[image via Vards Uzvards]

Americans receive the equivalent of over 100 million trees in the form of junk mail every single year. Most of these catalogues and offers that show up in our mailboxes don’t even warrant a second glance. They go straight into the trash or the recycle bin and on to the waste stream. Junk mail wastes our time and our resources.

The U.K.’s Royal Mail offers a door-to-door opt out system. Folks can just fill out a simple form requesting that mail carriers not leave bulk mailings in their boxes. In the U.S., we aren’t that lucky. There are a few things you can do, though, to slow down the needless flow of waste into your mailbox.

  • Catalogue Choice – You can register with this online service which allows you to opt out of various companies’ catalogues. They contact the businesses and manage the opting-out for you. The downside is that it can take up to 10 weeks for companies to receive your request.
  • The Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service – Here, you can remove your name from organizations’ mailing lists as well as remove your name from their member prospectus list.
  • Green Dimes – This service offers free and premium tiers. The premium option comes with some additional perks, such as monthly monitoring, but the free version looks pretty comprehensive.
  • Opt Out Prescreen – The major credit companies now offer you an opt-out solution. Register here to stop receiving unsolicited “pre-approved” credit card offers.

Apart from online services, there are some steps you can take to keep your junk mail at a minimum. A lot of the time, a good place to start is the company itself. Whenever you fill out a warranty card, make a donation, or place an order for goods or services, there is a chance that company will sell your contact information. You can ask them to mark your account so that your name is not traded or sold to other companies, though it’s tough to be sure that they will comply.

A friend of mine back in college had a great trick for figuring out who was selling his information. Any time he subscribed to a magazine or made an online purchase, he used a different middle name or initial. He could then go back to the company that gave out his information and request that they keep his name and home address private.

Unfortunately, it seems almost impossible to completely stop junk mail from hitting your box. Better than tossing it in the recycling bin, why not upcycle all of that unwanted paper into art? Shredded junk mail is also excellent for padding a box containing a fragile gift. What else can you do to extend the life of your junk mail?