Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Junk Mail

Ahh...those two dreaded words...Junk Mail!  Most people don't give it much thought to toss the daily junk mail into the recycle bin (I hope not the trash) and carry on with their day.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE getting the mail.  In fact, I wouldn't mind being a mail courier (as long as I could walk door to door)! Removing myself from junk mail went from a daily ritual for me to an obsession.  Everywhere I live, I am proactive on removing myself from mailing lists and redirecting mail from previous residents.  I have lived in my current home for almost 4 years and decided to track all the mail I receive for 7 months.  Here are the results:

Mail from friends or mail I expected (bills, presents, subscriptions, etc.): 93
Mail I did not order (junk mail) and did not want81
Mail without an address printed (can't remove from mailing lists): 10
Previous resident: 5

On average, I receive ~1.13 pieces of mail each day.
(214 (total number of days in a 7 month period including weekends and govt. holidays)/189 (total pieces of mail))

Junk mail has a huge impact on the natural environment because it uses paper, ink, energy to print the mailings, gasoline to transport the mailings, and not to mention people's time to get it to my home.  Some could argue that without junk mail, postage rates would rise.  I personally think that $.44 to send a letter thousands of miles away in less than 3 days is rather cheap.

This is what I do when I receive mail that I don't want:
1. Call the business and speak to a customer service representative using the phone number on the mailing.
2. Find the business on the Internet and find the "contact us" link and find a phone number or email.  Often times when searching for an email address, there will be "Remove from Mailing List" option which ensures efficient removal.

What I do when I receive mail from a previous tenant:
1. Call the business if there is a phone number on the outside of the envelope or find the company information on the Internet (I never open another person's mail).
2. Write on the envelope "Return to Sender, Resident No Longer Lives at This Address" and place it in the return mail.  If you put this in the mailbox at your house, it reminds the mail courier to double-check the name next time.  Years ago when I rented a house in college, I remember compiling a stack of mail a foot tall and bundling them together with a note attached stating, "These people don't live here anymore please return to sender."  I never received a piece of mail without my name on it ever again at that address---what a relief!

When I receive mail without my address printed on it, I know that it was a mailing sent to everyone in the community.  In particular I receive catalogs for colleges in the area.  Being the proactive person that I am, I write to each of these businesses and express my opinion about junk mail, its environmental footprint, and cost to the business for sending mail to those who don't want it.  I have surprisingly received many replies from these businesses.  Many have said that their board of directors (or whoever) have been looking at the cost for the catalogs and are reconsidering these mass mailings.  

There are a lot of websites out there that can help remove you from mass-marketing lists.  One that I have registered with is  This website removes you from most mass-marketing lists and it is free. Some of these mailing lists removals require your social security number but this one does not.


jenn merfee-t January 18, 2012 at 4:29 PM  

You've put so much thought and detail into tracking junk mail and make it look easy! Your links and steps are so helpful. We've seen mail delivered for years after writing "moved, no longer at this address" onto mail and hope to get less junk mail by writing "please remove from all mailing lists." It is inspiring to know you get such little junk mail now. Thank you for helping to keep paper in our forests.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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