Sustainability Challenge: Reducing Junk Mail

Junk mail is annoying. I think we can all agree on that. But more importantly, it has a huge environmental impact. Each American receives an average of 41 pounds of junk mail per year which equates to 80-100 million trees cut down annually. Just for junk mail! New York University says 5.6 million tons of junk mail ends up in American landfills every year (source). And those stats are from two years ago.

Reducing junk mail saves trees and gets rid of one less annoying thing to deal with every day. As a marketer, I understand that direct mail can have a significant impact on sales for many businesses, but there are customers, like myself, that don’t buy from catalogs or direct mail postcards.

Luckily, there are ways to opt-out of a lot of the junk mail you receive. From catalogs to credit card offers, I’m including specific instructions on how to reduce your household’s junk mail. If 100 of you do this, and it ends up cutting down 50% of your junk mail, that would equal 2,050 pounds of mail. Over a ton of paper, literally.

I’ve gone through and completed all of these steps for July’s sustainability challenge. Will you join me?

Catalogs: I feel like I never shut up about Catalog Choice, but I love it. I save all the catalogs I get over the course of each month and cancel them in one big sweep on Catalog Choice at the end of the month. You simply type in the catalog name and your info and opt-out. For any catalogs that aren’t part of their database, they give you the phone number to call directly. It takes about a minute for each catalog and it feels great when you finish.

Credit Card Offers: Most credit card offers come from one of 4 consumer credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experion, Innovis, or TransUnion). You can opt-out of offers that come from the mailing lists owned these four agencies for 5 years by using

You have to enter your SSN when you do this, so I checked multiple sources to make sure this was legit. Harvard’s sustainability page suggested it and the FTC also links to it here as well as dozens of other reputable sources. I went through the process myself to test it out.

Below is a screen shot of my confirmation:

Mailing Lists: You can register online with the Direct Marketing Association’s mail preference service to remove yourself from other national mailing lists. I went through this process as well and they charged a one-time fee of $2.

Below is a screenshot of my confirmation page:

Valpak: You can suppress your address from Valpak (those blue envelopes filled with coupons) mailings here.

RetailMeNot: Unsubscribe from their mailers here.

PaperKarma App: Of course after I did all of that, I came across the PaperKarma app which you can subscribe to for a $25 annual fee. The app is so awesome and very easy to use. You snap a pic of the junk mail you get and upload it to the app which makes it easy if you’re getting the mail then tossing the papers into the recycling. It’s basically the same idea as Catalog Choice but also includes (via their FAQ page):

  • Associations
  • Catalogs
  • Charities
  • Coupon offers
  • Credit offers
  • Direct marketers
  • Insurance offers
  • Local mailers
  • Magazines
  • National mailers

So if you only do one thing on this list, sign up for that because it couldn’t be easier and it can reduce your junk mail. They mention on their site and I read it in other places as well, but there is no app or site that can stop you from receiving the following:

  • Account, admin & billing-related mail from companies you transacted with
  • Ballot issue, election campaign & vote related postcards
  • Every Door Direct Mail (a USPS product that “carpet bombs” a zip code with junk mail)
  • Free-Standing Inserts
  • Legally required notices
  • USPS product offers

Of course for local companies, you can always call them directly. Let me know if I’m missing anything on this list and if you’ll be joining me this month!

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