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Zero Waste: 7 Tips for Ditching the Junk Mail

January 23, 2020

Zero Waste: 7 Tips for Ditching the Junk Mail

By guest blogger: Emily Silverstein of Urban Oreganics

Let's talk junk mail. I used to just toss it in the recycling bin, thinking that was good enough. But then I saw some staggering statistics about junk mail and realized I needed to do more.

Did you know...

  • It is estimated that 100 billion pieces of junk mail are sent each year
  • The average American family gets about 41 pounds of junk mail a year
  • 42% of junk mail ends up in landfills completely unopened - literally a waste

In alignment with our minimalist and eco-friendly habits, I decided to tackle our junk mail this year. Since starting in January, we have drastically reduced our junk mail waste. When we receive unwanted mail, we remove ourselves from the mailing list (more on how to do this below), and then recycle it.

A side note: if you are able to, composting your junk mail is even better than recycling. Just be sure to shred or tear into small pieces first to speed up the process. Check out our zero waste kitchen post for more helpful tips on composting.

ecofriendly waste free lifestyle junk mail urban oreganics

So, how can you reduce the amount of junk mail you receive?


First and foremost, you need to stop the mailings at the (biggest) source. DMA (Direct Mail Association) is run by ANA (Association of National Advertisers) which is the largest U.S. data and marketing association. A large number of businesses, non-profit organizations, and marketing firms use lists compiled by the ANA to send out their mailings. You get on these lists just by living your life. Seriously. Buying a house, buying a car, registering a warranty, opening a credit card, subscribing to magazines, the list goes on! By using the DMA Choice program, you can register your household and have a choice on what you receive in your mailbox. This service only costs $2 every 10 years. And while this will not end all your junk mail woes, it is a great starting point.


Another great service is Catalog ChoiceCatalog Choice is a non-profit organization that sends merchants catalog opt-out requests on your behalf. Although this is is a free service, they do accept tax-deductible donations to allow them to continue their good fight. 

Want something quick and easy? Paper Karma might be the app for you! For only $2 a month (or $20 a year) you can just snap a photo of each piece of junk mail with your phone, press send, and voila!

How many “pre-approved” promotions do you receive each week? Chances are, if you’re looking to open a new line of credit, you already know exactly how to do it. To put an end to credit card offers, visit Opt Out Services. You can choose either a five-year removal or permanent removal.


These options are a great start, but there will be a little more work involved as this unfortunately won’t remove you from all mailings. While it is time-consuming, your next step is to call or email every company you receive junk mail from.


Also, if you receive any mail with “return service requested,” “forwarding service requested,” “address service requested,” or “change service requested” printed on the front, you can write "refused, returned to sender" on the unopened envelope and pop it back in your mailbox.


One last thing… the coupons! Two major coupon distributors, Valpak and Red Plum, were always showing up at our house. Here’s how to add yourself to their suspension lists. You can ALWAYS go to their website to view and/or download coupons for your region if that's something that interests you.

Valpak: call 1-727-399-3000 or register here RedPlum (now Retail Me Not): call 1-800-437-0479 or unsubscribe here.


If you’re still receiving phone books from YellowPages, opt-out here.


Choose e-bills or e-statements for all banks, credit cards, bills, etc.

opt out catalogs urban oreganics junk mail

Unfortunately, a lot of marketing material is printed 8-12 weeks in advance, so you will not notice a difference right away. It will take a few months to see the fruit of your labor. Keep at it, and just like us, you should go from 6-10 mailings a day to just a couple a week.

How are you reducing your junk mail? We'd love to hear!


For other posts on sustainable and minimalist living, visit the Urban Oreganics Blog. 

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