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6 Tips for Ditching Junk Mail

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

Junk mail is annoying. Beyond just being annoying, it’s super carbon heavy. 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gas is caused by junk mail each year. And, 44% of all that junk mail goes to the landfill unopened.  

6 tips for ditching junk mail from #junkmail #zerowaste #ecofriendly #gogreen #sustainable #stopjunkmail

Junk mail seems small. But, it’s the perfect example of how one small thing has an enormous impact when multiplied by millions of people.

100 million trees are cut down annually just to feed the junk mail machine. Sending junk mail is super cheap too.

It costs almost 50 cents to send a letter, but it only costs 11 cents to send a flyer or circular. Which makes me wonder… why? 

Why are we essentially subsidizing something we don’t want? We pay A LOT of money to dispose of junk mail – 370 million dollars to be exact. In fact, it costs 550 million dollars a year to transport it alone. 

Americans will spend 8 months of their life, just dealing with junk mail! What a complete and utter waste of time. 

If zero waste is truly about reducing our consumption of resources and saving time, junk mail seems like the perfect place to start. It’s entirely unnecessary, and it all it takes is a little bit of effort. 

1. get a sticker: 

I have a sticker on my mailbox that clearly states, “NO JUNK MAIL.” 

According to the Post Master General, this constitutes as an official return to sender. You can also ask for addressed mail only and add your last name. 

Of course, this doesn’t stop the creation of junk mail. It just stops you from receiving it. It also doesn’t stop junk mail that is coming with your name on it. 

2. register for the do not mail list: 

The do not mail list is essentially the same as the do not call list. Get your name removed from the list to stop junk mail before it even happens. 

It can take several weeks for all of the opt-outs to take effect. Sign up and have a little bit of patience. 

3. use an app:

Sometimes, opting out still doesn’t work. It took about a year before all of my opt-outs finally kicked in, but some things still go through. 

Check out the app PaperKarma app. It’s really simple to use. You simply take a picture of the unwanted junk mail and they unsubscribe you. 

4. send it back: 

This one might not be the most effective, but it’s certainly satisfying. 

If you’re feeling a little cheeky, you can always use the return envelope they send you to mail back a firm letter requesting removal from their mailing list. Or you can cram it full with a whole bunch of junk. 

Sending the letter back costs the company money. So, make them pay. 

5. ask nicely:

In the past, a lot of my mail has come from charities I’ve donated too. I don’t want to be mean. I don’t want to cost them more money, but getting junk mail definitely, makes me want to cut off donations. 

Most of my donations are set up on a recurring withdrawal. I don’t need a reminder. It’s automatically deducted. 

Most non-profits don’t use national databases, therefore you’re still on the mailing list even if you opt out. When I donate to a charity, I always write a note stating that my repeat donations hinge on receiving no junk mail. 

I haven’t received a piece of junk mail since.

6. pick up the phone: 

Then there’s my least favorite, but arguably the most effective method yet. Pick up the phone and call. Ask to be removed from their mailing list. 

This is the most time-consuming method. It can also be very painful when you call and call and somehow still receive junk mail. But, your patience and perseverance will soon be rewarded with an empty mailbox. 

What tips and tricks do you have for saying goodbye to junk mail? 

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  1. If you do call, please remember that oftentimes you’re speaking with a poorly paid customer service representative who likely has no access to a "mailing list" or directory. They have no way of removing you from the list themselves and probably have to submit a lengthy request form or find the exact right regional contact person!
    It is frustrating being on hold and possibly having to make repeat phone calls, but they are just as frustrated as you are, pinky promise πŸ™‚

  2. I know people who refuse to recycle every week in the blue containers. The reason (and I agree) is junk mail they get, which they throw with the household trash (green container) and the fact packaging now days is ridiculous and hard to open plastic shells, cardboard, other packaging, etc. takes time. Laws are not passed to curb this either, and as some say recycling is all for nothing or a catch 22. I have crammed the return envelope and returned it. I am on a mail suppression list. I only donate to local charities and group homes so as not to get on lists. AARP is only getting members to sell names to advertisers. They do nothing else, ditto for major US charities.

  3. In addition to calling you can email most companies! The Litterless blog has a template and excel sheet to keep up with it! It’s a bit of a pain but it’s been reducing our junk meal for sure! I find the biggest problem with "Resident" labeled mail never seems to stop!

  4. Where did you get the "No Junk Mail/Advertisement" sticker? Did you create it yourself? Can you buy online? Looks very sleek. For some reason I have a hard time believing, however, that the USPS actually returns the junk to the sender. I’ll ask my postman next time I see him. In the meantime, I’ll create my own sign and see watch for the results. The bigger picture is – how can we make an impact with the generators of this junk to STOP the production? In a nice, eco-friendly way, of course. Thanks!

  5. Tody after reading your post I eliminated my name from 26 different mailing lists using the links you suggested. I also downloaded paper karma app. You’re great, thanks!

  6. BTW, regarding putting a sign for no junk mail on your mailbox, I just used a label printer and typed "Please no unaddressed mail." I stuck this on the mailbox where the mailman must see it. Next I will try "NO JUNK MAIL!" Then I will try the return to sender.

  7. Thank you for your help! I am writing "return to sender please, no junk mail" on all my mail from today as we speak! I will also look into getting a sticker for my mail box. I know we as a community appreciate your time and help. Best, Ashley Eugene OR.

  8. I am still frustrated about my junk. I get many, many catalogs in my mail. I called each one and asked to be taken off the mailing list. They did that. Then 6 months later, they all started coming again. It’s exhausting to call them every 6 months. I’m signed up for opt out. I have NOT noticed a decrease in my mail. I have not sent it back. Nor have I used the app you mentioned. The battle is real.