The environmental impact of direct mail, often unsolicited junk mail, is undeniable. It’s estimated that nearly 6 million tons (12 billion pounds) of direct mail and catalogs are distributed each year. More than half of it ends up in landfills, less than half of it, about 36%, is recycled. The Privacy Council, a national non-profit organization, estimates 7.4 billion pounds of paper from direct mail is dumped into landfills each year.
And it’s not just the paper itself that’s so wasteful. One hundred million trees are used each year to make paper for junk mail. It also takes 28 billion gallons of water to make and recycle it.
A private study in 2007 found that junk mail was responsible for 51.5 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, the equivalent of the emissions generated by heating 13 million homes during the winter.
What does it mean for the average American? The average person spends 70 hours a year dealing with 560 pieces junk mail, weighing an estimated 41 pounds.
The good news is that there are some simple, yet effective steps anyone can take to minimize the amount of unsolicited mail we receive.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a straightforward list of nine tips to reduce direct mail. The simplest step is to register with the Direct Marketing Association, the nation’s leading direct mail organization, which represents 3,600 companies.
Reducing or eliminating Junk Mail can have a very real and positive impact on the environment.
There are some other groups that are highly recommended. Catalog Choice is a non-profit that provides a free service. They also have other “green” information on their Facebook page. A Forbes magazine article in 2012 explains their service.
Another service, 41pounds.org, guarantees an 80-95% reduction in junk mail, but at a cost of $7 per year.
A local service, DirectMail.com, is based in Prince Frederick, in Calvert County.
Each of these services will allow you to select the direct mail you want to receive, and each offers some great advice for how you can keep solicitors from getting your name, address, and phone number.