How Green

Pitching All That Pesky -- and Wasteful -- Junk Mail

Each afternoon, I greet the arrival of the day's mail in the steel "U.S. Mail" slot on my house's front porch with ambivalence.

On the one hand, I subscribe to a spate of different politics and culture magazines, one or two of which usually arrive each day much to my glee.

On the other hand, crammed into the mail slot with those magazines and the rest of the day's mail are reams and reams of junk mail -- coupons, Pottery Barn catalogs I don't want, credit card applications, etc. -- practically bursting out of the mail slot.

Junk mail, that plague of unwanted and wasted advertisements and catalogs, might seem like a minor inconvenience to you and me. But according to a report issued by ForestEthics, a nonprofit environmental group that tries to protect endangered forest, found that more than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered in the U.S. each year -- an average of 848 pieces per household.

The ForestEthics report goes on to conclude that the production, distribution and disposal of those 100 billion pieces of junk mail generates more than 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. That's the equivalent annual emissions, the report says, of 9.3 million passenger cars, 11 coal-fired power plants or 12.9 million homes.

So what's to be done? Junk mail, it seems, is as predictable and unstoppable as death and taxes. Thankfully, as the push for more eco-friendly, green living has gained in popularity in the U.S., organizations like have sprung up, offering services to cut out unwanted junk mail.

For a fee of $41, will contact direct mail companies and other junk mail sources and have them purge your name from their mailing lists for five years. This is what I've done for my own house, saving me the time it would take to remove my name and address from direct mail lists by myself.

If you don't want to pay a service to remove your name and address, has a detailed, step-by-step process on how you can personally contact direct mail companies and have your name and address removed. Here's EcoCycle's first step:

Step 1: Remove your name

Contacting the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and registering with their Mail Preference Service provides an effective way for you to fight the junk mail glut. The DMA does not provide marketers with consumer mailing lists or do consumer mailings. They provide their Mail Preference Service to marketers for the sole purpose of removing consumer's names and addresses from their prospect mailing lists. To add your name to the do-not-mail list, register online at or download a mail-in form. Be sure to list each name receiving mail at your address, including misspellings. You can also send a letter, along with $1, with your name(s) and address to the DMA asking to be removed from their mailing list. Note that mail addressed to "resident" or "occupant" cannot be stopped through the DMA.

Direct Marketing Association

Mail Preference Service?P.O. Box 282 ?Carmel, NY 10512


The U.S. Postal Service also offers its own tips on how to become what it calls an "ENVIRONMAILIST," which don't involve spending any of your precious dollars, either.

Every year, U.S. businesses send billions of pieces of mail that are undeliverable as addressed (UAA). By taking simple, ongoing steps to maintain a clean, up-to-date list, your business can reduce its amount of UAA mail. This helps lessen its impact on the environment because you'll be producing fewer mailpieces and using less paper, ink and energy. Resources available to help hone your lists include ZIP Code correction, address standardization and change--of--address services. Here are steps you can take to fine-tune your lists:

• Merge and purge mailing lists often to remove invalid names and addresses.

• Provide frequent, clear opportunities for customers to opt-in and opt-out.

• Maintain a list to prevent unwanted communications.

• Allow customers to specify their preferred method of contact.

• Target mail efficiently using segmentation and modeling to select recipients.

• Personalize your message to increase relevance and reduce waste.

O.K., so targeting direct mail companies may seem tedious or a waste of time. But when considering the serious environmental impact, if all the college students in the country -- often targeted by corporations and credit card companies -- took a few minutes to cut down on the junk mail they receive, the impact would be significant.