Did you know that the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year, and that an incredible 44% of that goes straight to the landfill without even being opened? Further, each of us spends 70 hours a year just simply managing our junk mail!* Thankfully, there are now some really simple ways to get out of this loop and take control of your mailbox.
You may be as surprised as I was reading these facts since so much of these marketing messages come to us now electronically. But marketers still rely on good old fashioned mail to get their points across and, for some consumers, it must work. However, the vast majority of these pieces, 56% to be exact, just get tossed. As mentioned, that has a significant impact on landfills, and also impacts global warming — creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars!*
As consumers, it’s important to know that we have a choice in the matter and can easily opt-out of this wasteful process. Here are two approaches for doing just that, whether you have an hour or just a couple of minutes:
If you have an hour:
The first step is to identify the junk mail that you’re getting. Put a basket by the mailbox and drop in any of the coupons, credit card offers, donation requests, and other junk mail you get for a week. At the end of the week, log on to either of the sites below and opt out of the major offenders all at once.
- CatalogChoice.org: This is my personal favorite as it’s free and pretty simple to use. Sign up for an account and login to register your opt-outs. You can also opt-out of receiving a phone book (who uses those anymore?) simply by entering your zip code. From there, CatalogChoice will contact the senders and take care of everything for you automatically. The site also offers additional, paid services as well.
- DMAchoice.org: This site, operated by the Direct Marketing Association itself, provides a searchable database of catalogs, magazine offers, and “other” mail offers allowing you to identify which companies you want to hear from, and which you don’t. For the ones that you don’t want to get mail from, it provides contact information or (much easier) you can click a button asking the site to send the request on your behalf.
- Next, take a minute to opt-out of all of those credit card and insurance offers through OptOutPrescreen.com. Operated by the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry, this site allows you to opt-out of credit card and insurance offers from the major companies for 5 years or permanently. The site itself is in need of a redesign, but several other sources confirm its legitimacy. You’ll be asked to provide your name, address, social security number and date of birth, but note that the latter two are not required (just recommended).
If you laughed out loud at the idea of “having an hour:”
- The folks at 41pounds.org have designed a great service for people who are very short on time. The organization will contact direct mail companies to stop the majority of bulk mail on your behalf for five years– the only thing you need to do is type in your contact info and pay $41. If you’re a fast typer and have just a little more time, opt-out of credit card offers through OptOutPrescreen.com too (see above).
Have you cleaned up your junk mail? Let us know how it’s going by posting a comment.
Penny Bauder, a mom of two and an environmental scientist with a passion for STEAM education, is the founder of Green Kid Crafts, a green company that provides kids with convenient and sustainable STEAM activities through the company’s subscription program. The company has shipped over 2 million packages around the world designed to help inspire the next generations of environmental leaders. Penny was a winner of Entrepreneur’s “Build it Like a Woman” Inspiring Woman in Business Award, the Startup Nation Leading Moms in Business Competition and a recipient of the Female Founder Fellowship at the Founder’s Institute. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Management and an M.S. in Environmental Science.