Each American household receives almost 900 pieces of junk mail per year and wastes about 8 hours per year dealing with it. Here are some ways to get rid of this incredibly wasteful annoyance.
Why Junk Mail is Evil
Consider these scary statistics about junk mail:
The annual production and transport of junk mail consumes more energy than 2.8 million cars idling 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The amount of greenhouse gases produced in the yearly production, delivery and disposal of junk mail is equivalent to the output of 11 coal-fired power plants!
Annually, more than 100 million trees are used to make junk mail—that’s the equivalent of clearcutting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every 4 months.
The Canadian Boreal forms part of the greater Boreal Forest, which stores more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem on earth. Despite this natural ability to protect us from the effects of climate change, the Canadian Boreal is being logged at a rate of 2 acres a minute, 24 hours a day to produce junk mail and other paper products.
Deforestation of Indonesia’s tropical forests is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions. This destruction is largely driven by demand for pulp and paper for end uses like junk mail. Logging contributes to Indonesia’s status as the world’s third largest emitter of CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere, despite its relatively small size.
Approximately 44% of junk mail goes to landfills unopened, where it produces methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. State and local governments (and their citizens) spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year to collect and dispose of all the bulk mail that does not get recycled.
How to Stop Your Junk Mail
- DirectMail.com – free, quick way to get your name off commercial mailing lists.
- OptOutPrescreen.com – opt out of preapproved credit card and insurance offers online or by phone: 1-888-5-OPTOUT.
- YellowPagesGoesGreen – get your name off phonebook mailing lists.
- EcoLogical Mail Coalition – helps businesses stop mail addressed to former employees.
- Catalog Choice – This free service can easily help you stop all those unwanted store catalogs from showing up in your mailbox.
- PaperKarma – this inexpensive smartphone app lets you take photos of the unwanted mail you want to stop, then they automatically contact the mailer and remove you from their distribution list.
Some bulk mail items are sent to every resident on a postal route. These are addressed to “Resident,” “Our Friends At,” etc. Your postal carrier cannot, by law, determine what you consider junk mail. All “resident” mail must be delivered as addressed.
To stop this type of junk mail, you must contact individual mailers to have your address removed from their database. Look around on mailers for return addresses and phone numbers.
Here are quick links to some common ones.
- America Online: phone 1-800-605-4297.
- Val-Pak coupons
- Publisher’s Clearinghouse: phone 1-800-645-9242 or email email@example.com with your full address and instructions to remove from mailing list.
- American Family Sweepstakes: phone 1-800-237-2400.
- Redplum, mailers of weekly sales circulars. It will take a few weeks, but it will stop coming.
You should not receive mail if the mail or the accompanying card is not addressed to you, but your postal carrier may still deliver bulk sales circulars on “auto-pilot” after you have canceled them. Remind your mail carrier politely that this junk is not addressed to you.
Junk E-mail May Be Worse
Once you’ve dealt with stopping junk mail in your mailbox, consider the other mail you get too. All of those junk e-mails that clutter up your inbox aren’t just a massive annoyance but a colossal waste of energy.
According to a report released by computer security company McAfee, spammers generated a whopping 62 trillion junk e-mails in 2009. (Imagine what it is now!)
What does that mean in terms of energy? Instead of sending messages asking for money or marketing Viagra, the electricity used sending the e-mails could have powered 2.4 million homes for a year or driven a car around the planet 1.6 times!
That waste of energy is also polluting the environment. Almost everything powered by electricity also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. McAfee researchers say spam-related emissions for all e-mail users around the world in 2008 totaled 17 million metric tons of CO2. That’s .2 percent of the total global emissions—just for spam!
The report said that nearly 80 percent of the spam-related greenhouse gas emissions came from the energy burned by PC users viewing, deleting and searching for legitimate e-mail under mounds of junk. About 80 to 90 percent of all e-mail is spam, but you can decrease your spam load by surfing the Net with a bit more care.
For example, anytime you participate in online discussions or post comments, make sure your user name is nothing like your e-mail address. And think twice before using the auto-complete feature on your browser because it may allow spammers to harvest personal information.
Some experts also advise changing your e-mail address yearly or using a temporary email address for all online shopping or opt-ins. And using a good spam filter and other email security measures to make filtering and protecting your email easier is always a good practice.
There are also a couple of apps that can help you reduce your spam email load:
- Boxbe – Boxbe filters and prioritizes your email to reduce email overload. With an organized inbox, Boxbe makes it faster and easier to view, answer and send email. Boxbe is free and integrates directly with Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Google Apps and AOL Mail.
- SpamDrain – This software filters out the spam, viruses and phishing attacks in your inbox. It will give you daily reports on what emails it has stopped. If it’s made a mistake you can simply ask it to spit that email out and it will send it through to your inbox. It costs $17 a year.
- Sanebox – This app is $7 a month, and it automatically moves unimportant emails from your inbox into custom folders for you to review later. You can also set reminders for specific email messages, block certain senders, assign priority levels, and more.
This article was excerpted from my book Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. For more money-saving, planet-friendly tips, pick up a copy today!.
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50 Ways to Love Your Mother contains 50 simple, “entry-level” ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Not only will these baby steps go easy on the planet, but they will go easy on your wallet, too.