The Catalog Conundrum

By Dave Deegan

We’re not exactly sure when it was, but we made a big mistake in the realm of “Murphy’s Law of Unintended Consequences.” You see, we bought some stuff from a Web and catalog retailer.

The problem wasn’t with the outdoor furniture – or was it something for the garden? Or maybe it was from that kitchen supply store? Whatever it was, the stuff we bought was fine. The problem is, once we bought something, we ended up on the mailing list to get catalogs from dozens of places we’d never shopped with or even heard of.

It’s not that all these places sell things we don’t really want or need – some of the goods look just fine. It’s just that, especially this time of year, we are getting buried under the daily mailbox delivery of catalogs. Dozens of them. Pounds of them. It feels like the scene from “Fantasia,” during the Wizard’s Apprentice, when the magic broomsticks just keep multiplying over and over again. Here come more catalogs. Sometimes we receive two copies of the same catalog, one addressed to me and one to my wife. Help! Please make it stop!

Sure, we dutifully separate them from our normal trash, and put them with our recyclables for curbside pickup. But it feels like an enormous waste of paper, ink, energy to produce and transport, postage costs and human effort to compile all these pages and pages (and pages and pages) of things we don’t particularly want to buy. All of these resources, and taxpayer-subsidized postage, for us to quickly put them into the recycle pile.

My wife, who has a bit more patience and practicality to solve this sort of thing than I do, got on the Web and discovered that consumers can remove their names from mailing lists to keep unwanted mail from being sent in the first place. A Web search shows that there are places that can help. Some of them are even free.

EPA has some recommendations for how you can reduce the amount of unwanted mail you receive.  Do you have any good strategies to reduce unwanted mail?

About the author: Dave Deegan works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. When he’s not at work, he loves being outdoors in one of New England’s many special places.