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Zero Waste // How to Stop Junk Mail in 5 Steps

I began a large effort to try to reduce our household impact on the environment last July by making some zero waste swaps in the bathroom and in the kitchen, but then I realized our trash was still filling up with one thing: junk mail. So I decided to tackle our mailbox. We get A LOT of junk mail and I was tired of it. I was tired of both wasting minutes of my life sorting through it and I was tired of its impact on our environment. If you are, too, keep reading to learn more about how to stop junk mail in 5 easy steps.

Our mailbox was full of catalogs (both wanted and unwanted), credit card offers, direct mailers, and mail for the previous owners of our house.

Zero Waste // How to Stop Junk Mail in 5 Steps

The first thing I did was set up a box to collect all of the junk mail so I could sort through it at the end of a month and see what I was dealing with. Then I sorted through it and here’s what I did:

1. Sign up for the USPS Informed Delivery emails:

We bought our house a little over 4 years ago and we still receive mail for the previous owners. They never put in a change of address, so we get ALL their junk mail as well as all of their important mail like juror summons, insurance information, retirement benefits, lawsuits, mortgage payments, etc. It’s a lot. I tried writing “return to sender” on the first few pieces. But then I quickly realized that if they didn’t put in a change of address, they obviously didn’t care about receiving their mail, so why should I? I then started filing their mail … in the trash. 

I’ve been throwing their mail away for years, but this still takes some effort of my part. The daily sorting, piles, throwing away. But while I was researching how to stop junk mail, I signed up for the USPS’s Informed Delivery emails. It’s free, you simply need to sign up for an account and verify your identity and then you start receiving notifications as to what should be arriving in your mailbox that day. (They scan the letters and you see the scans in an email.) After I signed up, we stopped receiving a lot of the old neighbors’ mail. I can still see that it’s being sent (because it gets scanned and shows up in my email), but it doesn’t get delivered to us as much – some still sneaks through, usually when there’s a substitute mail delivery person. 

I’m hoping the post office does something on their end with this mail – returning it to the sender and notifying them that the address is no longer valid – so that it eventually stops completely!

2. Opt-Out of Credit Card and Insurance Offers

We were also getting a LOT of unsolicited pre-approved credit card and insurance offers. Because these offers are often preprinted with a lot of our personal information, I felt like we needed to shred these pieces of junk mail before throwing away in order to prevent any possible fraud. Something else I just don’t have time for!

You have two options for opting out of these unsolicited credit card and insurance offers.

Opt-out for 5 years: You can call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) and follow the instructions.

Opt-out permanently: Go to OptOutPrescreen.com and return the signed Permanent Opt-out Election Form via mail to the address they provide.  

I chose the permanent method because I didn’t want to have to do this again in 5 years. I returned signed forms for both myself and my husband using two different envelopes just to ensure that it worked. And it has! We haven’t received any unsolicited pre-approved credit card and insurance offers since!

3. Cancel Catalogs

We were also getting a ton of catalogs, both from stores I have previously ordered from as well as stores I was not interested in. When we remodeled our house, I ordered a lot of “one-off” purchases online such as light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, curtains, etc., so we were getting catalogs for all of those stores and I really wasn’t interested in them.

I went onto DMAchoice.org, filled out the online registration form and paid the $2 processing fee in order to ask to stop receiving catalogs from companies I haven’t purchased from, magazine offers from publishers I haven’t subscribed to, and mail offers from companies I haven’t donated to or purchased from. I did the same for my husband, so $4 total. 

I then hit up two of the biggest producers of junk mail offers: Valpak and RetailMeNot Everyday. 

I simply Googled “Valpak Opt-out” and clicked directly to the Valpak Mailing List Removal Request.

And then I did the same for RetailMeNot Everyday. Simply fill out the form with your address and unsubscribe. 

And then I started tackling the catalogs from whom I’ve purchased items or catalogs I just don’t want to receive. I first went through the different catalogs and logged onto the business websites and I either scrolled down to find a catalog unsubscribe page or I did a search on the website for “catalog unsubscribe” and then followed the directions.  I had to send an email to several companies in order to ask for removal from their catalog, so be ready to copy and paste and simply change out the email address/name, etc.

And then I logged onto CatalogChoice.org where I was able to cancel 3 more catalogs. 

4. Go Paperless on Bills, Healthcare Notices, etc. 

And then I went through my personal mail and took note of where I could go paperless with bills, bank notices, healthcare notices, etc. I don’t need more paper in my life. It’s just clutter and I have nowhere to store it!

5. Return to Sender

And then I was left with a bunch of unsolicited mail and some of the home’s previous owners mail (some still gets through). If it was printed with “address correction requested” or “return postage guaranteed,” then I wrote “REFUSED. RETURN TO SENDER!” on the unopened envelope and dropped it back off at the post office. I’m hoping that this will take me off a few more mailing lists and get the previous owners’ mail to stop showing up. 

An alternative option to all of this is to pay for Paper Karma. It’s a mobile app with different subscription prices that automatically unsubscribes you from junk mail and catalogs. I haven’t tried it, but I might sign up for a couple of months ($1.99 per month) later this year to stop the last bits of junk mail I just can’t seem to get rid of. 

Looking for other ideas to reduce your impact on the world? I’m sharing a few other ways I’m trying to go Lower Waste here:

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