17 November 2015

A Backwards Solution to Junk Mail

I just got an email message from the Story of Stuff project, where they're doing lots of good things to lessen the amount of waste that we produce. This one was about junk mail, and how not to get so much of it.

Story of Stuff sent me an email link to Catalog Choice, an organization that lets people choose what junk mail not to get. Catalogs, credit card offers, reverse mortgages, phone and data plans, all the other unopened junk that comes in the mail, and maybe you tear it in half before you throw it in the recycle bin in the hopes that someone else won't use it to open an account in your name.

And it struck me that while this is probably a useful individual solution, and might be less time-consuming than calling all the mailers individually and telling them to get you off their lists, it's completely backwards, like so much that we do regarding the environment.

If we were serious about stopping the plague of junk mail and its carbon footprint, from production to transportation and delivery to transportation back out of each individual household to dump or recycling facility, we would cut junk mail off at the source.

What if ... we made it illegal to send junk mail? What if you could only get that LLBean catalogue if you told LLBean that you wanted it, and not because some other company sold them your name along with various associated personal information?

As with so many environmental issues, we need to re-think junk mail. We need to approach it not as an individual scourge but as a systemic, structural problem.

I don't know how to change that. But I'm going to start with email messages to Story of Stuff and Catalog Choice, suggesting that they push the junk mailers to rethink unsolicited mail.