Defeating junk mail

Receiving mail was once a pleasure. Maybe there was a birthday card with a handkerchief enclosed, a scented love letter, or an onion skin envelope marked “par avion.” Seeing the postman heading up the sidewalk was exciting. Today’s mail carrier delivers mostly junk mail – the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) calls it “standard” or third class mail and it includes advertisements, flyers, catalogs, credit card and sweepstakes offers, and solicitations for donations.

There are simple steps to stop residential (and business) junk mail that are worth following. The average household gets an estimated 100 pounds of such mail every year or 34 to 39 pounds per person. Nationwide, according to a recent Environmental Pollution Control Agency estimate, almost five billion tons per year. And each American living the average life span would spend an average of eight months of their lives dealing with junk mail. There is significant cost to the environment. Each year junk mail destroys 100 million trees (needed to absorb carbon from earth’s atmosphere to cool it). Junk mail also wastes 28 billion gallons of water.

What to do to stop or limit junk mail

If you get something addressed to you personally that you didn’t request, do not open. Look for the words: Return Service Requested, Forwarding Service Requested, or Address Service Requested. Refuse the mail by writing “Refused, Returned to Sender” and give it back to the mail carrier or post office. Do the same for mail and packages addressed to “Current Resident” or “Current Occupant” provided you see the same words (Return Service Requested, Forwarding Service Requested, or Address Service Requested). Unsolicited mail and promotional packages can also be refused if sent to you First Class.

Go to donotmail.org or catalogchoice.org or ecocycle.org. The latter allows users to click on StopJunkMailforGood. It also has good information about stopping telemarketing calls, and what to recycle for a better quality of life, smaller landfills and healthier forests. You can also get form 1500 from the post office or via the USPS website and complete it. An excellent step is to contact the Direct Marketing Association requesting that your name be removed from mailing lists or through dmachoice.org, telephone 212-790-11500.

For coupon mailers, call Red Plum (Mailbox Values), ShopWi$e at 1-800-241-6760 or print and mail a form via advo.com/document/remove.pdf. To stop Val-Pak, send your envelope marked “delete” to Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems at 8605 Largo Lakes Drive, Largo, FL 33773. For Money Mailer, call 1-714-889-3800, write 12131 Western Avenue, Garden Grove, CA 92841 or via moneymailer.com/contact.htm. To stop sweepstakes mailers, call Publishers Clearinghouse at 1-800-476-4724 or go to pch.com/infocenter/customerservice/faq.shtml. Also call Readers Digest at 1-800-310-6261 or write to PO Box 50005, Prescott, AZ 86301-5005.

Call 1-888-50OPT-OUT for credit card and insurance solicitations or visit optoutprescreen.com. Remember to contact your credit card companies asking to be on their “in-house list,” rather than a list that is sold or traded. Do the same with other companies with whom you do business. Make a note to contact charities requesting one mailer per year (or request to switch to email. For more tips, go to charitywatch.org/articles/seventips.html. When providing personal information for contests, warranties, product orders, registration or donations, indicate “Please do not sell, rent, or trade my name or address.”

Stopping junk mail protects your privacy, your identity, and your sanity as you de-clutter for a better quality of life and a better world. For more info go to consumer.ftc.gov , privacyrights.org or pca.state.mn.us, or call Hennepin Co. Environmental Services at 612-348-3777.