BeyondConsumerism

Providing tools and support to families, citizens, and activists to counter our consumerist culture and to create new social norms about how to have a high quality of life and a reduced ecological footprint.

Junk Your Junk Mail

junk mailAccording to the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. companies sent 35 billion pieces of direct postal mail in 1980, 64 billion pieces in 1990, 90 billion pieces in 2000, and 100 billion pieces in 2005. That’s more than 300 pieces of bulk mail for every man, woman, and child!

Each year, more than 100 million trees’ worth of bulk mail arrive in American mailboxes—that’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months. The production and disposal of direct mail consumes more energy than 3 million cars.

Take Action!

One easy way to save trees and energy is by getting off mailing lists and preventing unsolicited mail from coming to you. Here’s a step-by-step guide for reducing unwanted mail:

1)  Cut the Credit Card Offers

The main consumer credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, maintain mailing lists that are often used by credit card and insurance companies to send out junk mail. The good news is that you can call a single number to get your name and address removed from the mailing lists circulated by all three agencies (as well as that of a fourth company, Innovis).

Simply call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688)

The number—which connects you to a recorded message—works 24 hours a day. You will be prompted to give your full name, address, telephone number, and social security number. (People often ask about the necessity of giving their social security number. The credit bureaus already have access to these numbers and claim that they ask for them here to confirm the requests). When given options, press 3 to have your name removed permanently, or press 1 to have your name removed for just two years.

2)  Prevent Marketers from Passing Your Name Around

Any time you order a product by mail, enter a contest, subscribe to a magazine, send in a warranty card, or otherwise give your name and address to a company or organization, you may be placed on a mailing list. The company or organization may then rent, sell, or trade the list with your name on it. To limit your exposure, write "Please do not rent or sell my name" or "No mailing lists" next to your name. (Also consider not sending in the warranty card for a new product--it's usually not required.)

3)  Ask Companies to Stop Sending Catalogs

If you receive unwanted catalogs or other mail from specific sources, call the (often toll-free) customer service number of the organization or business. Request that your name be removed from their mailing list. Other options are to make your request via e-mail from the company's website, or via letter or postcard. Since the mailing label will help the company identify how you are listed in its files, have the label handy when you call, or tape it to the postcard if you make a written request. Sign and date your request. 

4)  Go Online and Opt Out of Junk Mail

There are several online services you can use to remove your name from catalog and credit card lists and other databases:

41pounds.org can help you eliminate 80–95 percent of junk mailings by contacting dozens of direct marketers on your behalf. The one-time fee of $41 covers every adult in your household for five years, and more than a third of this fee is donated to the environmental or community organization of your choice.

Catalog Choice offers two options: a free service that sends opt-out requests for individual companies that are already marketing to you, and a premium "unlisting" service that, for an annual donation of $20 or more, is designed to remove your name from data brokers who sell your contact information to marketers.

Finally, you can register online with the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service to remove your name from national mailing lists.

(Calculations by New Dream based on statistics from Conservatree and U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Energy and the Paper Task Force.)

5) Get the App and Opt Out of Junk Mail!

The following cell-phone apps can help you "junk your junk mail" by removing your name from catalog and credit card lists and other databases:

PaperKarma allows you to take photos of the junk mail you wish to stop. Snap a photo, and you're done. PaperKarma will automatically contact the Mailer and remove you from their distribution list. The app can stop most junk mail that is addressed directly to you.

Catalog Choice's MailStop Mobile works similarly: Simply take a picture of the unwanted mail through the app and upload. They will do the rest of the work for you.