How to Reduce Junk Mail

| May/June 2007


There are a handful of easy ways you can keep your mailbox from overflowing with unwanted mail.


Tired of opening your mailbox to piles of unwanted promotions? On average, each American receives 41 pounds of junk mail per year, and more than 100 million trees are lost annually to produce those advertisements and solicitations. While you likely receive mail from businesses or causes that you value, you probably get mail from many in which you have no interest. As always, you can recycle your excess mail, and thankfully, easy options now exist to minimize or even completely stop unwanted mail.

Web sites such as and can remove your name from direct mail advertisers' lists for a fee ($36 for one year; $41 for five years, respectively). Less pricey alternatives and a few simple tips also can significantly reduce the amount of junk mail sent to your home.

  • compiles a list of people who indicate that they don't want to receive advertisements in the mail. Registration for the list is free, and the Web site then supplies the list to mass mailers, which can choose to check it with their mailing lists and remove names that appear on both.

    For a $1 processing fee, the Direct Marketing Association can add your name to its 'do not mail' list. The DMA requires its more than 3,600 member companies to match their marketing lists with the 'do not mail' list. You will see junk mail decrease about three months after your name gets on the list, which is updated four times a year.

    Both services assure that they do not pass along your name or address to any mailing lists. Both work only for home addresses, not business addresses. Neither can guarantee a complete stop to junk mail, and be aware that registering for either list can also prevent you from receiving mail you might want, such as coupons, catalogues, and mail from nonprofit and charitable organizations.

  • To specifically stop credit card and insurance offers, call (888) 5-OPTOUT (888) 567-8688 or register at, which removes your name from major credit agencies' marketing lists for five years, or permanently if you complete a mail-in form.

  • Don't be afraid to sign up for things you want. If you're concerned that your name and address will be added to other mailing lists, write a variation of 'please do not sell or trade my name or address' next to your information when making a donation, placing an order, or filling out a form for a warranty, subscription or even for a drawing. That way you'll get what you want, but nothing more.

  • When you receive an unwanted solicitation from a specific company, call its toll-free number to directly request removal from its mailing list. Businesses should be accommodating because sending mail only to interested customers saves them money. If you want to minimize the amount of mail you receive from charities you support, ask them to only mail materials to you once a year or under special circumstances. Then reward them by donating when you're ready.

For many industries, including the magazine industry, direct mail is a means of reaching and maintaining customers. You can help Mother Earth News reduce our use of paper and our need to send renewal notices by renewing your subscription online through our Earth-friendly Subscription Program. You'll save trees and cash: those in the program get our lowest renewal rate (currently $10) without getting a single renewal notice in the mailbox.

Know a way to curb unwanted mail, or reuse it creatively? Share your knowledge by posting a comment below.

b s_4
6/6/2007 12:00:00 AM

Why am I being asked for my Social Security number to opt out of junk mail on the OptOut site? There is only one person living at my house with my name.Betsy

jessica butler
6/4/2007 12:00:00 AM

I'm a shred junkie. I love to shred stuff. There's something cathartic about it. Use the shredded paper as packing material when you ship things. This cuts down on the use of plastic packing (i.e. bubble wrap, air bladder, etc.) I've always wanted to take junk mail and try to make new paper out of it. But my personal favorite is simply to take it (shredded) to the recycling center.

bet and dad deuley
6/1/2007 12:00:00 AM

Great idea so far but why not make your magazine an e-zine option. I get it on paper but have gone to getting all of my news and magazines electronically as much as possible however Mother Earth is not available.I would gladly pay the same rate and I am sure not everyone but many others would do the same. Great eco saver

6/1/2007 12:00:00 AM

consider that spam is junk mail, too! At least spam does not cut down any trees but it does burn coal or gas to produce the electric power to send it out. Hum, not only does it warm our computers, it contributes to global warming.chtank

bridget cole
5/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

What a coincidence to get this email on the same day that I open my mailbox to get a renewal 'reminder' from MEN for my gift subs that do not expire for another 6 plus months. Come on Mother, let's put our money where our mouth is in trying to save our Earth. What a waste of natural resources to start sending renewal notices six months early!!Bridget Cole

ernie simpson
5/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

I encourage Bulk ie junk mail... it goes directly through my shredder and into a 55 gal drum along with water and cow feces.After a week or so it makes a real good manure tea and compost. the paper disolves and makes a good base.The shredded paper would probably work just as well in a regular compost pile since it is almost pure celouse fiber.We even shred newspapers but they should be soaked in water after shredding to leach out the ink before composting them.the wizard

kecia donnelly
5/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

I have been trying to call the companies when I receive catologs, etc. When I do receive junk mail I shred it and use it for packing material in packages.

mike yuhasz
5/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

I agree with Andy Rooney, put your junk mail in their return envelope and send it back to the company. And if there is no return envelope, make one out and send it back to sender!

null gwen
5/31/2007 12:00:00 AM

When I renewed my Mother Earth News subscription last time online, my quickly typed name had a typo in it that isn't anywhere else except the label on my Mother Earth News magazine. Now I am receiving junk mail with this typo! Either the junk mail is produced by Mother Earth News, or my name has been sold by Mother Earth News to a junk mail list. I agree with BCole. Mother Earth News--put your money where your mouth is.

charles hardison
5/30/2007 12:00:00 AM

thanks for the junk mail tip i will try this i have subscribed to mother earth news for 30 yrs or more

rebecca moody
5/30/2007 12:00:00 AM

Andy Rooney offered that returning postage paid envelopes to the companies filled with other random junk mail offers him a personal moment of glee. It seemed a bit childish to me, and it was, but, I had my own personal moment of glee, and it was worth it. It hasn't cut down on the amount of junk mail that shows up in my mailbox, but I am having more fun with my junk mail these days.

sarah bellos_2
5/30/2007 12:00:00 AM

Get involved in national and state level policy to reduce junk mail! A great organization that is mobilizing around this issue is the Center for A New American Dream. They have a do not junk campaign focused on just this issue:

sarah bellos_2
5/30/2007 12:00:00 AM

sorry seems as though the link was cut short:

sally howard
5/29/2007 12:00:00 AM

When you receive an unwanted catalogue, immediately call the 800 number listed for placing orders and ask that your name be removed from their mailing list. Sally Howard

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