Have you gotten that uncontrollable urge to send junk mail back to where it came from? We all have some inkling of protest as we sift through the endless stream of junk mail that arrives in our mailbox every day. Marketing distributors of junk mail have become a consumer pipeline transporting forests to their inevitable resting place at the local refuse dump. The good news is you can stop the madness, but it takes some determination, and maybe save the rainforests with it. According to some estimates, the amount of junk mail received by the average household in Canada is approximately 16 pieces of junk mail each week amounting to over 40 pounds per year. When you multiply that by more than 12 million households (based on 2008 Canadian census data), that’s nearly half a billion pounds of junk each year. Shockingly, about one-third of the entire world's mail comes from U.S. junk mail. It takes more than 100 million trees to produce the volume of junk mail that arrives in U.S. mailboxes every year. Clearly, the forest pipeline is in full swing in North America. If we do our part in recycling roughly 30 percent of our trash (based on recent EPA estimates) that still leaves a lot of paper ending up in landfills. For decades, these forests have been cut down and turned into pulp for paper products. Take for instance, the Tongass rainforest in Alaska and the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. Here, towering old-growth trees provide habitat for scores of bald eagles, wolves, and bears. As one of the world’s largest remaining relatively intact forests (where it hasn’t been logged), along with nearly one-third of the planet’s other temperate old-growth rainforests, the Tongass deserves a better fate than ending up in a landfill off-gassing carbon dioxide pollution. Clearly, our forests are worth more standing than the trash filling up landfills. In fact, in a speech at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack aptly noted that the Tongass rainforest "comprises only 2 percent of America’s forest land base, but may hold as much as 8 percent of all the carbon contained in the forests of the United States." Thus, if we are serious about stopping global warming, the Tongass would be valued for its irreplaceable carbon storage and other ecosystem services. So what can we do about the evils of junk mail?  There are several excellent websites and source materials for stopping junk mail in its tracks (see sources below). Here are just a few notable examples:
  • Stop preapproved credit card offers by contact Equifax toll-free: (888) 567-8688.
  • Request privacy information from companies whenever you purchase materials. Companies buy and sell personal information like brokers exchange pork bellies on the stock exchange.
  • Take yourself off national mailing lists by clicking on www.privacyrights.org/Letters/jm1a.htm or www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action.
  • Stop the never ending slurry of junk ads. Remember to check out the label on the envelope for a return address (to send a cease and desist letter back!) or peek inside the envelope for a phone number and call it.
  • Stop the deluge of catalogs and magazines–email abacusoptout@epsilon.com or call: (888) 5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
On a bigger scale, thanks to the hard work of conservation groups like ForestEthics, San Francisco has become the first city in the U.S. to officially support the Do Not Mail Registry. We all know that California is often the birth place of national environmental initiatives. So hopefully, this will catch on to enlighten the rest of the nation. Junk mail is not just a pain, it’s a growing and insidious environmental catastrophe contributing to deforestation and degradation of some of the most important forests on earth. We can stop this destructive pipeline but only if we go postal on junk mail.