How to Reduce Junk Mail

| May/June 2007

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

  • JunkMail

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

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