Since opting out of junk mail a couple years ago, I don’t get nearly as much as I used to. Phone books? I use my phone. Catalogs? I go to a store. Still, I have a long way to go when it comes to dealing with paper clutter, from switching to paperless billing to simply having a system for mail when it comes into the house. Paper clutter aside, the best reason to opt of of all that junk mail? The part you don’t see. The upstream impacts of deforestation, water pollution and toxic runoff – all upstream impacts from harvesting, processing, manufacturing, printing, transportation that all have huge impacts – just so we could get some mail that we might not even look at before tossing in the recycle bin (or the trash, where unfortunately 44% of it ends up). Here’s some more disturbing facts from (the average amount of junk mail you receive every year!):

  • More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail.
  • The world’s temperate forests absorb 2 billion tons of carbon annually to help keep the planet cool and healthy.
  • Junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.
  • The average adult spends 70 hours a year dealing with junk mail.


Got Mail?

If you have a lot of mail coming in, and want to reduce it either from a paper clutter perspective (the less you have, the less you have to organize) or from a waste prevention angle, the first thing to do is take stock of what mail you get.  If you really want to get into it you could even count, or weigh, how much junk mail you receive in 1 week. The weekly average is 16 pieces of junk mail.  Catalogs? Credit card offers? Ads? Coupons? Sweepstakes? Bills?



If you only get a few catalogs, you can simply call the number on the back and ask to be removed one by one as you get them. If you get a lot you can also sign up with Catalog Choice (a project of The Story of Stuff Project!) that will contact catalogs on your behalf to get you off their list. Remember, the catalogs are there to make you feel like you need more, newer, bigger, better stuff anyway – so by removing these consumption drivers you’ll prevent more waste in the form of realizing you don’t need more stuff.


Phone Books:

Do you really need one anymore? Do you even use it? I can’t remember the last time I used a phone book, or even had one delivered. Opt out of all of them today.  Here’s the link to cancel the Yellow Pages and here’s the Dex Knows phone book opt out.


Credit Card Offers:

If you really need a new credit card or want to seek out a low balance transfer rate, just go online. Get this junk mail out of your house. (Good to know-these can also be a source of identity fraud if found by others, so best to just not have them exist). Opt out of Credit Card offers today.


Marketing Junk Mail:

You can cut out a big slice of your junk mail by signing up with Direct Marketing Association. You can actually choose the things you want to receive, and cancel everything you don’t.



Stop paying bills. Wouldn’t that be nice? No really, set up all your bills to be paid directly form your bank account. If you have reliable cash flow and can have it happen automatically, all the better. If not, you just log in each month, or couple times a month, and hit send. Once you’re in the flow of that, you really don’t need the paper bill, so go paperless and get those all by email. That’s my next step.


Seem like a lot of legwork? It really isn’t, but you can pay a non-profit to do all this opting out – and more – for you. Named for the amount of junk mail the average person receives each year, 41 Pounds does exactly that.

Have you opted out yet? If you have, or you do, let us know how it changes your mailbox in the comments below!


Visit these pages for more tips to prevent and reduce waste:


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