More than 41.5 billion pieces of mail advertisements were produced and distributed in the U.S in 2005, according to the Worldwatch Institute. It took more than 100 million trees to create all this bulk mail – that’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months. Even though most junk mail can be recycled, 5.8 million tons of catalogs and other direct mailings ended up as trash in landfills or incinerators in 2005. And all this comes at a cost to our climate as well: The production and disposal of junk mail consumes more energy than 3 million cars.
Each of us will spend an average of eight months of our lives dealing with junk mail. It’s time to reclaim our resources, our time and our mailboxes by stopping junk mail early and often by following these ten easy steps:
Step 1: Remove your name:
Contacting the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and registering with their Mail Preference Service provides an effective way for you to fight the junk mail glut. The DMA does not provide marketers with consumer mailing lists or do consumer mailings. They provide their Mail Preference Service to marketers for the sole purpose of removing consumer’s names and addresses from their prospect mailing lists. To add your name to the do-not-mail list, register online at www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action or download a mail-in form. Be sure to list each name receiving mail at your address, including misspellings. You can also send a letter, along with $1, with your name(s) and address to the DMA asking to be removed from their mailing list. Note that mail addressed to “resident” or “occupant” cannot be stopped through the DMA.
Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 282
Carmel, NY 10512
If your business is receiving mail for an employee who no longer works there, visit the EcoLogical Mail Coalition to remove the person’s name from direct mailing lists. For more information about their service, call 1-800-620-3975.
The DMA is not the only marketing racket in town. Keep reading to find more effective tools to reduce your junk mail. Or, if you don’t have the time for the do-it-yourself approach and would rather hire an expert to do it for you, Eco-Cycle recommends 41pounds.org.
Step 2: Know the Magic Words:
Avoid getting on even more mailing lists by taking precaution whenever you submit your name and address to anyone. If you’re filling out a form such as a warranty, subscription, raffle, customer information card, credit card application, membership for an organization, etc., add the phrase “please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address” next to the other information you provide. Repeat these same magic words every time you’re giving a company or organization your name and address over the phone or internet, such as when ordering a catalog or making a purchase. The sales representative will then flag your name and preference in their computer.
Be advised that it is not necessary to fill out a warranty card to benefit from the warranty on your purchase. Warranty and registration cards are usually just a way to get consumer information from you which is then often sold to direct mailers. Read the fine print to see if you are required to return the card to validate the warranty. Registration may be important if the product you are purchasing is found to be defective and the manufacturer institutes a product call-back or upgrade. If you return the card, all you need to include is your name, address, product information and, if requested, the date of purchase and a copy of the receipt. It is not necessary to answer personal questions other than your name and address. No matter what you choose to fill out on the card, make sure you include the magic words: “Please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address.”
Step 3: 1-800 No Thanks:
As soon as you receive an unwanted publication in the mail, call the 1-800 number located somewhere on the piece and ask to be removed from the mailing list (keep the catalog in hand as they often need information from the mailing label). Businesses and organizations are glad to hear from you if you’re not interested in receiving their advertising — it reduces their costs. Remember too that if you actually buy something from a mail order catalog, it increases the likelihood your name will be shared with other similar businesses because you’ve just proven yourself an interested customer. So when you order, don’t forget those magic words: “Please don’t rent, sell, or trade my name and address.”
If you cannot find a phone number, return the label portion of the mailing to the solicitor’s address with a note requesting the removal of your name and address. You can also use one of the catalog removal services listed in step 6.
If you’ve ever filled out a product warranty card, purchased a new home or vehicle, supplied your credit information to a lending institution, or simply carried a credit card, you can be sure your name and address are being circulated among an array of credit card companies hungry for your business. Don’t despair — there is help. To eliminate credit card promotional mailings, call 1-888-567-8688 (that’s 888-5OPT-OUT) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. You will have the opportunity to choose either a five-year removal or a permanent removal.
For your personal credit cards, ask the company to place you on their “in house” list that is not sold or traded to other companies.
Step 5: Stop Junk Promo Products:
If you’ve had it with companies sending you products or disks in the mail that you don’t want, there is an option. First, look for any of the following phrases, if you find any of these phrases, write “refused, returned to sender” on the unopened envelope.
- forwarding service requested
- address service requested
- change service requested.
- return service requested
When you receive unsolicited products in the mail such as those from charities, you can mark the envelope “Return to Sender” and put it back in the mail. If the product is a sample, it must be marked as such and the same options apply. It is illegal for a company or charity to send you a bill for items that you did not order. Mail sent to “Resident,” “Current Resident,” or “Current Occupant” can be refused if it contains one of the above endorsements, or is sent First ClassIf you receive unwanted pornographic or sexually explicit mail, there is a powerful legal tool in your corner called Form 1500. By filling out the form and attaching the specific piece of junk mail you want stopped, a company becomes criminally liable if it continues to send you unwanted mail. You can get a copy of Form 1500 by visiting your post office, calling the U.S. Postal Service, or downloading the form at www.usps.com/forms/_pdf/ps1500.pdf.
Step 6: Catalogs, Charities & Contests:
Catalogs: Call your catalogs to request only as many issues as you want. Cancel unwanted subscriptions.
Catalog Choice is a free website that allows you to opt out of unwanted catalogs. Once you register with the site, you can choose the catalogs you wish to stop receiving, and opt-out requests will be sent to those catalogs on your behalf. Catalog Choice is a sponsored project of the Ecology Center in Berkeley, CA.
Tonic Mailstopper also offers a free catalog opt-out service in its basic subscription.
Charities: If you contribute once a year to a charitable organization, ask them to send you only one donation request per year. The American Institute on Philanthropy offers a sample letter that you can send to charities and other organizations to reduce mail and phone solicitations that request donations.
Contests: Watch out for contests and free offers. Their purpose is often to obtain your name for mailing lists or to sell you something.
Step 7: Cover Your Tracks with All the Direct Marketers:
There are several smaller list brokers and direct marketing firms in the U.S. besides the DMA. Just as you did with the DMA in step one, send or phone in all the variations of your name and address to the list brokers and direct marketing firms listed below. Start saving the labels of all the variations of the names and addresses which come to your mailbox. Every variation, no matter how small (or comical), is another name on a list which gets sold to literally thousands of businesses. Cut and paste actual mailing labels onto a sheet, make copies, add your signature beside each name variation on each sheet, and send them off to each of the 5 addresses below. Indicate the following: “Please remove my name and address from your mailing lists and do not rent, sell or trade my name or address.”
- R.L. Polk & Company
Name Deletions, List Compilation Dept.
6400 Monroe Blvd
Taylor, MI 48180-1814
1-800-873-7655By recording your name and address on their automated system, you are requesting that the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax not share your information with other parties.
1 Valpak Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Have the Valpak mailing label handy and fill in your information exactly as it is printed. If you like coupons but don’t want to receive all that mail, go to www.valpak.com to choose and print coupons by geographical location.
- Valassis Direct Mail, Inc.
PO Box 249
Windsor , CT 06095
Select “consumer” and then “I would like to go green & be removed from your mailing list.”
Attn: Consumer Requests
1020 E. 1st St.
Papillion, NE 68046
Send a letter with all the variations of your name, address and phone number asking to suppress your name from their lists. They are a large provider of marketing lists.
- Epsilon Data Services
Abacus Cooperative Databases
P.O. Box 1478
Broomfield, CO 80038
Send an email with “remove” in the subject line and your full name, including middle initial, and address in the message. If you changed your address over the past six months, include your previous address as well.
You can also write to the above address. Abacus compiles statistical information that is sold to catalog companies.
Even though phone books are recycled in many communities, more than 660,000 tons still end up in the trash every year. This waste could be stemmed by first eliminating the delivery of unsolicited or unwanted phone books. Call the numbers below to remove your address from phone book delivery lists:
- DEX: 1-877-243-8339
- Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556 — renew every two years
- Verizon: 1-888-266-5765
Step 9: Don’t have the time? Hire a junk mail removal service:
Eco-Cycle has partnered with 41pounds.org to help you reduce junk mail, preserve the environment and raise money for Eco-Cycle. For $41 (just 2 cents a day), the 41pounds.org service will contact 20-35 direct mail companies to remove your name from their distribution lists. This includes almost all credit card applications, coupon mailers and magazine offers, plus the catalogs you specify.
41pounds.org does all the legwork to reduce your junk mail by 80-95% for five years — and donates $15 to Eco-Cycle! Learn more and get started today!
Step 10: Support legislative action against junk mail and other unwanted solicitation
Many states are considering legislation to create do not mail registries similar to the current do not call lists. Find updates on proposed state do not mail registry bills.
For more information on junk mail and its effects, check out:
- Stop Telemarketing Calls
- Worldwatch Institute, Vital Signs 2006
- US Postal Service
- Center for a New American Dream
Information derived from “Stop Junk Mail Forever (Telemarketing & Spam, Too)” from Good Advice Press; “Earth Diary-Stop Junk Mail Forever” from Mother Earth News; and the Center for a New American Dream.