Ask Eartha Steward: Junk mail
Dear Eartha, Im tired of finding tons of junk mail in my post office box. Im signed up for the Do Not Call registry; dont they have a Do Not Junk Mail registry too? Linda S., Silverthorne
Feeling a bit overwhelmed when you open your post office box? Even more disappointed when your pile of mail is 90 percent junk? I hear you, sister! I used to have what some might call a junk mail phobia. Thats right. Every time I went to the post office, put my key in the box, and opened the door, Id cringe at the sight of dozens of postcards, coupons, and flyers squeezed and folded into my tiny mail slot. It was the same story every time I checked the box. I would unload countless solicitations from credit card companies, product catalogues, and even nonprofit solicitations. Usually sandwiched between a Bed, Bath & Beyond coupon and a credit card offer, Id find the one personal letter or bill that I actually needed to open and read. Not to mention, the haunting thoughts of how many trees were sacrificed for the junk mail paper. What a waste! Well, things are different now. It all started when I received word about Do Not Junk Mail campaigns pushing for a registry similar to the Do Not Call registry. In the beginning, junk mail was just a nuisance. It was something that seemed wasteful but didnt trigger phobia-like emotions. Id simply use a filing system at the post office. Junk mail went straight in the recycling bin and the rest of the mail went home with me. Then I really started thinking about it! Thinking about the trees, the energy, the environmental impact I realized that junk mail has even a shorter useful life than the plastic bag! Junk mail wastes our time, energy, resources and money (we pay to dispose of it). Here in Summit County, were lucky that we have convenient recycling bins right next to our post office boxes. But in the rest of the United States, millions of unwanted mail goes straight into the landfill. So when you think about useful life, junk mail is created, shipped to your mail box, and then often discarded. Does it even have a useful life? Even more alarming are the statistics. According to New American Dream, the residents of Colorado receive 342,000,000 pounds of junk mail a year and in response, Colorado spends over $4.3 million a year beyond recycling costs to dispose of junk mail. When you add up all the environmental costs most postcards and brochures are made from trees, collected, labeled, sorted by energy-consuming machines, loaded into gas-guzzling trucks, delivered to mailboxes, loaded into other vehicles headed for recycling stations (20 percent) or landfills (80 percent) you get a small taste of the junk mail phobia. I also used to feel that junk mail was a losing battle. I would return junk mail to companies asking them to take my name off their mailing lists. No matter how many corporations I contacted, the more junk mail I seemed to get. I felt somewhat violated, like someone posted my personal information on a Nation-wide database where anyone could harass me with their marketing gimmicks. After a little research on junk mail, I found out that companies do invest in marketing schemes like tempting special offers and freebee drawings so they can obtain your contact information. Later on, these companies sell and trade your address with other companies and before you know it, you have a mailbox full of junk. At the other end of the junk mail campaign are the pro-junk mailers who claim that the U.S. Postal Service would go bankrupt and cost thousands of postal workers their jobs if policy prohibited unwanted mail solicitations. According to the USPS and other organizations, the Post Office receives anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of its revenue from junk mail. The Direct Marketing Association has even gone as far as creating a pro-junk mail group called Mail Moves America that aims to educate people about the myths of junk mail. They claim that paper junk mail does not equal trees and that junk mail is easily recycled, helping to ease environmental impact. What about the 44 percent (average amount) of unopened junk mail traveling directly into our landfills? In the end, I needed to make a change. I disliked junk mail so much that I paid a business called GreenDimes to stop junk mail coming to my post office box. And it worked! For a one-time fee of $20, GreenDimes got my name off mailing lists and other pesky databases while planting 10 trees on my behalf. Ive been junk mail free now for three years! You can sign up on High Country Conservation Centers website, http://www.highcountryconservation.org and HCCC will receive a donation from GreenDimes. Finally, support Colorado HB1303. The bill adopts a junk mail opt-out list based on the Do Not Call registry. Until we have strong policies regulating junk mail, the junk mail phobia is sure to spread. So, spread the word! Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier and Jennifer Kirkpatrick, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if youre wearing stylie shoes.Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, P.O. Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.
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