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On average, US adults receive 16 pieces of junk mail a week, compared to only 1.5 personal letters, according to Ocean Futures Society. Junk mail is prolific, more than 4 million tons of unsolicited bulk mail is produced in the United States annually. It takes a lot of resources to generate that volume of bulk mail; it's around 100 million trees worth of paper every year. Imagine deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months just to send out brochures, catalogues, ads and other things you never asked for and don't want. Besides the 100 million trees destroyed each year for junk mail, 28 billion gallons of water and enough energy to power more than 9 million cars goes into the process of getting paper advertisements into your mailbox. By taking steps to reduce the junk mail and catalogs we receive, we are keeping trees in the forests and letting them do what they do best – generate oxygen for us to breathe and absorb carbon to keep our planet healthy.

Most junk mail could go into the recycling system and be turned back into new junk mail – recycled paper trapped in a system of printing, shipping and disposal -- but about half of the 4 million tons of junk mail produced in this country every year ends up in a landfill without ever being opened. According to Oceans Future Society, it costs the US around $320 million in local taxes to dispose of junk mail each year. Recycling the junk mail you receive is important, but to really shred your paper waste at the source, follow these four tips from Harvard Law School's Green Living Team for getting less junk mail in the first place. 

1. Cut the Credit Card Offers 

The main consumer credit reporting agencies -- TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax -- maintain mailing lists that are often used by credit card and insurance companies to send out junk mail. The good news is that you can call a single number to get your name and address removed from the mailing lists circulated by all three agencies (as well as that of a fourth company, Innovis).

  • 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688)
  • www.optoutprescreen.com 

The number—which connects you to a recorded message—works 24 hours a day. When you use the website or number, you will be prompted to give your full name, address, telephone number, and social security number. (People often ask about the necessity of giving their social security number. The credit bureaus already have access to these numbers and claim that they ask for them here to confirm the requests). You may select to have your name removed for five years (can be done online or via phone), or to have your name removed permanently which requires following up by sending in a printed form.

2. Prevent Marketers from Passing Your Name Around 

 Any time you order a product by mail, enter a contest, subscribe to a magazine, send in a warranty card, or otherwise give your name and address to a company or organization, you may be placed on a mailing list. The company or organization may then rent, sell, or trade the list with your name on it. To limit your exposure, write "Please do not rent or sell my name" or "No mailing lists" next to your name. (Also consider not sending in the warranty card for a new product; it's usually not required.)


3. Ask Companies to Stop Sending Catalogs 

If you receive unwanted catalogs or other mail from specific sources, call the (often toll-free) customer service number of the organization or business. Request that your name be removed from their mailing list. Other options are to make your request via e-mail from the company's website, or via letter or postcard. Since the mailing label will help the company identify how you are listed in its files, have the label handy when you call, or tape it to the postcard if you make a written request. Sign and date your request.


4. Opt-Out of Junk Mail

 

There are several online services you can use to remove your name from catalog and credit card lists and other databases:

41pounds.org can help you eliminate 80–95 percent of junk mailings by contacting dozens of direct marketers on your behalf. The one-time fee of $41 covers every adult in your household for five years, and more than a third of this fee is donated to the environmental or community organization of your choice.

Catalog Choice offers two options: a free service that sends opt-out requests for individual companies that are already marketing to you, and a premium "unlisting" service that, for an annual donation of $20 or more, is designed to remove your name from data brokers who sell your contact information to marketers.

You can register online with the Direct Marketing Association's (DMA) Mail Preference Service to remove your name from national mailing lists.

Contact Publishers Clearinghouse (by phone at 800.645.9242 or by e-mail: privacychoices@pchmail.com) and Readers Digest (by phone at 800.310.6261) to be removed from sweepstakes lists.

Contact CoxTarget to stop receiving Val-Pak coupons.


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