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By John Wesley

The Obsessive-Compulsive's Guide to Stopping Junk Mail

The Obsessive-Compulsive's Guide to Stopping Junk Mail

By Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man.

Five years ago, I bought my step-mother Beth some flower bulbs. The company has sent me two catalogs a year ever since. The product pushers discovered that my daughter Isabella was born but not that she has since aged two years, so we get piles of completely useless baby wear catalogs.

Do I ever look at these bundles of the coagulated flesh of dead trees? Uh, no. Do you?

According to the Native Forest Network guide to stopping junk mail, 100 million trees are ground up each year to make junk mail. Um, didn't somebody mention that tearing down trees is contributing to global warming?

All in the interests of our economy—right?—except that 44 percent of junk mail gets trashed without ever being opened. Together with other types of paper and paperboard waste, the junk mail adds up to 40% of the solid waste in our landfills.

So here's what I've done to stop the tree killers and keep their trash out of my bin. And believe me, it's a battle:

1. All the junk mail, including that with plastic windows in the envelopes, goes in the recycling bin. For a guide to recycling in your community, go here.

2. I got my name off the credit card and insurance offer lists by going to the credit bureaus' centralized service for opting out.

3. I spent a dollar—swear to God, that's the price—to sign onto the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service, which reportedly will reduce my junk mail by 75%.

4. I began calling the 800 number on the catalogs and asking them to take me off their lists.

5. After all this, my junk mail reduced but not vanished. BUT I WILL STOP THEM! I'm now trying a paid service called Green Dimes, which promises to get rid of junk mail for $36 a year (one green dime a day). If Green Dimes does what it claims, parting with the cash means you don't have to take all the steps above (except recycling, of course!), because Green Dimes does it for you.

6. Okay, so getting rid of junk mail is harder than getting rid of bed bugs. It turns out that none of this will stop catalogs from companies you have bought from. Can you believe it? So one last step. Join Catalog Choice, a service that allows you to opt out of catalog mailings, by entering your customer number, even from companies you bought from.

After that, you should be good. But remember: don't step on the cracks.

Photo by Altered Angel.

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Junk Mail

No One has posted in a while but, this is still an ongoing problem. My mailbox was buried in this stuff. I just did not have the time to chase all the website down to stop all this stuff. I signed up for a membership with Myjunktree and my junk mail was significantly reduced. They have a simple system that you just go in and click buttons on what you want stopped. They helped me stop the credit card offers, phone books, weekly coupons and mailers, and they seem to have over a 1000 catalogs in thier database. Great service.

Junk Phone Calls?

Thanks for writing this refreshing and informative article. I'm half way through the to-do's on your list, and am feeling quite empowered!

Along with the junk mail, I get tons of calls from telemarketers -- and it drives me craaazzy. When they call, I'm polite (know they're just doing their job) and request to be removed from their call list, but I'm still receiving about 3-5 calls a day.

Do you have any info on how to stop the "pollution of my auditory environment" (not to mention my sanity) by opting out of telemarketer call lists?


global warming

"Um, didn't somebody mention that tearing down trees is contributing to global warming?"

No, actually it isn't. A growing tree sequesters more carbon dioxide than a mature tree which isn't growing (or isn't growing very fast). Chopping down trees, using them (as long as we don't burn them), and planting new trees in their place, is a great way for us to combat the buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.


"A young forest, composed of growing trees, absorbs carbon dioxide and acts as a sink. Mature forests, made up of a mix of various aged trees as well as dead and decaying matter, may be carbon neutral above ground. In the soil, however, the gradual build-up of slowly decaying organic material will continue to accumulate carbon, but at a slower rate than an immature forest."

two things to ask for

I worked for a magazine a few years back and there were actually two different things that customers could request when they called --- one was to stop mailing them, and the other was to *not sell their name*.
Selling mailing lists to other companies is a source of revenue and you may actually have to request both things (don't mail me, don't sell my name) to cut down on your junk mail.

Calling works

I've been calling all the companies that send catalogs to me, asking to get off the list and that has worked very well so far.

My worst junk mail comes from opening a domain online to create a website, so occasionally I get mail posted to my website as the name.

about cutting down trees...

Actually, cutting down trees and making something out of them helps global warming as long as the trees are regrown.

It's carbon sequestration :)

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