Go Green, Live Rich: Stop Junk Mail

Often times when I opened my mailbox, I would only see credit card solicitations, catalogs and local advertising flyers. Most weeks, if I didn't check our mailbox, the entire contents would be dumped immediately into our trash can. Despite the Internet, mail marketing is still a very prevalent way of advertising to consumers.  

If you have signed up for anything that required you to enter your home address, there is a high likelihood that your information will be shared and sold to other companies. When information is collected about you, companies that specialize in data management can merge your information with other data sets. Your zip code can indicate what kind of neighborhood you live in. Your income range can indicate what kind of products you would likely purchase. Your gender and household (kids, pets, etc.) information can be used to target you with specific offerings from family friendly companies. If you have never bought anything from a company, but still receive catalogs from them, you have fit the criteria of a prospect. This means that they have analyzed past purchasers and based on the information they have about you have determined that you are likely to be a potential customer and therefore will be targeted for future buying. Read more about how they do this here. Even though the article is from 2012, it is still very relevant today. Now they are merging offline with online data so there's even more information about you to target. (I used to work on the online side and am very familiar with how anonymous, aggregated data is used to target potential customers.)


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Couple this with America's shopping pastime, mail not only hurts the environment, but it wastes our time and money.  art of the reason why marketing works in general is because it makes you feel inadequate and the only way to fill that gap is to purchase whatever is being marketed. It's hard for us to avoid some of these messages as it is prevalent (billboards, tv, bus signs, internet, etc.), but we do have some control over a few of these marketing channels. We can reduce the amount of tv we watch so that we are not exposed to a lot of advertising. We can reduce our internet time. We can also stop a lot of of the junk mail that gets delivered to us. By reducing the unwanted pieces of mail that we get, we can save the environment and also reduce our purchase temptation resulting in more money in our pockets. While reducing mail is very much achievable, eliminating it completely can be very hard. Here are some tips to start.

  • Before sharing your information, ask if it is absolutely necessary to provide your home address. Check to see if providing an email address is enough to confirm sign-up.
  • Review your mail before throwing it out. If there items are not addressed to you, take them to the Post Office and let them know that the person no longer lives at your address.
  • For catalogs, sign up to be removed at https://www.catalogchoice.org/ and https://dmachoice.thedma.org/
  • To be removed from credit card offers and solicitations, sign-up at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t
  • For offers on existing credit cards, contact your credit card company directly and asked to be removed. You can be specific about promotions by mentioning some key words from the offer. 
  • For everything else, you can go to the sender's online site and navigate to the Privacy Policy. The Privacy Policy is a required section of businesses and organizations. Review it and look for links to opt-out of mailing lists or a contact email where you can write to get yourself removed.
  • To be removed from a mailing list via email. Make sure you use the words "opt-out" in the Subject and Body of the email and provide the full name and address as listed in the mail that you receive.  
  • You can find additional tips here: http://www.zerowastehome.com/2010/01/my-junk-mail-war-is-still-on/

Example of an opt-out request I made to Verizon.  I was already a customer, but I kept getting offers to upgrade to other services and I had no interest in doing so.

When I first started my journey to reduce junk mail, I didn't really think about the environment impact. My biggest concern was the amount of credit card offers I was getting. I had read somewhere that this was one of the easiest ways to be a victim of identity theft with someone opening up a new credit card without you knowing. So I immediately signed-up for the Opt Out Pre-Screen to reduce this. My second challenge was the Victoria's Secret catalogs. Each time they had an underwear sale or their semi-annual sale, it was always tempting, but definitely not necessary so I got myself removed from the VS catalog mailing list and stopped shopping at VS. I did read recently that VS will stop producing their catalogs which is a good sign.  

I still continue my battle with junk mail, but each day I go to the mailbox and there is nothing there, I always put a fist up for this small victory.  

I recently returned from a 2 week trip. Typically, I would put my mail on hold as they would pile up and not fit in the mailbox, but this time around, I no longer needed to do this. When I arrived, I only received 2 legitimate pieces of mail. The rest were addressed to Current Resident so another win there.


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