A recent email from a reader got me thinking about junk mail. Although junk mail isn’t quite as bad as it used to be — I remember getting pounds of paper catalogs back in the day — most of us continue to receive unwanted advertising, donation solicitations and other not-so-necessary items every week in our mailboxes.
JoAnn Burns from Seaside wrote me with an interesting idea to combat at least one type of mailed solicitation: nonprofits and charities that send out address labels in hopes of donations.
“I am retired and one of my missions is to try and cut down on unnecessary mailings,” she wrote. “I counted all the address labels that I have on hand (why I continue to save them is a mystery), and I have over 2,500 of them.
“So, when I receive labels along with a donation form from the charity, I write a simple note, thanking them for their work and I return the labels and explain that it does not make me contribute. I tell them that it has the opposite effect.
“I also point out how randomly sending out these labels costs them money and wastes important resources.
“This is my mission. I even suggested that they should include a check box to indicate if you would prefer labels as a thank you. I feel if everyone were to do this it would get these organizations to rethink the sending of those labels.”
In a follow-up email, Burns noted that she still donates to charities she likes to support, “but only if no address labels are sent, and I tell them this.”
This is a great start to cutting down on junk mail, and there’s much more you can do. You may not be able to eliminate 100 percent of it, but you can definitely make a substantial dent in the amount you receive. Less paper equals more trees, plus if mail carriers are carrying a lighter load, it takes less fuel to operate their vehicles and trims down that carbon footprint.
I found great tips at the Eco-Cycle website (www.ecocycle.org/junkmail), which is worth looking at for more detailed information, but here are some of the highlights.
• You can remove your name from mailing lists at www.dmachoice.org, part of the Data Marketing Association, and you can use it to reduce paper mail as well as unwanted commercial emails. It does cost $2 to register with the site, which is good for a period of 10 years, or $3 to register by mail.
• Receiving too many credit card or insurance offers? You can simply call (888) 567-8688 or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to take your name off these promotional mailing lists. You can choose either a five-year or a permanent removal. Also, if you prefer, you can choose to opt in.
• Too many catalogs? You can stop them with ease by going to Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) and filling out the online form.
• You can also ask charities and nonprofits to send you only one donation request per year. More tips can be found at www.charitywatch.org/articles/seventips.html for reducing junk mail and phone solicitations from these organizations.
Look for more great ideas on the Eco-Cycle website, and if you do take these steps, be aware that some patience might be required — it can take up to 90 days to see an emptier mailbox.
Do you have questions or tips about sustainable living around the Central Coast? Send them to Kathryn McKenzie at email@example.com. Follow Kathryn McKenzie at www.facebook.com/kathrynmckenziewriter.