Volume 13, Issue 47 ~ November 24 - November 30, 2005

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Got an Environmental Question? Send it to: EARTH TALK, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. Or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com. Or e-mail us at: [email protected].

From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Santa Baby, Bring Me No Junk Mail for Christmas

How can I reduce the amount of unwanted mail that I receive?

—Jennifer Pearle, Brattleboro, Vermont

Some 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail solicitations clog U.S. landfills every year, according to the Center for a New American Dream, a Maryland-based non-profit that works to help people consume responsibly. Meanwhile, the average household may receive as many as 1,000 pieces of unwanted mail annually, of which only about 22 percent get recycled. Further, says the Center for a New American Dream, each American will spend about eight months of his or her life opening unwanted mail. Reducing the volume of mail you receive will not only saves trees, energy and landfill space, it also saves you time.

So how do you reduce the mountain of junk mail that fills your mailbox? Registering with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association can help, but it is no guarantee. Direct Marketing Association includes your name in a database, and consulting their Do Not Mail list is voluntary on the part of marketers. Indeed, most pieces of mail you receive are from firms who rented your name from another firm, so they can usually only comply with take me off your list requests by using this service. Fortunately, most large mailers do use the service routinely because they know that there is nothing to gain by mailing to people who don’t want their mail.

Another way to lighten your mailbox is to go to OptOutPreScreen.com, where you can get yourself off of lists that credit card and insurance companies use to solicit your business. It’s a centralized website run by the country’s four major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion. These are the companies that businesses check with before accepting your credit card. They are also the largest sources of names and addresses used by credit card companies to trawl for new customers via mass mailings. Luckily, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that these bureaus delete any person’s name and address, if they so request, from rented lists.

In addition to registering with these services, you should notify in writing all of the companies you do business with that you wish to be placed on their do not promote or in-house suppress files. Do it the very first time you do business with them if you can, but you can do it at any time. These should include your credit card companies, magazines you receive, catalogs you buy from and any others that you do business with by mail.

You can keep such companies and organizations honest by cleverly altering your name so as to track where mail may be obtaining it. If your name is John Smith, for example, subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine as John R.S. Smith (in conjunction with telling them not to rent your name). If you later receive mail from another company or organization addressed to John R.S. Smith, you’ll know precisely how they found you and you can take action accordingly.

The website JunkBusters.com provides further guidelines for reducing mail and other intrusive marketing.

For more information:

• Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service: www.dmaconsumers.org/consumerassistance.html.

• JunkBusters.com: www.junkbusters.com.

• OptOutPreScreen.com: www.optoutprescreen.com.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.