The statistics are quite alarming. More than 4 million tons of junk mail are produced yearly. Over 50 percent of this unsolicited mail ends up in landfills annually. While the quantity of paper waste seems overwhelming, there are things we can do to put a stop to these unwanted deliveries. For example, there are various websites where you can register to keep from receiving unsolicited advertising mail and to prevent advertisers from sharing your name and address with similar companies.
Here are nine tips to significantly reduce the amount of direct mail you receive:
- Register with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association, the largest supplier of mailing lists for commercial advertising, to remove your address from their list. Note that your registration is only valid for five years.
- Stop credit card offers, one of the largest sources of direct mail, by making one phone call. Consumer credit reporting agencies like Trans Union, Experian and Equifax maintain mailing lists that are often used by credit card and insurance companies to send out direct mail. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) to permanently remove your name and address from their lists.
- Every time you order something over the phone, internet or through the mail, your name may be sold. To prevent this call or write the organization and request a privacy designation on your name, address and phone number. Tell them that under no circumstances is your personal information to be sold. It may be helpful to make a list of all businesses that you interact with. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Credit card companies
- Mortgage companies
- Insurance agencies
- Frequent flyer programs
- Universities and schools that you or your children attend(ed)
- Cable companies
- Phone companies
- Long distance carriers
- Mail order companies you have done business with (If you still want to receive some catalogs from these companies – just not one every week – you can call and ask them to put you on a different mailing cycle).
- Whenever you subscribe to a magazine, become a member of a group, apply for a credit card, etc., be sure to state that you do not want your name, address or phone number released to anyone else for marketing, mailing, or promotional purposes.
- Get an unpublished phone number, an unlisted number or list your phone number without an associated address. Many companies obtain and distribute your name, phone number, and address from phone listings. Unpublished numbers cannot be sold, while listed numbers are often sold to other companies on a CD-ROM. If you want to remain listed, request that your name be listed without your address (most phone companies do this without charge) or have your listing published under a pseudonym.
- Whenever you move, do not fill out the U.S. Post Office’s permanent change of address (COA) form. Instead indicate that you are temporarily changing your address, which will allow you to have your mail forwarded for up to 10 months. Permanent COA information is shared with third parties, while temporary address information is not.
- Do not send in product warranty cards unless absolutely necessary. Most of the time, they are not required. Many of these cards are filled with questions about your personal interests and preferences and are usually sent to a different address than the company you purchased the product from. Check product registrations to see if you can opt not to receive any further mailings.
- Contests where you fill in a little entry blank are just another way companies get your name and address. If you fill one out at a football game, for example, expect to get a catalog of football merchandise within a few months. Avoid these if you don't want the mail.
- To stop receiving any Sexually Oriented Advertising, you can fill out the U.S. Post Office’s Form 1500 (PDF). This will stop mail from a business you consider offensive.
Sources: US Environmental Protection Agency