Commercialism in Your Mailbox? (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , November 24, 2007 11:25 pm

I get (a conservative estimate) 1,095 catalogs/year…my husband (at our other home and on fewer mailing lists) says he probably gets about 300 catalogs/year. We get about 1,395 catalogs/year. Let’s conservatively round up to 1,500 for the ease of calculation and to include any Holiday excess that we may have. I calculate that MY FAMILY ALONE, is responsible for the death of 4.2 trees per year. How do I figure that? Read on.

This time of year is catalog time of year. One of the many commercial aspects of Christmas that I find depressing is heaving a 100 pound stack of catalogs out of my mailbox every day, piling them in a wagon, and hauling them off to the recycle bin. OK, I exaggerate slightly, but 19 BILLION catalogs are sent each year in the US, and at this time of year, it feels like every single one of them passes through my mailbox (that equals 53 million trees by the way, in case you were wondering). Do the math like I did, how many trees do you unknowingly kill per year?

Now to the real point of my post. Heard on NPR yesterday: There is a new website which allows you to opt out of catalogs that you don’t want, yet still keep the ones you like!

I could go to Direct Marketing Association, theoretically opt out of everything, and then see how that reduces my catalog intake. But I confess that there are some catalogs that I actually LIKE to receive. Plus, living in the boonies forces one to engage in some degree of catalog and internet shopping.

Usually these days I choose quick and easy internet shopping, but there are some catalogs I like to slowly peruse “in person.” Just like real books for example (in case you were considering it, please don’t buy me a new Amazon Kindle for Christmas).

The solution for semi-catalog lovers like me? The Catalog Choice website ( … make sure you spell it right, if you add a “ue” to the end of “catalog” then you’ll get a shopping site which is not the idea here). Here you can opt out of catalogs that you don’t want.

The site also allows you to enter a Customer Number from the back of a catalog to be sure you get rid of it, or you can enter different names and addresses (for example if you get the same catalog as: T. Brown, Teresa Brown, Sam Brown (your partner?), and Lysander Wojtasik (the former resident at your address), then you can opt out of them all.

There is a chance that you could be put back on the mailing list if you buy from the company etc. But if you request an opt out and after 10 weeks you still receive a catalog, then you can report that as an infraction.

Apparently even some major retailers are supporting this endeavor. It costs them an average of $0.80 to send a catalog. I imagine that they’d love to have you gone if you really have no intention of buying from them.

From the NPR story, I learned that this project is supported by several nature organizations including the National Wildlife Fund.

Give it a try, you’ll be helping save trees as well as your own holiday sanity, what could be better!

Listen to NPR story: The Greening of the Holiday Catalog (3 minutes 32 seconds).

ADDENDUM: Please visit Jules at Her post Minimize the Clutter Before it Comes into Your Home has lots of great ideas!

Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.

Thanks to and photographer solrac_gi_2nd for this photo.

8 Responses to “Commercialism in Your Mailbox? (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)”

  1. CelticMommy says:

    I am so amazed at how many catalogs I receive… though not as many as you I think. And some only come at Christmas (Dean & Deluca) and I miss the chance to opt-out for this year. Each one I get, I patiently call thier hotline and tell them to take me off their list. But now I’ll have to try those sites you mentioned… I’ve been in my home for 10 years and I still get mail address to Mr. Chiapusio… a man who has been dead for 17 years!

  2. Jenny says:

    Oh, thank you so much for posting the link to that website. Most of the catalogs I get go straight to recycle bin too, but there are definitely some I like to keep and look at repeatedly, or while I’m in bed when I’m too tired to do anything else. And I agree about Kindle too- there’s something about holding the book and turning the pages, for me at least. Thanks again for that link- I missed the story on NPR so I’m glad you thought to do a post on it.

  3. Christine says:

    Ohhh, thanks for the post! I love that I now have the option to choose which catalogs to opt out of. :)

  4. Andamom says:

    This was #3 on my former posting ( I am huge believer in detracting from the clutter before it enters your home. If people minimized more, the environment would benefit greatly — less clutter in landfills, deforestation would be reduced, and less litter.

  5. Becky @ Boys Rule My Life says:

    I saw this on andamom. I have been saving my catalogs that I’ve been receiving this holiday season and have a stack that I need to sit down and enter in. I figure it will be faster if I just do it all at once. I love this idea of opting out of catalogs (that I don’t want) because I, too, do have some that I’d like to keep receiving and I do also like to read from something more tangible than a computer screen (sometimes!) :)

  6. dawn224 says:

    that’s fantastic! I swear our former house owner gets every catalog ever made – so it will be nice to axe some of them that don’t do any of us any good!

  7. amanda says:

    thanks for the info on this, and the link :)

  8. Magpie says:

    I love that site – I’ve “declined” nearly 100 so far. Yikes.

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