Junk Mail War!

Just some of this past week's junk mail--ugh!

Just some of this past week’s junk mail–ugh!

I’ve been devouring Bea Johnson’s book (and blog) entitled Zero Waste Home. Johnson is a French-American wife and mother who began to completely overhaul her family’s consumption habits several years ago. After she and her family:

  1. refuse things they don’t need,
  2. reduce what they do need,
  3. reuse whatever they can,
  4. recycle whatever they can, and
  5. rot (compost) everything else,

they produce only a quart-size jar of landfill garbage each year. It’s pretty amazing.

Johnson has years of research and trial-and-error under her (secondhand) belt, and her book and blog are full of tips and tricks to reduce waste. I produce a LOT of personal waste, and my two biggest culprits are probably food packaging from (frequent) drive-thru visits and packaging/shipping materials for (frequent) online purchases. I’m inspired by Johnson, though, to take some steps to reduce my impact. For starters, I’ve decided to start a junk mail war.

When I moved into my house several years ago, I received TONS of junk (and legit) mail for TENS of people who no longer lived there. It was insane. The former tenants never must have completed formal change of address paperwork with the post office. I would mark everything “return to sender” and scribble a note about the addressee not living there anymore, and then send it all right back. I even wised up and made a few sheets of stick-on labels with the same language so I didn’t have to write the same messages over and over. The misdirected mail dropped off sharply after two or three months of this attack, but I still receive all the junk mail that’s properly addressed to my family. I decided to use a similar label method for my junk mail war.

This past week, I collected all of the junk mail we received, which was about 15 pieces. It doesn’t sound like much (and maybe it isn’t?) but each piece was a doozy–lots magazine-type advertisements with multiple pages stapled together, and big envelopes stuffed thick and full with paper. Seeing it all together made me realize, interestingly, that most of the junk mail my family receives is from companies with whom we already have an account. In other words, the bulk of our junk mail is not from “new” companies who want our business, but from companies who already have our business and want us to do something else with them–change pricing plans, order new products, etc. How annoying.

Anyway, I made two sets of labels with the following language (I couldn’t get all the language to fit on one label in a readable font size):

  1. “REFUSED – RETURN TO SENDER. Please remove me from your mailing list. Thank you.”
  2. “Please do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address. Thank you.” (The bit about “do not sell, share, rent, or trade my name or address” is Johnson’s suggested language, so I’m using it. She’s done the research and is nothing if not thorough.)

The labels I had were eco-friendly (i.e., the labels and packaging were made from post-consumer waste and were recyclable), but all label backing sheets are coated with a plasticky finish and are NOT recyclable (I learned this from Johnson’s blog). Sigh. Baby steps.

I then applied both labels to the front of each piece of mail. If the junk mail was from a company with whom I already do business , I wrote a note to the effect of “Please remove me from your marketing mailing list. Send account-related correspondence only.”

A couple of tips from Johnson:

  1. Do not open the obvious junk mail, because then you cannot return it for free.
  2. If mail is addressed to “Current Resident” or “Occupant” or another generic term, you have to contact the sender directly (via phone, email, or website) and ask to be removed from their list. This kind of mail does not include return postage.

I’m keeping my labels by the front door and I plan to keep up my attack. I’m curious to see how this will work!

P.S. This past weekend I also canceled three catalogs I don’t want/never asked for (via website/email), one recurring coupon pack (via website), and our annual copy of THREE different area phone books (via website). Yeah!

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