Getting junk mail is one of the things that frustrates me the most in my journey to zero waste. I feel like all the efforts I'm making to prevent trash from entering my house are ruined by the junk mail that filtrates through my mailbox.
But I also know that throwing junk mail into the recycling bin will not solve the problem. Worse, by not taking any proactive measures I pretty much tell the junk mail senders that I'd love to receive more!
So, through research and experience, I came up with the following list of solutions which will help you dramatically reduce the amount of junk, promotional or unwanted mail in your mailbox.
Warning: Do not feel discouraged by the number of items on this list. Tackle them one at a time (or all at the same time if you feel like it).
If you've been following me for some time now, you might have read this article and installed 1Password on your computer, so signing up for these services will run smoothly, or as we say in French comme une lettre à la poste (like a letter at the post office).
1. Yellow Pages
Yellow Pages publishers know that there is no point of delivering a print directory to someone who does not want one. Based on your zip code, the system will identify which subscriptions you may receive and offer you the option to opt out.
2. DMA choice
DMAchoice™ is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association, it will help you:
- have your name removed from the lists companies use to find new customers or donors, and magazine publishers use to find new subscribers,
- stop receiving catalogs from companies you haven't purchased from or magazine offers from publishers you haven't subscribed to,
- stop receiving mail offers from companies you haven't donated to or purchased from.
OptOutPrescreen.com is a centralized service to accept and process requests from consumers to opt-in or opt-out of firm offers of credit or insurance. It offers two options:
- electronic opt-out for five years: your name will not be eligible for inclusion on lists used for firm offers of credit or insurance for five years.
- permanent opt-out by mail: your name will no longer be eligible for inclusion on lists for firm offers of credit or insurance (in order to complete your permanent opt-out election, you must print and mail the permanent opt-out election form).
4. Inform your letter carrier
Even if this won't solve all the unsolicited mail problems, communicating your preferences with the person who actually puts the mail in your mailbox can go a long way. Explain your situation, zero waste lifestyle and discuss solutions with him/her.
5. Addressed mail only
Putting signs like Addressed mail only, [Former Resident's Name] does not live at this address, No Other Tenants Besides [Your Name] on your mailbox might work too. Even though you might have already told your letter carrier that you only want addressed mail in your mailbox, a visual reminder can be a strong one.
6. Catalog choice
Catalog choice is a free service to opt out of catalogs, coupons, credit card offers, phone books, circulars and more. The process is pretty simple:
- you receive unwanted mail: unwanted catalogs, coupons and credit card offers, donation requests, and other junk mail arrive daily and clutter your home or office,
- you report it to them: you can simply log in to create a free account and register your opt-outs online. Just search for the company, and submit the opt—out,
- they'll take it from there: they act on your behalf to protect your consumer rights and get your opt-outs processed. You can keep track of your opt-outs, and if you receive the mail again, they will follow up!
7. Change of address
It's been a couple months now that I'm in my new house, and I still receive mail addressed to the previous tenants. Our letter carrier made us fill out a form with our names and new address, so I thought that we would never get unwanted mail again. I can be so naive sometimes!
So I decided to take the matter into my own hands and followed the advice I found in this article.
I went to the post office to fill out a change of address form in the name of the previous tenant whose mail I regularly receive (the online form won't work because it requires a forwarding address). In lieu of a new address, I wrote "Moved, no forwarding address" and added "form filled in by current resident, [My Name], agent for the above" next to my signature.
8. Return to sender
For first class mail, according to the reason why I received unwanted mail, I write one of these messages and give it back to the letter carrier: Refused, Return to Sender, No Longer at This Address, Take me off your mailing list.
9. Contact the sender
One kind of mail which cannot be returned to the sender (because return service is usually not included) is the "or current resident" mail. I left a note on my door saying that I only wanted mail addressed to me, my husband, or our respective companies, but the letter carrier explained to me that he has to deliver the "or current resident" mail, since the current resident is us. I guess that it would be considered that he did not do his job properly if he did not deliver the mail to the current resident. I usually look for the sender's contact information and ask for my name and address to be removed from his database.
Here's a shortcut for a major junk mail sender:
10. There's an app for that
PaperKarma lets you take photos of the unwanted mail you want to stop. Snap a photo, and you're done. They automatically contact the mailer and remove you from their distribution list!
41 pounds (on hiatus) takes all the necessary steps to dramatically reduce your junk mail for a fee. They contact dozens of marketing organizations on your behalf to stop all the unwanted catalogs and mailings that you list. For five years, they update your service anytime you move, marry, change your name, or add new catalogs to your ‘No, thank you’ list.
Finally, don't forget to fill in a change of address form and update your information with the aforementioned services every time you move!
Did I forget anything? How do you tackle unwanted mail at home? What about in other countries? Please share your insights!