Cluttered mailboxes can become a thing of the past.
Consumers have a variety of options for reducing the amount of bulk mail coming to them. Several Web sites offer people the option of canceling delivery of all that junk.
The sites are provided by industry-sponsored organizations, for-profit companies and nonprofit groups that want to help the environment and provide a consumer convenience. All of the sites have streamlined registration processes, allowing people to slash their junk mail in minutes.
Catalog Choice (www.catalogchoice.org) a free service sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and The Ecology Center allows you to register a postal address and cancel catalogs delivered to anyone, past or present, who has lived there. The cancellation process, which is done individually for each catalog, is surprisingly quick, and almost all of the catalogs people receive can be found on the site.
The three environmental groups' main aim in creating the site was to help reduce the environmental impact and waste of junk mail.
"We wanted to address the massive amounts of catalogs that are sent," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The other part is respecting the consumer's choice in what comes to their mailbox, especially the unwanted solicitations."
The only real downside to the Web site is that it can take three months or longer for catalog deliveries to be halted. The primary reason for the delays, Sinding said, is that companies print their catalogs, with addresses, months in advance.
Two other Web sites, the for-profit www.greendimes.com and the nonprofit www.41pounds.org, help consumers tackle all of their junk mail. The groups contact the direct-mailing and catalog companies companies and request that the companies remove a consumer's address.
41pounds.org was started by three brothers who initially compiled a list of numbers and e-mail addresses their friends and family could use to reduce their junk mail. They then started the nonprofit to help people who simply did not have the time required to compile similar lists. Their service is $41 for five years, and one-third of the fee goes to donations to other nonprofit groups.
"It started out from our general annoyance with the junk mail," said co-founder Steven DeVries. "It seemed like something people just complained about but never tried to stop."
Green Dimes founder Pankaj Shah said regarding his company, "in an ideal world, we wouldn't exist." But people are inundated with junk mail and often do not have the time or energy to stop it. A subscription to his company's service costs $15 and includes the planting of 10 trees per year.
As with Catalog Choice, the lag time between a person signing up for the two services and noticing a significant reduction in junk mail can be months. There is also some additional paperwork required by specific companies and direct mailers who either cannot or will not accept the e-mail lists compiled by the companies.
Meanwhile, the Direct Marketing Association offers its own Mail Preference Service, which has been operating for almost four decades. The benefits include the $1 price to opt-out of mailings for three years, the ease of registering through www.the-dma.org, and the group's relationship with almost every direct mailing and catalog company in the nation. Those relationships create a much faster turn-around on stopping mail.
The other groups whose Web sites offer opting out of junk mail say that they provide a more vigilant service by periodically checking to make sure that a consumer's address stays off junk-mail lists. DMA says the companies that send the junk mail regularly check the DMA list.
Steve Berry, DMA's executive vice president for government affairs and corporate responsibility, said the advantages of eliminating unwanted junk mail provide benefits beyond those to the consumer. The industry also wants to improve targeting, especially catalog companies who spend a lot of money to print and mail their publications.
Environmental impact is also something the DMA is conscious of, and the group's Web site lists other ways people can help the environment, including recycling and shopping from home, which Berry said could significantly reduce carbon emissions."We're cognizant of the desire of the consumer to have more control of what comes to their domicile," he said. "Our goal is to honor what those consumers want and be more meaningful to the consumer."
On the Web:
These sites offer consumers the opportunity to opt out of junk mail:www.the-dma.org