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Natural Awakenings

End the Mailing Madness

Mailbox full of junk mail

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Junk mail is wasteful. In our digital age, email and the internet have become the preferred modes of communication. When a shiny, multipage magazine or catalog arrives in the mail, we must view it as an unsustainable practice and take action to curb it.

Squandered Resources

According to Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society, “More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year for junk mail plus 28 billion gallons of water and enough energy to power more than 9 million cars! When we stop junk mail and catalogs, we keep trees in the forests doing what they do best—providing oxygen for us to breathe and absorbing CO2 to keep our planet cool and healthy.”

Added Landfill Burden

Junk mail also adds 1 billion pounds of waste to landfills each year. U.S. Postal Service Senior Director of Environmental Affairs and Corporate Sustainability Jennifer Beiro-Réveillé says, “We buy over $392 million worth of products containing recycled material every year and reduce waste by recycling 277,000 tons of material annually,” at more than 4,000 postal paper recycling stations around the country. But the post office cannot control what is being mailed.

What to Do About It

Almost all magazines have an online edition, and companies likely prefer shoppers to visit their websites rather than go to the expense of designing, printing and mailing bulky catalogs that cannot be updated as inventory and prices change. It is usually a simple matter to contact a company by email, phone or even via a website and request the mailings to be stopped. All it takes is a little time and effort to make a big, cumulative difference.

Strength in Numbers

Taking matters a step further, the Ocean Futures Society has partnered with 41Pounds to offer a membership plan (866-417-4141) to stop junk mail. They will contact 20 to 35 direct mail companies to remove a name from their distribution lists, including almost all credit card applications, coupon mailers and magazine offers, plus specific catalogs.

Regulatory Options

The Sierra Club wants to ban junk mail outright, reporting, “An estimated 44 percent of junk mail is thrown away unopened.” Margaret Klein Salamon, founder and director of The Climate Mobilization, likens the idea of banning junk mail to bans on plastic straws. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Canada already enforce junk mail restrictions.

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