About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.
Recently, when I came home from work, I found my mailbox full of envelopes, magazines, brochures, ads, you name it—mostly unsolicited mail. What really bugs me is that all too often the important items (bills, letters, subscriptions) risk being lost in the pile of bulk mail. When you come to think about it, most of the time, the mail we receive is unsolicited and we clearly can live without. So that got me to thinking, how much paper is used to produce that unsolicited mail? How many trees have to die to produce this mail? What are some of the other environmental impacts? Water used in paper processing? Carbon dioxide released into the air to transport these unwanted items? How much actually ends in our landfills?
The statistics are quite alarming. More than 4 million tons of junk mail are produced yearly. Over 50 percent of this unsolicited mail ends up in landfills annually. While the quantity of paper waste seems overwhelming, there are things we can do to put a stop to these unwanted deliveries. For example, there are various websites where you can register in order not to receive unsolicited advertising mail and to prevent advertisers from sharing your name and address with similar companies.
Furthermore, there are other steps we can take to reduce paper usage and economic costs of bulk mailings. How about using technology? You can use the Internet to check out company ads electronically. You can bookmark your favorite Web sites instead of printing them. Use scrap paper for drafts or note paper. And if efforts to reduce waste at the source fail, let’s recycle! Please visit our website for some useful tips.