Reducing one’s carbon footprint isn’t always easy. Sometimes it requires spending extra time and money finding responsibly sourced products. Other times it means simply going without certain luxuries because of the environmental impact they make.

For those that just need an easy win, here it is: reducing your junk mail intake is quick, inexpensive and beneficial to the environment. And be honest, are you going to miss it? At my house, unless an envelope shows clear signs of containing money, an invitation or a letter from Grandma, it goes directly into recycling. Why continue this endless cycle of wasted time and resources?

Junk mail adds up

According to a United States Post Office financial disclosure, more than 77 billion pieces of marketing mail were delivered in the United States in 2018, a slight decrease from the 78.3 billion in 2017. Other estimates put the figure closer to 100 billion pieces country wide.

Aside from being annoying and intrusive, junk mail is a serious nuisance to our forests and landfills. It takes an estimated 100 million trees (1.5 per American household) each year to create junk mail, according to a Reader’s Digest article that cited the New York University School of Law. The amount of deforestation required to produce junk mail has the equivalent carbon impact of 3.7 million cars.

Now, if we thoroughly enjoyed junk mail – or even looked at it – this might be an entirely different article. But we don’t. In fact, 44 percent of it is handled like a hot potato and thrown away unopened. Half of that is recycled, while the other half – about 5.6 million tons per year – ends up in landfills.

How to make it stop – or at least slow down

There are a few ways to drastically reduce your junk mail intake, most of which take just a few minutes. Start by visiting DMAchoice.org, which breaks down the pros and cons of junk mail and has a step-by-step process to taking your name and address off of the mailing lists of catalogs, magazine offers and other mail offers. The service costs two dollars and removes your name from dozens of mailing lists with a single click. Other free sites, like Catalog Choice, require you to choose catalogs one by one.

Use DMAchoice.org to quickly remove your name from dozens of mail marketing lists. From https://dmachoice.thedma.org/index.php. Screenshot by Sam Wigness.

It’s also worth visiting DirectMail.com and putting your name and address on the “National Do Not Mail List.” This is another free site that takes only a few minutes to navigate through. Once signed up, simply check a box to remove yourself from dozens of mailing lists. Then, you can go through and add places you’d like to get mail from.

Another site, OptOutPrescreen.com, enables you to unsubscribe from prescreened credit card and insurance offers. This site asks for your social security number – which can be frightening – but the Federal Trade Commission and Attorney General’s Office of North Dakota have both given it the OK. In fact, the North Dakota Attorney General list opting out of prescreened credit offers and junk mail as a way to reduce your vulnerability of identity theft.

Next steps

It took me a total of 30 minutes and two dollars to go through all of these sites and remove my name from dozens – if not hundreds – of lists. According to DMAchoice.com, a noticeable decrease in junk mail can be expected 30-90 days after taking action. Once the bulk of it thins out, work on contacting the senders that slipped through the cracks and asking them to remove your name from their lists.

Then, take things a step further by switching your bills and bank statements to online delivery. While you’re at it, consider canceling that L.L. Bean catalog that you haven’t ordered from since 2006. Once the junk mail thins out, analyzing the rest of your mail intake becomes much easier.

Feature photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash