Join the Fight to End Junk Mail

Join the Fight to End Junk Mail

It takes a lot of work, but it’s possible to go green. Start with stopping your junk mail.


Unlike our President, I did open the e-mail. I also saw the movies about climate change, watched the television specials, and I read the books. But not being the leader of the free world, or any world, who actually had an opportunity to institute changes on a global scale, I have to be honest. Until a year ago, I found all the talk about the environment so overwhelming, it was enough to make me want to eat a steak–even though the production of livestock generates nearly one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases. On a paper plate, one of the aggregate of paper goods that Americans use each year that could circle the equator over 300 times. And throw the leftovers away, (even though if we recovered just 5 percent of the food Americans throw away each year we could feed over 4 million people a day) into my trash can, in which I deposit the equivalent of my body weight in refuse every thirty days…

But I’ve seen the light (although not very well, because it was lit with a CFL, which, if every American home replaced just one of their conventional light bulbs with it, would save enough energy to light almost all the homes in Los Angeles for a year). Besides writing my legislators and supporting candidates who seem to have an investment in creating a green economy, I’ve personally gone green, or to paraphrase Jimmy Carter, I’ve greened in my heart, hence my working with Planet Green on the carbon-footprinting series, WA$TED, and making changes in my own life. But let’s be honest… easier said than done in some cases.

In an attempt to go organic, I’ve force-fed my family a niche brand of cookies that are preservative/gluten/nut- and hydrogenated oil-free. The cookies taste like cardboard pellets that have been collecting dust in a drawer for a few years, had the moisture taken out of them, dusted with sand and then baked in a kiln. We’ve kinda gotten used to them. However, I now realize that my organic brand uses over twice as much packaging, (packaging adds 29 million tons of non-biodegradable waste to landfills every year), as hydrogenated, high-fructose, less caloric junky Chips Ahoy! Frustrating and fattening, too!

Next, I needed a new handbag, and ever since Gail Collins wrote in the New York Times about the potential link between designer knock-off bags and Al Qaeda terrorism, I haven’t felt good about purchasing a bag from my favorite Senegalese dealer on the corner of 77th and Broadway. I’ve heard quite a bit about recycled handbags, so I bought one made from 100 percent post-consumer products, including bike tires, truck tarps and seat belts. I feel great and morally superior as I walk around town, but unfortunately, my new bag was making my shoes look careworn, so I laid out the cash for a pair that matches perfectly–however, they’re patent leather. Here’s where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing: I don’t know if anyone makes post-consumer shoes and I have no idea what patent leather is. I assume it’s leather (bad for the environment) and I’m pretty sure the patenting process is done by treating the leather with toxic chemicals and God knows what–placenta from baby whales, probably. So again, one step forward, two steps back.

Here, however, is something I do feel good about. Signing the petition to create a Do Not Mail Registry, a campaign by the environmental awareness organization ForestEthics. Here’s a few crazy big numbers to keep in mind: one-third of all the mail delivered in the world is US junk mail–100 billion pieces annually. One hundred million trees are destroyed to make junk mail every year, which creates greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 3.7 million cars.

In 2003, Congress created the national Do Not Call Registry, the most popular consumer rights bill in history. I think we need a comparable registry to end the onslaught of junk mail. In fact, a recent poll suggests that 89 percent of the population supports this legislation.

It’s true that the US Postal Service, heavily subsidized by the direct mail industry, is opposing the effort. But I think it’s time to find a way to fund the PO in a more sustainable fashion.

Here was what did it for me: a letter arrived at our house from Hugh Hefner with an invitation to join the Playboy Club. Addressed to our 10-year-old.

Here’s the link to, I hope you’ll join me.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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