I’m Waging the Good War Against Paper

Last December, my husband and I set up a managed account with one of the brokerage firms. We expected a few extra pieces of mail as the account ramped up. We certainly did not expect the flood of mail that started appearing in our mailbox as we received confirmations of trades and prospectus information from companies. The photo at left shows the 3 inches of mail that arrived from that one account in just one week.

Once I realized what was happening, we quickly switched to e-mail confirmations and statements.I vowed to do more to reduce the paper tsunami that swallows my mailbox every week but then entropy set in and I just resigned myself to simply standing in front of the garbage can as I reviewed my mail.

Well, turns out I have another opportunity to reduce my carbon footprint and save trees. We’re moving next week, which means I get to contact all my creditors and vendors to give them my new address. In the process, I’m switching to e-statements whenever I can. I like how Schwab retains my statements for 10 years. And I love that ExxonMobil is planting a tree in my name because I switched to e-statements for my DRIP. Wherever I can, I’m receiving bills through my online banking account and paying online.

According to Matador Network, “The average person in the US receives nearly 11 pieces of junk mail each week, or 560 pieces a year. This amounts to 4.5 million tons of junk mail yearly, of which 44% goes straight to the landfill unopened and unread.” Apparently, eliminating US junk mail would be like taking 480,000 cars of the road!

So what can we all do to reduce our paper consumption? Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Opt out of credit card offers by going to http://www.optoutprescreen.com/; btw, this has the added benefit of making you less likely to be victimized by identity theft from people stealing these credit card offers and opening up accounts in your name.
  • Contact the Direct Marketing Association and opt out of about 75% of direct marketers’ lists by going to DMAchoice.
  • Configure your online banking account to send you e-mail notifications when you have a new bill and stop paper bills.
  • Take the time to cancel unwanted subscriptions and catalogs; this is the most time-consuming because it’s easy to just pitch the unwanted stuff in the trash but think of the trees you’re NOT killing by making the effort.
  • Print everything double-sided.
  • Watch what I’m printing. Before I hit print, I check to make sure I’m not printing unnecessary pages. I once nearly used up a ream of paper when I accidentally printed a search results page that had hundreds of pages of debug code. Ugh, that was not pretty.

In doing research for this blog post, I found cute suggestions for ways to reuse junk mail as scrap paper, but I don’t believe that solves the problem: the trees had to be cut down in the first place. Besides, junk mail is some of the most expensive paper because it’s coated and printed in four color.

My goal is to trim the crap that appears in our physical mailbox by 50% by the end of the year. I’ll let you know early next year if I met my goal. How about you? Are you overrun by paper? What are you doing in the war against paper?

6 thoughts on “I’m Waging the Good War Against Paper

  1. Outstanding goal!
    Don’t know where those junk mail statistics come from–there are many days when we receive 11 pieces of junk mail. It’s a real pain since we don’t throw anything away without shredding our name and address.
    Thanks for the info. I’m joining the fight!

  2. Thanks Joanna! You have inspired me to contact my investment firm today. I already use online banking and what a joy it is! Thanks for the additional optout web site info as well. Great cause for the planet and my sanity!

  3. The irony of the opt out site is that if you want to opt out permanently, you have to actually PRINT it out and mail it to them…!

    I do almost all of the above, but I’m going to the DMA site directly after leaving this comment. I also print very little on paper; I print to PDF a lot, and save most of my files electronically. I do have important documents on paper, but for the most part, it’s electronic.

  4. I have the same problem with credit card companies. Some of them almost on regular bases send me “you have been selected bla bla” mail with at least 4 to 5 sheets of glossy paper, not to mention the plastic dummy credit cards attached.
    It makes me sad to be receiving so much paper and having them all go directly to the shredder. Though, I must say, the dummy plastic cards come in handy when scraping things off of smooth surfaces like decals on windows and mirrors :-)

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