Signs of the coming holidays have been multiplying fast and furious, especially in my mailbox. Every day since early September, the mailman has shoved another holiday catalog or two through the tiny mail slot in our front door, along with the usual collection of credit card offers, sales flyers, coupon clipper magazines, insurance offers, and other assorted junk mail.

I don’t know how it works in your house, but in ours, the dining room table is the default landing pad for each day’s mail delivery. The pile quickly became an avalanche. Something had to give.

Though I had found places to recycle all the junk mail, magazines and newspapers that were piling up, it seemed crazy to keep receiving all of it, only to throw it away immediately. I looked at that avalanche of junk mail and saw . . . no, not snow . . . dead trees!

In fact, the Native Forest Network estimates that 100 million trees are ground up each year to produce junk mail.

100 million trees.

And the printing and production processes to create the junk mail use an estimated 28 billion gallons of water each year.

28 billion gallons.

And that’s before you factor in the environmental impact of transporting all of that junk mail to our mailboxes. (sorry, postal workers!)

The nonprofit organization 41Pounds estimates that the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year. It seemed like we’d received at least that much just in the last few months.

So I knuckled down to figure out how to drastically cut down the amount of junk mail coming in, instead of just recycling it (which also, alas, has an environmental impact.)

Turns out there are a few steps you can take that can cut down a good bit of the junk mail. Here they are, in case you’re at risk of your own junk mail avalanche:

1. Go to the website www.OptOutPrescreen.com, to remove your name and address from credit bureau mailing lists that are used to send you unsolicited credit card and insurance offers

2. Go to the website www.dmachoice.org to register your name and address for the “Do Not Mail” database. You’ll have to register and create a login, then you can register your preferences for receiving (or NOT receiving) catalogs, magazine offers and other mail offers. (note: the dmachoice.org website also has a direct link to the OptOutPrescreen site to remove your name for credit card and insurance offers)

3. Go to the website www.yellowpagesoptout.com to plug in your zipcode and remove your name from receiving unwanted Yellow Pages phone books

4. Each time you receive a catalog that you don’t want, call the catalog company’s 800 number and ask them to REMOVE your name and address from their database.

There are other steps you can take to further cut the volume of junk mail, but if you don’t have time to work at it on your own, you can sign up with 41Pounds.org and they will take care of all of the legwork to eliminate junk mail and catalogs for your entire household for five years, for a fee of $41. This nonprofit was started by Tim and Shane Pfannes, and Sander DeVries, three tech-savvy brothers from Michigan, in 2006. (they just celebrated their fifth anniversary a couple of weeks ago) They’ve achieved some really impressive results in those five years. They’ve stopped 5 million pounds of junk mail, saved 44,000 trees from destruction and raised more than $300,000 for environmental organizations. They’ve been written up in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, NBC News, Fox News, and elsewhere for the service they offer to cut down on junk mail.

It’s only been a few weeks since I started taking steps to reduce our junk mail. Each website I visited to find out what to do warned that it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months before you see a clear drop in the amount of junk mail you’re receiving. I’m looking forward to seeing the surface of our dining room table again. Maybe in time for Christmas dinner . . .

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa sustainability

Next: Six Reasons to Take Kids Holiday Shopping (at GTGH)

Previous: One Year Into the Adventure