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One Thing You Can Do: Reduce Unwanted Mail


Last year the United States Postal Service delivered more than 77 billion pieces of marketing mail, and I think a lot of it went to me.

When I sort my mail, the vast majority is unwanted — usually enough fliers, credit card offers and unsolicited promotions to fill my recycling bin. All that mail has a significant effect on our climate, including the loss of trees and the energy used for producing and transporting huge quantities of paper.

That’s why some environmental groups have pushed for a national Do Not Mail List, similar to the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry, and the Sierra Club recently called for a ban on unsolicited mail. But environmentalists say industry pushback against legislation has been fierce. “There’s huge economic interest involved,” said Joshua Martin, the director of the Environmental Paper Network. “Politically it’s a really tough one to go at.”


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The Postal Service, for example, makes billions of dollars each year from marketing mail. According to the Association of National Advertisers, Americans received nearly 10 billion catalogs in 2017.

John Wolfe, a spokesman for the association, wrote in an email that direct mail supported thousands of jobs and had proved effective as a marketing channel. Plus, he added, “we have many members that use properly sourced paper and pay attention to environmental stewardship.”

Mr. Martin disputed the claim that marketing mail is effective. He called it “a low-value and high-volume use of paper.”

With a national registry appearing unlikely anytime soon, can you put a stop to unwanted mail? Probably not. But there are steps you can take to reduce the volume.

CatalogChoice.org is free and lets you set preferences one catalog at a time. The Association of National Advertisers runs DMAChoice.org, which lets you remove your name from a broader categories and lists, though there’s a $2 fee.

There’s also OptOutPrescreen.com, which is recommended by the Federal Trade Commission and run by the major credit bureaus. It lets you stop preapproved credit or insurance offers for up to five years.

And don’t forget to sign up for electronic delivery for of bank, credit card and other account statements. Just be sure you don’t need a physical copy of those documents.

Another big source of unwanted paper can be phone books. Millions of Americans still receive the Yellow Pages. Yellowpagesoptout.com should get you off the phone book list for at least a few years.

With broader initiatives on marketing mail stalled, Mr. Martin said that taking personal action was all the more important. “It’s a small act that makes a difference,” he said. If a grass-roots movement to limit mailings gains steam, he said “it’d really be significant for reducing the demand for wood, water and energy.”

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