Friday, May 16, 2008

Green Friday: Buried in junk mail, part 3--Direct mail

As I said a couple of weeks ago, stopping the flow of unaddressed junk mail here in Canada is easy. It’s the addressed stuff that is harder to deal with.

Charity appeals pose a real problem for me. Although I realize that organizations rely on them for fundraising, the number I receive is ridiculous. I saved them all over a two-month period and ended up with a stack several inches high. It’s time for charities to look for innovative ways to get their fundraising message out, instead of blindly mailing out envelopes stuffed full paper.

The ones that really annoy me are organizations that I already donate to asking me for more, more, more. Our public television station is a prime example. I’m more than happy to support them and every year I donate what I feel we can afford. But no sooner have I renewed my membership than I’m getting special appeals from them, and they start bugging me to renew several months before I need to.

And then there are the junk faxes. Not only are these marketers wasting paper, they’re wasting my paper.

There are some steps you can take to reduce the flow of direct junk mail. The Direct Marketing Association in the U.S. and the Canadian Marketing Association both offer “do not contact” lists. The American organization offers several options. In Canada, registering means that you will not be added to any new contact lists (mail, fax, or phone) for a period of three years. Opinion varies on how effective these are. (The CMA is not letting me link directly to their registration page, but you can get there through the "Do Not Contact Service" button on the right side of their home page.)

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse gives more tips for those in the States to reduce all kinds of junk mail.

In addition to registering with the Canadian Marketing Association, I’m trying to systematically deal with all of those offers and appeals. First, I’m cancelling store loyalty cards that I don’t use on a regular basis. I actually started doing this when I realized that I was carrying about 54 pounds of these cards in my purse, and I decided that getting a free greeting card at Hallmark or a $5 coupon at a shoe store once a year was not worth having lopsided shoulders at the age of 60.

Whenever I get mail from the stores whose cards I’ve kept, I look for a way to contact them to ask that they not send me any special offers. I don’t use these offers. Sometimes they make it out to my car or into my wallet, but 99% of the time they languish there. I’ve accepted the fact that, for me, these coupons are a waste of paper and my limited brain space, so I don’t want them anymore. I’ve been surprised to find that most stores do have a way to opt out of receiving these offers. You may need a magnifying glass, though, because they’re written in teeny tiny print.

I’ve also started favoring those charities that don’t sell or trade their mailing lists, or at least allow me to tell them not to pass my name along. Some, like the World Wildlife Fund, let you choose how much mail you receive from them. This makes so much sense. If I know I can give only once a year, let me tell you this so you won’t waste your money and a whole bunch of paper trying to get more out of me. Some are also moving to email for their newsletters.

If you have any tips for stemming the flood of junk mail, please let me know!


Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

Conveniently, Wednesday is my big junk mail day. Conveniently, trash day is Wednesday. Since my trash can pick up and mailbox are both located at the end of my driveway, the majority of it doesn't do anything but move from the mailbox to the recycling trash bin.

This does nothing about reducing the amount of junkmail, except for in my house.

By contacting the catalog people, I have somewhat reduced the amount, but getting to where it was didn't happen overnight.

Keep in path,

Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

Keep on path , of course is what I meant to say.

Margerie said...

I did the catalog link and have noticed a difference already. I keep aorking on it. I agree, not only is it a physical waste, but a mental waste sorting through all the junk. Like I said beofre, they ought to start a junk mail tax!