We all get them: junk mail crammed into our mailboxes with advertisements and preapproved credit card applications that we didn’t ask for. According to New York University, approximately 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually.

What junk mail does to the environment:

While it may seem like a mindless task to simply toss out junk mail we don’t care for, the environmental impact of that adds up quickly. According to the CNAD, the average American household receives junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year, which is more than the 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined. 

The CNAD also found that 44 percent of junk mail ends up being thrown away unopened, but only half — 22 percent — ends up recycled. The companies sending junk mail are, of course, primarily responsible for this harm — but we can play a role in putting an end to unnecessary waste with these simple steps. 

How to unsubscribe from junk mail:

The first thing you can do to get rid of junk mail is registering with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association. While this won't prevent junk mail from finding their way to your mailbox completely, it'll help by listing you in their database as "Do Not Mail." It's important to note that direct marketers are not legally obligated to check the database, but many of them use their services to send bulk mail.

A second option is to go to Opt Out Pre Screen, which will allow you to remove your name and address from companies that send you mortgage, credit card, and insurance offers. It's a centralized website run by the four major credit bureaus in the United States: TransUnion, Experian, Innovis, and Equifax. The reason why Opt Out PreScreen is so effective is because any offer that checks your credit score has to go through one or more of those companies. 

And lastly, if all other options fail, there's also the option to contact companies that send you junk mail directly. Your information is ultimately your personal data and you have every right to ask companies not to sell it to third parties, or use it for unsolicited marketing purposes.

Stopping junk mail from reaching your mailbox is a simple, but deeply effective way to play a part in stopping unnecessary waste. And it’s also saving time for you too; according to the CNAD, the average American spends eight months over the course of their life opening junk mail.

Taking 5-10 minutes to subscribe through the programs listed above is not only great for the environment, but a better investment of your own time as well.