Junk mail is both annoying and incredibly wasteful. Let’s talk about how to get rid of junk mail for good.
According to the EPA, more than 4 million tons of junk mail reach our mailboxes each year. The cost is multifaceted for our environments: we lose trees for paper, water for printing, add CO2 emissions for transport, just to have the mail end up in a landfill. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates 60% of junk mail is thrown in the trash, not even recycled. The worst part is, no one ever asked if we wanted this junk in the first place!
So how do you stop it? The good news is, there are basically two approaches to a solution for unwanted junk mail.
Stop Junk Mail Before It’s Sent
The first and most effective way to avoid junk mailers is to stop the direct mail before it is sent to you. You can register for a “do not mail” list. Similar to the “do not call” lists, this list tells companies not to send you unsolicited mail. Be patient, it can take several weeks! The Federal Trade Commission and USPS recommend two sites:
There is a $2 processing fee for this website, but this list lasts for 10 years. The Direct Marketing Association website not only offers junk mail reduction services but you can also sign up for their other programs including the following:
- eMail Preference Service (reduce your unsolicited commercial email);
- Telephone Preference Service (to reduce national commercial calls for consumers who live in Pennsylvania and Wyoming – consumers in other states are referred to the National Do Not Call Registry: www.donotcall.gov);
- Deceased Do Not Contact list (for name removal of deceased individuals’ names); and
- Do Not Contact list for Caregivers (for caregivers to register name removal on behalf of those individuals for whom they care)
Go to optoutprescreen.com or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). This allows you to opt out of offers from credit card companies for 5 years. You can also download and print a form to mail in a written request to opt out permanently. This website is the only one authorized by the nationwide credit bureaus. Before using this website, I received unwanted credit card offers nearly every week. Using Opt Out Prescreen is the best way to avoid these credit offers.
This is a completely free service that helps you to eliminate junk mail and unwanted catalogs from select businesses. Catalog Choice is a nonprofit organization unaffiliated with the mail marketing industry. This action requires little effort but makes a significant impact!
Send Unopened Mail Back
The second approach to eliminating unwanted mail is to send unopened mail back to the company by writing “refused” on it. Unfortunately, this does not generate any less mail, but the company may get the hint once it’s been returned. This serves as a reminder to organizations that their mail campaign was not impactful and a waste of their money.
Directly Contact Businesses
If you have tried to opt out of a company’s list without success via one of the above websites, consider contacting them directly. You can reach out to customer service by phone call, email, or even social media and ask to be removed from their mailing list.
Mail from Companies You Have an Existing Business Relationship With
However, this does not apply to mail from companies/organizations that consumers “have an existing business relationship”. These are businesses that already have your personal information as you’ve communicated with their organization before.
You can start by taking inventory of the “relationships” and reach out to companies. Take an afternoon and send some quick emails, find contact boxes or online forms on company websites, or even call the company if you feel the mail is excessive. You don’t have to spend a ton of time reaching out but instead, find the repeat offenders and let them know the negative impact the pieces of junk mail has on their brand. It could very well help to inform decision making for their ad next campaign!
There are also a couple apps to help keep you organized. Try PaperKarma or iPaperApp (available from the Apple App Store). Both are free and help you catalog and send unsubscribe requests to direct marketers. With PaperKarma, you simply take a picture of the junk mail and they will contact the company for you to get you off their mailing list.
Be mindful of sharing your personal information with companies unnecessarily. Opting out of data sharing or limiting sensitive information shared can help reduce your chances of receiving targeted advertisements and unwanted mail. This applies to email spam as well.
Paperless Billing and Communication
While not exactly junk mail, paper bills and communications from your phone, electric, and insurance companies can be prevented as well. Consider switching to paperless billing and communication methods. Many companies now offer electronic statements, bills, and newsletters, which can significantly reduce the amount of physical mail received. By opting for electronic communication, you not only reduce waste but also enjoy the convenience of accessing documents online.
If you move to a new house or rental, chances are you’ve received junk mail addressed to the previous occupant or previous residents. Help prevent junk mail if you move frequently, by setting up a mail forwarding service with the postal service. This ensures that your mail is redirected to your new forwarding address, reducing the chances of receiving unwanted mail at your previous address. You can complete this form at the post office or also there’s an online form which makes it super simple and easy to do.
With the holiday season in full swing, there will undoubtedly be more promotional mail flooding in. Try these simple solutions today to help stop junk mail and lighten the load on our environment. After all, that junk mail really could have been an email!
While you’re working to eliminate physical junk mail, also consider decluttering your inbox as well! Say goodbye to spam emails and superfluous email subscriptions.
Jess Godfrey is a writer and lover of everything outdoors based in Western, NC. Find more of her writing at trail-travels.com