Many individuals on campus are frustrated by the amount of unsolicited mail they receive. Not only are some of these advertisements and other announcements bothersome, but they also waste heaps of paper, ink, and toner — not to mention the time and money spent printing, delivering, and recycling these announcements. According to The Center for a New American Dream (whose mission is to advance sustainability by shifting the way we consume), reducing unsolicited mail can have big environmental benefits. Did you know:
- Americans spend over 8 months of our lives opening junk mail.
- Over 100 million trees are cut down annually to produce unsolicited mail. That’s the equivalent of completely deforesting the Adirondacks in only 3 years.
- 44% of unsolicited mail is never even opened.
- Only 1 in 5 pieces of junk mail is recycled.
- Over 5.6 million tons of paper promotions are landfilled each year.
- Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of unsolicited mail.
It is no wonder so many faculty, staff, and students are unnerved by the amount of unsolicited mail we receive. But what can you do? Below are a few tips:
1) Reduce it on campus. Did you know that Colgate has five separate mail distribution lists?
- Distribution A goes to every employee on campus (~940 mailings)
- Distribution B goes to every faculty member on campus (~540 mailings)
- Distribution C goes to every faculty member and administrator (~610 mailings)
- Distribution D goes to each department (one per department or ~115 mailings)
- Distribution E goes to each student (~2,900 mailings)
If you are producing mail to be distributed on campus, you can easily change your campus distribution list from mailing list A to mailing list D and save over 800 pieces of mail. Alternatively, if you receive unsolicited campus mail from a campus department or program, contact them with a gentle reminder to switch their distribution list. This small change can significantly reduce the amount of paper used, the associated costs to a department and our university’s carbon footprint.
2) Make it eco-friendly. In the event that you need to produce campus mail, use FSC® Certified paper stock. This will significantly reduce the environmental (and social) impacts of producing your mail by ensuring your products come from responsibly managed forests. You can also opt to use soy-based inks. These environmentally friendly inks are renewable, biodegradable and more easily removed during the recycling process. They often produce a richer pigment quality, as well.
3) Recycle it. When you dispose of your mail, please be sure to recycle it in one of the paper recycling bins located in your building.
4) Cut down on mail from outside marketers. If you receive campus mail from outside marketers or organizations, try this:
- Register for the National Do Not Mail List. This free service is quick and easy and gives you the option to continue to receive mailings of your choice. DirectMail.com will contact you every six months via e-mail so you can review and update your preferences. Visit DirectMail.com to register at http://www.directmail.com/mail_preference/.
- Ask companies to stop sending you catalogs. If you receive unwanted catalogs or other mail from specific sources, call the toll-free customer service number to request that your name be removed from their mailing list. Also, make your request via e-mail from the company’s website. Have the mailing label handy when you call, or attach a picture of it to your email. No doubt this takes time, but think of all the time you save by not having to deal with unwanted catalogs that routinely show up on campus. Also, Catalog Choice offers a free service that sends opt-out requests for individual companies on your behalf.
- At home, if you receive unwanted mail from credit card companies, call 1-888-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day. One short call will remove your name and address from Equifax, TransUnion, Experian and Innovis!
Do you have other ideas on how to reduce or eliminate unsolicited mail? Please share!
Have other questions about recycling on campus? Visit our FAQ post!
Thanks for doing your part to save resources and reduce waste on campus and at home!