No time like the holidays to remind us how much needless waste clutters our mailboxes. Direct-mail outlets and retailers are in full force, sometimes sending two or three copies of 100-page glossy catalogs to the same business address. Not to mention all the credit-card offers, coupon packs and other unwanted solicitations businesses get – and inevitably toss – year round.
Environmental groups estimate that nearly 100 million trees get used for junk mail every year, and 5.6 tons end up landfills. So, how do you make it stop?
Traditionally, business owners would have to call or write the solicitors directly and demand to be removed from their mailing lists. And while that might still be a good strategy if there are a few main offenders, there are now places to turn for help.
Here are some options:
- Third-Party Organizations: The Direct Mailing Association is the largest provider of direct-mail lists. You can request to be taken off their lists at their Web site or by writing and sending them a dollar in the mail. You can find their mailing address here.
- To stop credit-card and insurance offers you can call 1-888-567-8688 (that’s 888-5OPT-OUT) or visit OptOutPrescreen, a site run by the three major credit bureaus. You can choose either a five-year removal or a permanent removal.
- CatalogChoice: When it comes to catalog mailings, there may be some you want to keep and others you’d like to toss. CatalogChoice, a project of the Ecology Center in Berkeley , Calif. , lets users set up a free account and then choose which catalogs to opt-out of. (They keep a list of retailers promising to honor opt-out requests within 12 weeks, including WinterSilks and Crate & Barrel.) Catalog also offers extra features, such as switching to an online catalog subscription.
- EcoLogical Mail Coalition: This organization’s Web site lets businesses remove former employees’ names from direct mailing lists. It’s free to businesses, as marketers pick up the tab.
- Pay for Help: Want somebody to just take the whole cumbersome process off your hands? Some companies make a business off removing names from mailing lists — but be aware that most only work with home addresses and junk mail addressed to a person’s name (not a business). Precycle, formerly GreenDimes, promises to stop “most direct mail,” including circulars, advertisements, and credit-card and mortgage offers to home addresses in 90 days. It’s not free: It costs a one-time $36, plus a $7 shipping-and-handling fee. The company sends customers two energy-efficient light bulbs and a reusable bag and plants five trees on their behalf. 41pounds.org charges $41 for five years to help households control their junk mail.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on writing “Return to Sender” on junk mail to do the trick. Somebody else will likely throw it out for you.
* * * * *
About the Author: Kelly Spors is a former small-business reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal and has also freelanced for Yahoo! and The New York Times. She is now communications and outreach coordinator for Energy Smart, a Minnesota nonprofit helping businesses save money through energy efficiency. Follow Energy Smart on Twitter @mnenergysmart.