Save a Tree (or a Forest) By Reducing Your “Junk” Mail

Victoria Howland, P.E., LEED AP, Project Engineer and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

and

Amy Gerhard, Communications and Marketing Coordinator

  • Do you feel weighted down by the amount of paper mail you receive every day?
  • Are you frustrated because you don’t know how you were added to a company’s mailing list after you receive the umpteenth catalog for products you will never use? 
  • Do you feel guilty about immediately throwing almost all of your mail in the recycling bin every day? 
  • Did you know that 2.4% of America’s municipal waste stream comes from mail?
  • Are you unsure of how to make it stop??? 

It is estimated that only 42% of the 9.8 billion catalogs that were mailed in 2016 within the United States were actually read.  Furthermore, only approximately 53% of mail actually gets recycled. 

The Sierra Club estimates that a hardwood tree can produce 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper.  If the average catalog is 50 sheets and the average tree produces 15,000 sheets of paper, it would take 33 million trees to produce the catalogs that were mailed in 2016.  Of the 33 million trees, 19 million would produce catalogs that weren’t even opened.  Imagine the impact if those trees were left standing!

Ideally all of that mail would be recycled to reduce the impact of that much paper contributing to our landfills.  But a better solution is to reduce it before it becomes junk mail. 

The good news is that there are a few resources to help with that process.

CatalogChoice was founded on the principle of stopping junk mail for good, and over the past eight years has helped over two million users reduce unwanted mail.  It provides a centralized service that sends opt-out requests to merchants based on a household’s mailing address.  After creating an account, the user searches for the company/catalog/magazine to cancel and confirms the basic information including the name and mailing address printed on the label to unsubscribe.  Account holders can also block most free trial subscriptions to magazines through this account, otherwise the website will outline the publication’s removal process.  Because this is household-based, this provides a simple way for multiple family members to reduce unwanted mailings.  Visit www.catalogchoice.org to learn more. 

The Consumer Credit Reporting Companies—consisting of Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion, under the auspices of the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—provide the national “Opt Out” program for offers of credit or insurance.  There are two separate processes that give consumers the choice to “opt out” for five years or permanently.  Consumers need to provide some basic information— including name, telephone number, social security number, and date of birth—all of which is how the credit organizations track consumers.  The five-year program can be completed by phone or online, but the permanent process needs to be done online or by mail as it requires a form to be signed. Learn more at www.optoutprescreen.com.

Another program that can greatly reduce the quantity of mail you receive is the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) consumer website.  For a small processing fee of $2 (credit card online) or $3 (mail-in option), you can enroll three individuals or three variations of one name at the same address to be removed for ten years from the mailing lists of approximately 3,600 organizations, including direct mail companies.  This applies for credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers, and other mail offers such as donation requests and retail promotions. 

DMA also offers an opt-out service to enable caregivers to stop the mail being sent to their ward and the opportunity to flag someone as deceased.  DMA reports their service can reduce mail volume by up to 80% and prevents most new direct mail solicitations.  As of last year, they have reduced direct mail by 930 million pieces.  For more information about these services, go to www.DMAchoice.org. 

The benefits of saving trees, preventing landfill waste, and reducing the time spent sorting through unwanted mail far outweigh the few minutes it takes to create an account and confirm the opt-out process, or the few dollars spent on registrations using these services. 

Reduce your mail—Save a tree!

To learn more,

  • www.catalogchoice.org
  • www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers
  • www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email
  • www.DMAchoice.org
  • www.optoutprescreen.com
  • www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2014-4-july-august/ask-mr-green/how-much-paper-does-one-tree-produce
  • https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2018/paper-catalogs-print-ikea-williams-sonoma-restoration