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Just Say No to Junk Mail

     The Mariposa County Library recycled more than 1,800 pounds of paper and cardboard in one year, including old magazines, worn out books, printer paper and junk mail. This represents the equivalent of saving 6,300 gallons of water, 15 trees, 15.5 cubic yards of landfill space, enough energy to power a home for 510 days, and 90 metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the air.

    The equivalents are all approximations, of course, based on figures I found on government and other reliable websites. Okay, I can almost hear the jokes about using “government “ and “reliable” in the same sentence, but these numbers are quoted in numerous other sources. Anyway, as I said, they’re approximations to give you an idea of the impact that replacing a trash can with a recycling bin can have.

     What does this mean to you, as an individual? Let’s talk junk mail. If you are anything like the average America, 59 percent of the mail you receive is advertising. (cbsnews.com). Combine your junk mail with that of every other American and you end up with 5 million tons each and every year. (A male African elephant can weigh as much as 7 ½ tons so that’s like a herd of 666,666 full-grown elephants plus one baby elephant.) That is also the equivalent of 100 million trees or 1 ½ trees/ U.S.household.  About 44 percent of that—junk mail, not elephants--is thrown away unopened and only 22 percent is recycled. (About.com Environmental Issues). Here is another mote of mind-boggling trivia—Mr. or Ms. Average American will spend eight months of his or her lifetime opening junk mail! I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot of more exciting things I could be doing in those eight months.

    So, here’s an idea—dump it, unopened, into a recycling bin. If you have a P.O. box you can get rid of it in a blue bin before you leave the building. If not, put it in with your other paper recycling. Not only are you adding productive months to your life, you are also being a good citizen with minimal effort because for every 100 pounds of paper you recycle, you save

            *350 gallons of water

            * about 4/5 of a tree

            * .175 cubic yards of landfill space and

            * enough energy to power a home for nine (9) days and

            *reduces greenhouse gases by 100 metric pounds.

    I once received 18 pieces of junk mail in two days. At that rate, it doesn’t take long to reach 100 pounds. Junk Mail, the Thorn Under My Nail is going to be the title of my first Country Western hit because people will relate to it. Name one person who actually likes getting those envelopes with no return address trying to disguise themselves as first-class mail, or the ones with a corner of what looks like a check for the recipient peeking through. And how about those appeals that have nickels and dimes glued onto the letter? What’s that about?

    Every time I give $10 to one organization, I get 50 more requests from other organizations, not to mention $3 bajillion in unsolicited “gifts,” like the ever-so-useful “personalized” address labels. (I give those priceless gems to my grandkids. They can’t read yet so think any kind of sticker is a real treat.)

    Having been on the grabbing end of the money grubbing stick, as it were, as the director of a non-profit, I know how hard it is to find the funds to survive. The difference was, we were so poor, we couldn’t afford to do mass mailings to people who weren’t already members, so our mailings were basically limited to newsletters and renewals, and names were deleted upon request or non-response, including no response due to death. Yes, you know what I’m talking about—those advertisements for Assure and retirement homes in Arizona that keep arriving months, if not years, after a loved one has been gone.

    I have been known to stuff the contents of unsolicited mail into the self-addressed, postage paid envelope provided for those who can’t resist the heartfelt 16-page plea for large amounts of money or, that failing, your oldest child. (There were points in my life when I would have seriously considered donating the latter.) I remove all so-called gifts, since they are usually “personalized” anyway, write a scathing message like “Junk mail wastes water, energy & paper & takes up landfill space. Please remove my name from your mailing list,” and jam it all into the envelope before sealing it, which usually requires several yards of duct tape and a heavy duty staple gun.

     This tactic often works, since the sender has to pay the postage, but, since you have to be willing to suffer serious boredom and a potentially debilitating case of writer’s cramp, you might opt for a recycling bin. I once spent the better part of an afternoon stuffing letters I had saved from a credit card company into the enclosed envelopes. The company had sent at least one a week for several months with no response from me, which makes one wonder about their ability to take a hint. Because many companies can’t seem to think outside the form letter box, I, too, wrote identical notes, although much briefer and more “to the point”. To my deep and obviously log-lasting satisfaction, the mailings stopped.

     Another tried and true tactic is the phone call. This strategy can be quicker and easier than the hand-written note, assuming that you (a) reach a real person who (b) is actually in the same country as the company/organization you are calling and speaks your language and (c) doesn’t give you a can’t-get-a-word-in-edgewise sales pitch that makes you wonder if you really did (a). Nope. I choose to write. At least I know I can rely on the U.S.Postal Service. (Do I hear more laughter? Shame on you.)

    If you’d rather do everything on-line, you can try these junk mail opt out services:

  consumer.ftc.gov   (prescreened offers of credit and insurance)

  DMAchoice.org (direct marketing)

  CatalogChoice.org

      Don’t expect one-stop, do it all with the flick of a wrist results, however. DMA Choice and Catalog Choice allow you to choose from a list of companies and organizations beginning with the letter A and—you guessed it—ending, pages later, with Z. This may also require writing emails to individual above-mentioned companies/organizations.

    The good news is, none of these options will likely eat up eight months of your life. And think how great it will feel to open your mailbox and find…absolutely nothing.




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