by Jeff Feldman
As I replace my 2010 “America’s Scenic Wonders” calendar with the 2011 version received as a free gift by mail from the National Wildlife Federation, I realize it’s that time of year again. It’s time to resolve to somehow improve myself in the New Year.
In 2011, I’m focusing on weight loss. I just read that we Americans gained a startling average of 41 pounds last year! Those pounds piled up almost daily, escalating during the holiday season. They came as pre-approved credit card offers, sweepstakes entries, car insurance promotions, sale fliers, coupon mailers, and oh my, the catalogs.
Yep, we get sent 41 pounds of junk mail annually!
As New Year’s resolutions go, shedding 41 unwanted pounds of junk mail is an easy target, and one with far reaching good effects. Americans receive almost four million tons of the stuff every year. That’s a sacrifice of roughly 100 million trees and more than 25 billion gallons of clean water.
Sadly, a staggering 93 percent of junk mail gets tossed away almost immediately, without so much as a look. But it still costs nearly $300 million annually to dispose of it. A quarter million homes could be heated with just a single day’s supply of unwanted solicitations!
If you’d like to shed your unwanted pounds of junk mail, and reduce the associated environmental impacts, you can choose between two paths: fee-based junk mail reduction services and the do-it-yourself method.
41pounds.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people reduce their junk mail glut. They charge $41 for a five-year membership, and guarantee an 80-95 percent reduction in the junk mail your household receives after 16 weeks. You provide some basic information and they do the rest, registering you with all the necessary “do not mail” organizations to ensure that junk mail stops hogging space in your mailbox and recycling bin. As a bonus, more than a third of your fee is donated to the environmental or community organization of your choice. Visit www.41pounds.org/faq for more info.
If you prefer the do-it-yourself junk mail diet, there are several organizations you’ll need to contact. To eliminate unsolicited credit card offers, go to www.optoutprescreen.com. Sign up online and you’re free and clear for five years.
The Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service exists solely for the purpose of providing direct marketers with the names and addresses for consumers who wish to be removed from mailing lists. Add your name to the DMA’s do-not-mail list by registering at www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action.
The National Do Not Mail List is managed by directmail.com, another direct mail marketing outfit. Though similar to the DMA’s list mentioned above, it never hurts to double-dip on these things. Register at www.directmail.com/directory/mail_preference.
If you find nothing of value in those periodic ValPak mailers, opt out by registering at www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppression/s/DisplayMailSuppressionForm.
Catalogs require a more selective approach, as many are not entirely unsolicited, but based on your past purchases. The best strategy is to call each company as soon as you receive an unwanted catalog, and ask to be removed from their mailing list. For catalogs you enjoy but would like to receive less frequently, call and ask to be cut back to a once or twice per year mailing.
Freeing yourself from the junk mail monster demands persistence and patience. Direct mail advertisers don’t always give up easily. So your first attempt to remove yourself from a mailing list may be met with a “we know you don’t really want to leave us, let’s try one more shot at winning you over!” approach.
Also, bulk mail is printed and processed months in advance and your efforts may not catch up with pieces already in the system or on their way to your mailbox. Be aware too that your name may appear in multiple variations or under several account numbers with catalog companies. You may need to remove several versions of yourself from catalog mailings before you’re free of them. Stick with it, and you will overcome.
So if you’re still seeking a meaningful, and relatively easy New Years resolution, try shedding 41 pounds. Think of the time, trees, and tons of waste you’ll save. Imagine a life without junk mail: good for you, good for the planet. Best wishes for being a few pounds lighter 2011!
Jeff Feldman runs GreenPath Consulting, a green building consulting firm. He lives with his wife Kristin Alexander in a strawbale home in Berkeley County, WV. To comment on this column go to www.blueridgepress.com or to Blue Ridge Press’ Facebook page. © BRP 2011.
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