Reducing the Amount of Physical "Junk" Mail You Receive

Scott W. Ambler + Associates
 
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I'm a Canadian citizen living in Toronto and I've gotten rather frustrated with the amount of unsolicited, physical junk mail which I receive. 

Easy Things to Do Right Now

Over the past few years I've developed several techniques for reducing the junk mail that I receive.  Here they are in order of preference:

  1. Signage.  I have clearly indicated on my mailbox that I do not want to receive any sort of junk mail. The appropriate wording is "No Ad Mail Please" although I have indicated "No Junk Mail Please" as I don't feel the need to apply euphemisms for junk mail. 
  2. Personal request.  From what I can tell this is a rare thing for people to do, and I had to point out the sign to my mail carrier.  Since then the amount of junk mail has gone down substantially.
  3. Join opt-out lists.  There are several around the world and in Canada there's the Canadian Marketing Association (I tried them, didn't seem to help).  Also, if you call Canada Post at 1-800-267-1177, choose 1 for English (2 for French), then 2 for residential, then 20 to talk with a live operator you can ask to have junk mail delivery to your address stopped (when I did this, they simply told me to put a sticker reading "No Ad Mail" at the bottom of my mailbox, see point #1 above).
  4. Send junk mail back to the sender.  Whenever a company sends a self addressed return envelope, banks and credit card companies send these to me regularly, I stick someone else's junk mail to them in the envelope.  I do this regardless of whether the envelope has a stamp on it or not -- if they want to waste my time with junk mail, I fully intend to waste their time and money sending it back.  Note that I do not do this to charitable and/or non-profit organizations.
  5. Stick the junk mail right back in the mailbox.  The way I look at it, I not only didn't ask for the junk mail, I've actively asked for it not to be delivered.  Canada Post can deal with it -- they're paid to deliver it, they should be forced to remove it.
  6. Spread the word.  If you have found this article interesting, please share this URL (http://www.ambysoft.com/ideas/reduceJunkMail.html) with your friends.  Better yet, please link to it from one of your own pages so that search services like Google learn about it faster.  If you have any ideas to help reduce junk mail which you'd like to share, please contact me.

 

Long Term Strategies

  1. Ask politicians to pass legislation to reduce junk mail.  In Canada the mail is a federal responsibility, so the first step is to send a letter to your Member of Parliament (MP) suggesting one or more of the following ideas.  In my opinion there shouldn't be any reason why provinces can't pass some of this legislation or even towns/cities at the by-law level.  So, also send copies to your MPP and town council.
  2. Require junk mailers to indicate the environmental damage caused by their material.  It should be easy enough to develop formulas to calculate the number of trees killed in order to print the material (the unit of measure should be in terms of acreage) as well as the carbon footprint of the printing and delivery process.  These two figures could be printed in the bottom corner of the publication.  The reason why this is important is that it makes the environmental cost of the junk mail explicit to the receiver, and thereby motivates the junk mailers to think about the potential damage to their corporate image.
  3. Require opt-in lists for junk mail.  Instead of putting the onus on the receiver to deal with unwanted junk mail, why not put it on Canada post and the junk mailers themselves where it really belongs?  Instead of a "No Ad Mail Please" sticker on my mailbox, why not require me to put up a "Ad Mail Please" sticker to indicate that I'm actually interested in all that junk mail?  Why not require marketers to specifically address their marketing literature to me, the technology exists for them to easily do this, and require them to do so only if I allowed them?

 

Why Reduce Junk Mail?

Simple: hundreds of thousands of acres of trees are being cut down every year so that companies can send us marketing material that most of us would prefer not to receive.  It's time we put a stop to it.

 

What Is the Impact?

  1. Improved environment.  Reducing the junk mail that we receive will reduce landfill requirements (not everyone recycles) and reduce the environmental damage associated with producing and delivering this mostly unwanted advertising.
  2. Advertising dollars will be invested elsewhere.  There are many venues for advertising, junk mail is just one of them.
  3. Canada Post will need to reorganize. Many people claim that postal organizations such as Canada Post and the US Post Office are able to keep the postage rates down for the rest of us due to the money they make delivering junk mail.  Considering that junk mail is delivered at substantially reduced rates, what I really think is going on is that these organizations are simply looking for a way to justify their bloated organizations.  Does avoiding the uncomfortable issue of "dealing with" the postal union really justify the environmental damage caused by junk mail?

 


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