A commonly overlooked source of wasted time, energy and materials is snail mail spam. Now the average person considers online spam to be much more annoying than snail mail spam according to a Science Daily article, however, I must say I think telemarketers are the most annoying of them all. With all of the current publications and news focusing on online email spam and telemarketers, snail mail spam has been all but forgotten, when in my opinion it is much worse, particularly from an environmental perspective.
The average person doesn’t mind sifting through their snail mail real quick and then discarding the junk mail, but that’s just it, people are throwing this stuff away, not recycling. A recent study showed that in the US only 17% of all junk mail is recycled, so the majority is simply filling up our landfills and producing more methane (greenhouse gas) in the process. This is not even considering the waste and emissions created during the production of this paper.
Over 13 Ounces of water is used to produce one sheet of paper. Also because trees are used in the production of paper, these once carbon neutral entities that help to reduce global CO2 will re-release their stored CO2 as their fibers are broken down into pulp. Paper production produces additional emissions from a variety of factors, from forest soil loss, trucking, pulping, paper manufacturing and shipping to the increased methane at the landfill.
Recycled paper is definitely better than virgin paper and I do applaud advertising companies who are using recycled paper, but this number is insignificant compared to the amount that are using virgin paper for their advertisements. Source reduction is of course the best thing one can do to help curb the emissions produced by paper production. Source reduction reduces the amount of trees cut down, waste water, landfill space and even the energy required to recycle the paper.
You may be thinking that you can’t do anything about this junk snail mail, but after some research, I have found a few different ways to drastically cut down your junk snail mail. I’m sure most of you have heard of the “Do Not Call” list where you register your phone with the government so telemarketers don’t call you, well there is something similar for snail mail publications as well.
The National “Do Not Mail” list from Directmail allows you to register your name and address with them so you no longer receive any junk snail mail from their company or companies using their address list. Another great resource is OptOutPrescreen.com which is a company that will get you off of the credit card mailing list. OptOutPrescreen will require that you submit your Social Security number which some people may object to, but credit card companies already have this information, so in my opinion it is worth it to stop getting these credit card offers. The third resource is from the Direct Marketers Association where you can put your name and address on their do not mail list for only $1. The final resource is http://www.41pounds.org/ which is a relatively new site that claims to be able to stop from 80% to 95% of your current junk snail mail, which if true will be the most valuable resource listed.
By using the resources above and stopping useless snail mail spam from coming to your house, you can really help the environment and reduce your CO2 emissions. You may be wondering how much of a reduction can this possibly make, well after I put our home address on those do not mail list, I decided to attempt to calculate the amount of waste and CO2 I would be saving. Here are my results:
One sheet of paper = 4.5 grams.
1 kg of Virgin paper produces 3.24 kg of CO2.
One sheet of paper produces 13 Ounces of waste water.
My average junk snail mail per day:
1.5 credit card applications per day (@ 1 envelope & 3 sheets per) = 6 sheets per day
0.5 useless magazines per day (@ ~30 pages) = 15 sheets per day
0.25 newspaper/coupon books per day (@ ~20 pages) = 5 sheets per day—————————————————————————————————-
26 total junk snail mail sheets per day (26 x 365) = 9,490 sheets per year
9,490 sheets per year @ 4.5g per sheet = 42.7 kg or 94 lbs. per year.
9,490 sheets @ 13oz of water per sheet = 3,648.5 Liters or 963.8 gallons of waste water per year.
42.7 kg of paper @ 3.24 kg of CO2 per 1 kg of paper = 138.3 kg or 306 lbs. of co2 per year.
Not to mention this amount of paper would generate about 109 lbs. of solid waste from the production process and use an entire tree.
Results of junk snail mail per year per household:
Kills 1 tree
Wastes 964 gallons of water
Produces 109 pounds of solid waste
Releases 306 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere
The calculations above do not consider the emissions related to shipping. Granted the junk mail will be delivered by mail couriers who would already be following their typical route by your house, so the net effect on that delivery system wouldn’t be too significant. However, when you think about it, the weight of all the added junk mail would actually cause each vehicle to run less efficiently and burn more gas per unit distance. Not to mention the added burden of recycling the junk mail that should have never been produced in the first place.
All in all, junk snail mail is a waste of money, time, energy and paper. Over 80% of all junk mail ends up in the trash and very little actually gets read. If you want to make a difference and help the environment, use the resources above and get your name on the “Do Not Mail” lists and drastically reduce the amount of junk snail mail being sent to your address. Of course these “Do not Mail” lists will not stop all junk mail, but you can recycle the rest and have almost the same net effect.
If you want to go even further than that, check out my Stop Global Warming action page and make a pledge to reduce your emissions by following a few simple steps. To create a carbon profile, you must sign up, but the sign up is free so what are you waiting for, go get a profile!