Is your home or office a sea of catalogs and solicitation mail — also known as, and more appropriately named, junk mail? We get many wonderful gifts during the holiday season, but we also get an overwhelming amount of catalogs and direct mail encouraging us to purchase the latest gadgets and gizmos on the market.
It can be a chore to wade through all that stuff, but please don’t give in to your automatic response to chuck the whole mess into the garbage can. These items — as worthless as they may seem at times — can more often than not be recycled. Hopefully, all that paper will end up as something more useful in its next life!
It is really frustrating at this time of year because many companies kick it up a notch, mailing out thousands of catalogs a week. Even for an avid shopper like me (I guess I should say "addict shopper"), that is way too many catalogs. Not only is all the extra mail a nuisance, it becomes harmful to the planet when it ends up in a landfill. That is not good for any of us.
In 2005, an estimated 5.8 million tons of junk mail ended up as solid waste. Yes, you read that right — 5.8 million tons! According to the Center for the American Dream, that would fill 450,000 garbage trucks. Catalog Choice estimates that 19 billion catalogs are mailed out in America each year. According to the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. companies sent 35 billion pieces of direct postal mail in 1980, 64 billion pieces in 1990, 90 billion pieces in 2000, and 100 billion pieces in 2005. That’s more than 300 pieces of bulk mail for every man, woman, and child in the nation. Estimates are that less than 36 percent of this bulk mail is recycled.
Although companies say they can mail these bulk mail items out relatively inexpensively, the question is inexpensively for whom? There is a huge environmental cost for all of us. Catalogchoice.org estimates that it takes 53 million trees a year to produce just the catalogs mailed out in America. This means 3.6 million tons of paper are needed to produce the catalogs and, as I mentioned, probably only one-third end up recycled. The energy required to produce and circulate the junk mail is enough to provide power annually to 1.2 million homes. It also creates 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is equivalent to the emissions of 2 million cars annually. What a waste!
Now I like to shop a lot. Catalogs may be handy for that sometimes, but, quite frankly, think how easy it is now to go online and peruse a company’s products without ever handling a paper catalog.
If you want to reduce the massive amount of junk mail you receive, what can you do? Don’t blame the postman. Start at the source. One option is to contact each catalog company or solicitor directly and can ask them to reduce the number of catalogs or mailings sent to you or to eliminate the mailings completely. You can also request to switch from paper catalogs to e-mail notifications. The options vary from company to company so check with the catalog’s customer service department.
If you don’t have time to contact them one by one but are interested in reducing the number of catalogs you receive, go to www.catalogchoice.org and also the Web sites for the Center for the New American Dream and DMA Mail Preference Service.
Catalog Choice is sponsored by The Ecology Center. It is simple to use and free. Just follow the instructions to create a free account and then check out the lists of catalogs and "decline" the catalogs you don’t want to receive. It helps to have the actual catalogs in hand so you can provide the customer numbers on them. If you do not see a catalog that you receive, you can enter it in their system. It takes approximately 10 weeks for them to process your request. You can also report any infractions after that. If a company continues to send mail to you after it has been contacted, notify Catalog Choice and they will follow up with a company for you.
The Center for the New American Dream has a free option also as well as a partnership with www.41pounds.org, a group that will work to decrease your bulk mail by 95 percent for a fee of $41. According to the center, 50 percent of this fee is donated to the center’s campaign to reduce junk mail.
The DMA Mail Preference Service is designed to assist consumers in decreasing the amount of national nonprofit and commercial mail that they receive. You can register online at www.dmachoice.org or by mail at Mail Preference Service, P O Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512-0282. There is a $1 processing fee. This service is in effect for five years. It also can take a couple of months for processing before you will see results.
Whatever you choose to do to stop junk mail, just make sure to recycle all the catalogs and bulk mail you do receive. We can stop the flood of direct mail that drowns us each year. Just say no to junk mail and make this new year junk-mail free.
More upcoming KLCB events that need your help or participation:
Please note: We have moved. The office of Keep Liberty County Beautiful is now in Midway behind city hall at 9397 Oglethorpe Highway. Our new office number is 880-4888.
• Through Feb. 19: Phonebook and catalog recycling. Turn in out-of-date phonebooks and business catalogs for recycling at area drop-off sites throughout the county:
• Liberty County courthouse annex lobby, Hinesville
• City hall lobby, Hinesville
• City hall lobby, Midway
• City hall lobby, Riceboro
• City hall porch, Walthourville
• City hall lobby, Flemington
• Feb. 8-19: Georgia Arbor Day. In partnership with the Georgia Forestry Commission, we will be offering a limited number of young trees for planting around the community. Interested schools, churches, businesses, civic and youth groups can join us by planting trees in celebration of Arbor Day. Call 368-4888 to reserve your trees while supplies last. Trees are the answer for a beautiful community so plant one now!
For more information on Keep Liberty County Beautiful programs, contact Swida at 880-4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.