Junk Mail’s Toll on the Environment

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Pictured is the cover of the ForestEthic's report on the impact junk mail has made on the environment.

More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail floods mailboxes on a yearly basis–that’s more than 900 pieces per household–reporting exclusive offers, urgent messages, nearly impossible promises and must-buy merchandise. This wasteful enterprise is doing more than destroying 100 million trees a year. According to a report released by ForestEthics, a nonprofit environmental organization committed to protecting endangered forests, junk mail is a major contributor to climate change.

Junk mail produces more than 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year. This figure is equal to more than 9 million passenger cars. The report made other comparisons to this newfound figure, equating junk mail production to firing 11 coal power plants, combining emissions of 11 states, mowing more than 20 billion lawns, driving nearly 5 million school buses, heating nearly 13 million homes and boarding nearly 85,000 international flights.

In response to these alarming results, ForestEthics has launched the Do Not Mail campaign. The campaign promotes the establishment of a registry that Americans can sign up for as a way to stop receiving junk mail in their home. This registry would be similar to the Do Not Call registry many Americans have signed up for to stop telemarketing phone calls. To sign the Do Not Mail petition, visit www.donotmail.org and learn other ways you can take action in the Do Not Mail campaign.

More about paper waste

• See which of your favorite businesses use or sell recycled paper!

• Check out Greenpeace’s guide to recycled toilet paper and napkins.

• Follow Assistant Editor Kim Wallace on her two week eco-challenge to eliminate her paper towel usage.