Going to the mailbox every day only to find it stuffed full of junk mail can be so infuriating. When I lived in a condo complex, there were two full-sized trashcans by the mailboxes, and they had to be emptied of junk mail on a daily basis. Not all of it is even recyclable. In fact, the EPA estimates that only about 32% of the 4 million tons of junk mail thrown into landfills every year is recovered for recycling. Instead, millions of genetically identical fast-growing trees are grown production-style, then cut down for pulp and replaced, creating vast monocultures that might look pretty but actually weaken the environment’s and wildlife’s ability to handle drought, disease, and harsh weather.
No one likes to feel helpless. I’ve heard of people who mail the junk offers back to the offending company in their own postage-paid envelopes. You can also use those postage-paid envelopes to send your own personal mail, but be sure to white out or cover the series of black bars on the bottom front of the envelope. If you don’t, your utility payment will still end up at the junk mailers’ offices because those marks are like a bar code, allowing the Post Office to quickly scan the address. Both methods are satisfying, perhaps, but ultimately not effective for stopping more of it coming in the future.
There are websites out there that promise to cut out most of your junk mail, doing all the legwork for you, for a nominal fee. 41pounds.org will eliminate 80% to 95% of unwanted stuff for a one-time fee of $41, a portion of which is donated to charity. CatalogChoice.org is another site to consider; they charge a $20 fee for a similar service.
Luckily, there are several things you can do, free of charge, right now, that will significantly reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive. First, the major credit-reporting agencies maintain mailing lists that credit card and insurance companies frequently use. But they also offer an opt-out program, so no one will get your information from Experion, Equifax, TransUnion, and Innovis. Simply call 1-888-5-OPTOUT and follow the prompts. All four credit reporting agencies will receive the notification. The toll-free number is open 24 hours a day, and the service works for a period of two years.
Next, contact the Direct Mail Association (DMA). They have a Mail Preference Service that lets you specify which mail you want to receive and which you don’t. The service is free and simple to use. DirectMail.com, a DMA affiliate, offers a National Do Not Mail list, free of charge. Direct mailing is expensive, and marketers — just like you — would love to eliminate waste. Also, the U.S. Postal Service has a way to block any sexually oriented mail. Just fill out their Form 1500 and submit to any Post Office.
Lastly, every time you order a product, enter a contest, subscribe to a magazine, or send in a warranty card, you are giving your name and address to that company or organization. It is safe to assume that you will be placed on a mailing list. Unless you state otherwise, the company may then rent, sell, or trade their mailing lists to other companies. Always take the time to specify your privacy preferences if they provide a way to do so. If not, write “NO MAILING LISTS” directly on the form. This is an on-going effort that will produce results over time. With a small investment of your time, you can easily reduce or virtually eliminate the amount of junk mail you receive.