Be sure to clearly state your name and address in the letter.
Are you a business owner or office manager? Businesses tend to receive a whole echelon of junk mail that individuals don’t get. The National Waste Prevention Coalition lists many resources to reduce business junk mail.
And if you still have too much paper and catalogs to sort through, try making a hot box with it!
To round out the direct marketing picture, it is only fair to consider the other side.
Direct mail is a green way to shop. If Americans replaced two trips to the mall each year with shopping by catalog, we would reduce our number of miles driven by 3.3 billion — a 3 billion pound reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of $650 million on gas alone.
So if you are likely to place online orders and value certain catalogs, go right ahead and don’t feel guilty.