Over the past few years, like most people, we have grasped the “e-bill” or “save a tree” version of signing up for the digital format of our bills or whatever it is that we need to receive notice. If you aren’t at this point, I mean, who are you, and why don’t you love the earth? Seriously though, it’s time.
Cancelling the paper mail you receive is the easiest step you can take to reduce your carbon footprint, but of course, you can literally help save trees. Did you know that 100 million trees are destroyed each year for junk mail? Billions of gallons of water are wasted to produce junk mail. If those facts don’t matter to you, how about the fact that most Americans spend about 70 hours/year dealing with paper and junk mail? What else could you be doing with 70 hours? Hopefully, your time is more valuable than to be spent dealing with paper.
This year, perhaps having more time on our hands, we have become acutely aware of the excess that comes in the mail, and we don’t even have that much. Even our mail carrier, Mack, laughs when he puts the junk in the mailbox, because he knows that I (Shannon) detest it. I have even yelled at him, in a joking manner, I mean, I know it is no fault of Mack’s that we get this junk that comes to us, especially at this point. Don’t even get me started about the crap that was coming to us, in droves, during election time. Despite all of our attempts, there are still some things that are unavoidable when it comes to waste in the mail, but it won’t stop my attempt to cancel the waste. We should start a new kind of #cancelculture, am I right?!
What can we cancel? Let’s talk about it.
- First, your bills. Yes, let’s get back to that. We challenge you, at the beginning of next month, March, whichs starts tomorrow, go through each of your bills, and sign up for e-bill, paperless billing, and if you cannot find it online, call and ask for it. There are a couple of bills that we have where it was not offered online, and when I called, they told me they could send it via email each month upon request, and voila! Done! You just have to ask.
- Second, magazines and catalogs. Seriously. All of that stuff is available online. Besides, anything you order, you are going to be ordering online anyway. When was the last time you actually ordered something using the order form in a catalog and mailed it in? That’s what I thought. If you are getting magazines in the mail, just sign-up for the digital version to arrive in your email. It’s just as shiny and pretty- promise! Those catalogs? They are old school and dated. Just call and unsubscribe from those. I get some of those arriving randomly for people who used to live at our address years ago, and I unsubscribe by using Catalog Choice. It is a free service, easy to use, and once you register your name and address, you can just easily enter the catalog you want to unsubscribe from each time you receive it, and they take care of the rest, even if it is a previous resident- not your own name.
- Previous Resident Mail– speaking of those previous residents- it may seem easier to just throw that mail in the recycle bin, despite it being junk or not knowing what it is, but whatever it is, mark through the name and write, “Return to sender/not at this address” and put it back in the mail. It goes back to the mailer, and removes that person from the mailing list. Problem solved.
- Election Mail– it may seem like you cannot control this, but you can. Each time Mack brought a new postcard with some politician’s face on it, I found whatever lobbying office, or campaign was paying for that mailer (it is usually at the bottom of the mailer) and told them to remove us from their mailing list. I also found that organization online and sent it in writing via email, or on their website. Yes, it took about 5 minutes each time we received one, but it was worth it, because after a few weeks, when everyone else kept getting all of those mailers, ours stopped.
- Unsolicited Credit and Insurance Offers– the FTC recommends going to OptOutPreScreen to register to remove yourself from these lists. You can remove yourself for 5 years, or permanently. This reduces a ton of those offers from entering your mailbox.
These tips won’t stop everything. Mack laughed, even today, when he dropped off one of those mailers with coupons that he is to deliver to everyone on the route. He knows that they drive me crazy. Before you ask, no, Mack isn’t a cruel man. By law, even though Mack knows how much I despise junk mail, he has an obligation to deliver it to me. I give the coupons to my neighbor who adores them. Anything else, and I mean anything else, I am either calling the company it came from and instructing to be removed from their mailing list, or finding a way to be removed from their list online. The really great thing is that after just a bit of additional effort, our mailbox stays empty most days of the week.
I also want to say that I do appreciate a handwritten note. I still send thank you notes by mail, I mail packages when necessary, and want the US Postal Service to stay in business. I just want to eliminate the unnecessary, especially the junk. We do get to see Mack most days though, on our midday walks as he is delivering mail to our neighbors, and as he drives by, he beeps and says hello, even if he isn’t delivering any junk mail to us.