How to Remove Yourself from Mailing Lists and Eliminate Junk Mail

By Nora Dunn on 27 July 2009 (Updated 18 May 2010) 17 comments
Photo: Absolutwade

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

Sweepstakes Mailers

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

Valpak Coupons

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.

Catalogs

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 (optout@abacus-us.com) 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.

Get rid of Junk Mail, Spam, and Telemarketers with Ecofuture.

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!

Conversely…

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.

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Guest's picture
Gues

Can I fill out these no-mail, no-call requests for an elderly family member who lives on their own?

Guest's picture

Nora, could I request a list for Canadians?

It's so detailed, but it doesn't seem to work for me or others in Canada.

Thanks

Guest's picture
ydde
Guest's picture
David

The ONLY thing I want to do is stop getting DISCOVER CARD applications! Every year I get 20 or more - for many many years!

Guest's picture

Or another option (if possible) is to pay all of your bills online and just have friends and family send you email or IMs to talk. Since closing my mailbox (accept for the P.O. Box, which does not get junk because I only give it to my clients) I have had significantly less mail. I also live in an apartment so I opted out of receiving mail by just contacting my manager and the local post office. It's a lot less digging and sifting through mail and a lot less headache.

Nora Dunn's picture

@Gues - I don't know about filling out forms on behalf of others....but I guess if the form doesn't require a signature, then you may be able to.

@FabulouslyBroke - Unfortunately I wasn't as lucky in finding Canadian equivalents for many of these services. However I'm hoping that at least one of them works(!). When all fails, you can contact the sender of your mail directly and ask to be removed from their list (they're legally obligated to do so in Canada as far as I recall)  - as you would do with Charity mailings.

@David - Just send a note to the Discover people in one of their postage-paid return envelopes requesting they remove you from their list. That should work (at least we can hope!).

@Deborah - I live abroad, and I too have managed to reduce most of my mail, but some still slips through the cracks. Have you been junk mail free since starting the PO box? 

Guest's picture
Douglas

I did most of what you suggest some time ago, and it has worked beautifully. After signing up for several of these, I was still getting a few here and there. What I started to do was calling every vendor that would send me anything and request them to delete me from their list, some times I had to call them more than once.
Today, I can go for weeks without receiving anything.
It is a beautiful thing.

Guest's picture
sylrayj

I deliver a local weekly savings flyer, and we are all instructed to watch for 'No Flyer' signs. It doesn't hurt me to not deliver to people who don't want flyers; the tiny amount I earn per paper is based on the route, not the number of papers that I put into mailboxes. I can't easily arrange for a smaller number of papers to be dropped off, because most of the places not receiving flyers are due to people having moved out, but I do know that the extras will be used where I can, and will be recycled properly otherwise.

I used to fret about not getting the sales flyers in the newspapers, but I read them online instead. The only thing I'm missing now is the special inserts, and I can live with that.

Guest's picture
Craig

Lately I got this junk mail message from River City Mortgage, with being unemployed, I have zero interest in changing my loans.

So i called them up and asked them politely, to remove me from their list, but instead demanded i come down there fill out a loan, and then they'd remove me from their list...

If the salesperson has no power to remove me from a list, say so, and i'll end call...But why be so rude as to push sales, when i said i am definitely not interested, never will be interested...

About 10 minutes later, i was called back, and then they asked me to still come down for a loan, and i told them wasn't interested, and then he asked for my name and said i'd be remvoed, but lol, he never asked me for my mailing address, but if i am removed that's fine.

Are there any other ways to be globally removed from FHA offers?

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@ydde - Thanks for the resource for Canadians! Cheers...

Guest's picture
Xandra

Does the amount of gas saved that you quote include the driving done by the shipping companies and airplanes to get the package to your door? Just curious.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Xandra - Good question! I think those statistics only take into account the personal transportation costs, and not those of the catalog retailer. That's a great observation! Does anybody  have something to weigh in here on this idea? 

Guest's picture
Guest

FYI, the above "Do Not Mail" link doesn't (now) lead to a solution, only a propaganda page from the DMA.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Guest (above) - Thanks for the observation! It has changed since writing this post; I removed the link.

Guest's picture

There is one very effective On-Line Company to stop unwanted emails which I have used for more than two years called:
www.ClearMyMail.com
They will filter all your email and if needed give you the choice to receive that particular email, or not. It costs about $42 Can. for two years. Just check it out, you'll love it.

Guest's picture
netwrok

MailSouth does NOT honor the request to be removed from their spam mailing list.

I have called the contact number on their website and the rep. told me she removed me. Then, about a month later, more MailSouth spam crap in my my mailbox.

Guest's picture
netwrok

Hey, look! More MailSouth crap in my mailbox... again