If you go out to your mailbox to check your mail today, chances are, there’s some junk mail in there. Magazines you don’t remember signing up for, credit card offers, coupon packets – junk mail comes in a lot of different forms. Every year in the United States alone, 100 billion pieces of junk mail are delivered to residences around the country. Why is this a problem? Let’s look at the facts.
Junk mail facts
To make 100 billion pieces of junk mail, 100 million trees need to be chopped down. That would be the same as deforesting all of Rocky Mountain National Park 3 times a year. Some of those trees are grown sustainably and some of that paper is recycled, but many of those trees come from wild forests in Canada and Indonesia.
If you held onto all of the junk mail you received in a year, it would weigh a total of 41 pounds at the end of the year. The average American receives approximately 18 pieces of junk mail for every piece of ‘regular’ mail. About 42% of junk mail ends up going to landfills, never even opened.
Junk mail also has a huge impact on the world’s climate. The production of junk mail has the same carbon footprint as 9 million vehicles, and the energy used to produce all of this junk mail could heat 250,000 homes for one day.
It may not seem like much, but the junk mail you get delivered every day has a pretty big impact. So what’s the solution to this problem? There are a few things you can do to reduce and eliminate your junk mail.
Unsubscribe from the DMA
Much of the junk mail you receive comes from an organization called the Data and Marketing Association. The DMA makes available tools for customers who want to change the mailings they receive or opt out entirely. If you want the DMA’s mailings but don’t want to waste the paper, you can even sign up for emails instead of physical mail. You can get started unsubscribing at DMA Choice.
Unsubscribe from Valpak
Valpak is not as large as DMA, but they are prolific nonetheless. Valpak sends out small blue envelopes filled with coupons for local companies. It is easy to unsubscribe from this junk mail. Just visit Valpak’s website and, with a few clicks, you’ll have unsubscribed from Valpak.
Opt out of credit card and insurance offers
A large chunk of junk mail sent out each year is for various credit card and email offers. There is a free service available to opt out of these mailings. You can call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit optoutprescreen.com to put a stop to these offers. This opt out service is free and is generally considered to be effective.
Unsubscribe piece by piece
If you’ve gone through the above steps and are still receiving some junk mail, you have one final option for getting rid of it: go piece by piece and call to unsubscribe. There is also an app called PaperKarma that helps you unsubscribe from unwanted mail just by taking a photograph of it with your phone.
If you receive paper bills, you may also be able to go paperless and receive bills in your email instead. This too will help cut down on waste.
Won’t this hurt the postal service?
If we all opted out of junk mail, would that hurt our neighborhood postal carrier? Would post offices have to shut down? NPR did a great write up about this that we would encourage you read to get a fuller picture of how junk mail impacts your local postal service. In short, junk mail does create jobs at the post office and is key for revenue, but first class mail generates more revenue. Unfortunately, fewer people are sending mail. So as you opt out of junk mail, consider sending some letters to friends in far away places to keep your local post office up and running.