How to Stop the Flow of Junk Mail and Save Trees — and Your Sanity
Many people love to hate junk mail — and they have lots of different ways of quantifying their disgust: New York University says 5.6 million tons of junk mail end up in American landfills every year. Ecocycle.org says we may spend as much as eight months of our life sorting junk mail. TreeHugger.com claims junk mail’s annual carbon contribution is equal to that of seven U.S. states combined. Of course, these stats all come from people who would like to see less junk mail sent and tossed.
So what do junk mail advocates say? First, they don’t call it junk mail. They call it “direct mail” or “marketing mail.” The Data and Marketing Association says American businesses sent 149 billion pieces of direct mail and nearly 10 billion catalogues in 2016. And here’s why: The DMA says more than 5 percent of people respond to direct mail, compared with less than 1 percent who respond to email pitches. Marketers know we have to sort it, which means we have to look at it. The U.S. Postal Service says even millennials — three quarters of them — find marketing mail valuable.
With numbers like that, the industry’s not going to stop it. So if you’re not a fan, you’ll have to do it yourself. There are two easy ways to opt out of much of the bulk mail you receive. Then, if you’re still not satisfied, there are several more steps you can take.
1. Say no.
DMAchoice ( dmachoice.thedma.org ) should be your first stop because it gives you the opportunity to say no to multiple categories of mail in one place: catalogues, credit offers and magazine offers, as well as charity, bank and retail mailings. Members of the Data & Marketing Association (formerly the Direct Marketing Association) would rather not spend their money sending direct mail to people who don’t want to receive it, so they started this service decades ago. I tried it myself and was done in less than three minutes. The service costs $2 and lasts for 10 years.
2. Opt out.
If you’re like many people, credit card offers are one of the biggest categories in your mailbox, which is why this is Step 2. The big credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion — created a mechanism for people to opt out of preapproved credit card offers and insurance offers. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives these credit bureaus the right to share our credit histories with businesses that may want to offer us financial products. The Opt Out Prescreen system (optoutprescreen.com) is an attempt to give you a say in the matter. This service is free, though you will have to provide your Social Security number to verify your identity. (Don’t worry — the credit bureaus already have it.) You can opt out online for five years or print out a form that you mail in to opt out permanently. This service can also be accessed on the DMAchoice website.
3. Cancel the catalogues.
Registering with DMAchoice should stop the flow of catalogues and magazine offers, but if you want to be extra thorough, you can also contact Abacus. Catalogue and publishing companies share consumer information via Abacus. To let Abacus know that you do not wish to get mailings from its members, send an email to its parent company at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put “remove” in the subject line and your name and address in the body of the email. Be sure to include your name as it appears on the bulk mail you receive. If your middle initial is on there, use it. If your name is misspelled, include that. If you have moved in the past six months, state your previous address as well.