This Earth Day, as people try to reduce their carbon footprints, they need not look any further than the junk in their mail boxes.
Consider the national impact of junk mail: it creates 10 billion pounds of waste that cost upwards of $1 billion to collect and dispose of annually. To further the problem, the United States Postal Service (USPS) just launched Every Door Direct Mail, a marketing campaign designed to increase the amount of advertising mail that businesses send. It targets potential customers without using their names or addresses by sending mail addressed to "Our Neighbor" or "Current Resident" to every mailbox.
While this might be an easy way for the USPS to create revenue, increasing the amount of advertising mail that is sent each year will only hurt the environment. According to a USPS survey, over 1.7 billion pieces of unaddressed mail are sent out each year and with Every Door Direct Mail, the USPS plans to increase such mail by five times, generating billions more pieces of unwanted mail annually.
With Earth Day just around the corner, there has never been a more salient time to take a hard look at the benefits of consumer choice and the reduction of junk mail.
The positive environmental impact of consumer choice is undeniable. Our non-profit, Catalog Choice has been working to reduce junk mail and its subsequent carbon footprint since 2007. In addition to offering free online opt-outs, Catalog Choice offers a host of other services including the first-ever mobile app to opt out of unwanted mail by taking pictures of it and Catalog Choice for Communities -- a municipal partnership program that offers communities a customized service to reduce waste, save money and rid consumers of junk mail by stopping it at the source.
This past March marked the one-year anniversary of Catalog Choice for Communities, and when we stopped to look at the results of our community program, the numbers were astounding. In just one year, 19 communities were able to save 20,000 trees (equivalent to the number of tree's in New York City's Central Park), 3,000,000 pounds of solid waste (which is enough to fill 125 garbage trucks), 8,000,000 pounds of greenhouse gas (equivalent to the amount of emissions produced annually by 364 HUMMERS), and 19,000,000 gallons of water (equivalent to 29 Olympic sized swimming pools).
Imagine the cumulative impact if citizens and communities participated in Earth Day by reclaiming their mailboxes and opting out of unwanted advertising mail? It's one of the easiest ways to make the greatest impact.
Sending more junk mail is just not a sustainable answer to the USPS' problems or the environment's.
Chuck Teller is the Executive Director of Catalog Choice.