Waging the Good War Against Paper

by Joanna Pineda on June 30, 2011

Republished with minor edits and permission from The Matrix Files

Last December, my husband and I set up a managed account with one of the brokerage firms. We expected a few extra pieces of mail as the account ramped up. We certainly did not expect the flood of mail that started appearing in our mailbox as we received confirmations of trades, and prospectus information from companies.We received 3 inches of mail from that one account in just one week.

Once I realized what was happening, we quickly switched to e-mail confirmations and statements. I vowed to do more to reduce the paper tsunami that swallows my mailbox every week but then entropy set in and I just resigned myself to simply standing in front of the garbage can as I reviewed my mail.

Well, I had another opportunity to reduce my carbon footprint and save trees. We recently moved, which means I got to contact all my creditors and vendors to give them my new address. In the process, I switched to e-statements whenever I could. I like how Schwab retains my statements for 10 years. And I love that ExxonMobil is planting a tree in my name because I switched to e-statements for my DRIP. Wherever I can, I’m receiving bills through my online banking account and paying online.

According to Matador Network, “The average person in the US receives nearly 11 pieces of junk mail each week, or 560 pieces a year. This amounts to 4.5 million tons of junk mail yearly, of which 44% goes straight to the landfill unopened and unread.” Apparently, eliminating US junk mail would be like taking 480,000 cars of the road!

So what can we all do to reduce our paper consumption? Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Opt out of credit card offers by going to http://www.optoutprescreen.com/; btw, this has the added benefit of making you less likely to be victimized by identity theft from people stealing these credit card offers and opening up accounts in your name.
  • Contact the Direct Marketing Association and opt out of about 75% of direct marketers’ lists by going to DMAchoice.
  • Configure your online banking account to send you e-mail notifications when you have a new bill and stop paper bills.
  • Take the time to cancel unwanted subscriptions and catalogs; this is the most time-consuming because it’s easy to just pitch the unwanted stuff in the trash but think of the trees you’re NOT killing by making the effort.
  • Print everything double-sided.
  • Watch what I’m printing. Before I hit print, I check to make sure I’m not printing unnecessary pages. I once nearly used up a ream of paper when I accidentally printed a search results page that had hundreds of pages of debug code. Ugh, that was not pretty.

In doing research for this blog post, I found cute suggestions for ways to reuse junk mail as scrap paper, but I don’t believe that solves the problem: the trees had to be cut down in the first place. Besides, junk mail is some of the most expensive paper because it’s coated and printed in four color.

My goal is to trim the crap that appears in our physical mailbox by 50% by the end of the year. I’ll let you know early next year if I met my goal. How about you? Are you overrun by paper? What are you doing in the war against paper?

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Image: kfergos via Flickr, Creative Commons

Founder/CEO and self-proclaimed Chief Troublemaker of Matrix Group International, Joanna Pineda is known for her visionary big-picture thinking and drive for excellence. Combining her broad liberal arts background and passion for technology, she started Matrix Group in 1999, today a leading interactive agency. As a trusted advisor, Joanna inspires and motivates her clients and employees alike to simply, “be better” with her mantra being: Do or Do Not. There is no try!


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