Putting a stop to all those unwanted catalogs

For most of us, one of the great annoyances in life is arriving home to a mailbox crammed full of catalogs we didn’t ask for, many of them from companies we have never bought anything from and maybe haven’t even heard of.  This time of year, in the run-up to the holidays, is the worst.  The catalogs seem to multiply exponentially with every passing week.

Although we may feel a little better taking those unread, unwanted catalogs and putting them in the recycling bin instead of trashing them, most of us know that only addresses a tiny portion of the overall environmental impact associated with getting the catalogs in our mailboxes in the first instance, and then disposing of them.

A few key facts: Each year, 19 billion catalogs are mailed to American consumers.  Catalog production uses approximately 3.6 million tons of paper, derived from 8.3 million tons of wood.  Put in perspective, that’s 53 million trees – equivalent to the number of trees in 2,000 Central Parks.

Energy use to produce and dispose of this volume of paper is estimated at 119 trillion BTUs, and CO2 emissions are estimated at 11 million tons per year.  Total wastewater discharges are estimated at 56 billion gallons, which is the equivalent of 574,000 households’ annual discharge.  Total solid waste is about 4.1 million tons – equal to the amount of annual waste generated by almost 2 million households.

That’s a lot of resources and a lot of pollution!  All for something we spent approximately three seconds removing from the mailbox, glancing at with a scowl, and then tossing in the recycling bin.

Until now, getting off of catalogers’ mailing lists has been a difficult, costly and unreliable process.  And the only option was to do a “blanket” do-not-mail request, so that you couldn’t choose to continue to get those catalogs you do enjoy receiving.  But now there is a new solution that is easy, reliable, and best of all, free!

This week, NRDC and its partners in the Catalog Choice Task Force (the National Wildlife Federation, the Ecology Center and several funding organizations) launched a free, new online service called “Catalog Choice”.  This service allows you to “opt out” of receiving those specific catalogs you no longer wish to receive.  Essentially, it allows consumers to put a stop to the undesired catalogs they receive while helping to reduce global warming, waste, and deforestation at the same time.

You can check out the website today at www.catalogchoice.org.  Given the surge of catalog mailings during the holiday season, we’re trying to quickly spread the word about Catalog Choice.  While many of us enjoy the convenience of catalog shopping, it’s nice to know that there is also an easy and free solution to put a stop to unwanted catalog mailings.

About the Authors

Kate Sinding

Senior Adviser to the President

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