The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How to remove yourself from catalog mailing lists

Catalog mailing labelsIf you live in a swing state, memories of the October and November rash of glossy campaign fliers are probably still fresh in your mind.  They drove me nutty since I couldn't use them as firestarters, couldn't mulch with them, couldn't put them in the worm bin.  But there is a silver lining --- the angst pushed me over the edge into putting an end to the catalogs coming into my mailbox.

Without really noticing it, I seem to have gotten onto dozens of gardening catalog mailing lists.  This is pretty funny because I only order seeds and plants online and only from about three companies --- clearly someone sold my information far and wide.  Equally clearly, our society hasn't become advanced enough to put an "internet customer only" notice beside my name.

At first, I was manually removing myself from each list.  If you're prepared with the Customer ID number (usually close to your name in a blue box on the mailing label), you can get off a list after about three minutes Customer ID numberon the phone.  A few companies won my approval by having automated catalog-removal buttons right on their websites, and I've also sent emails to customer service addresses (although I'm less confident that last technique will work).

But the catalogs kept coming!  Not from the same companies (although 30 seconds of each three minute phone call is usually an explanation that they print catalogs months in advance, so you may get two or three more editions before you're off the list for good).  So I decided to try Catalog  Choice.  This non-profit didn't win my approval four years ago when I last visited them because they hadn't heard of many of the catalogs I was receiving, but the internet hive mind seems to have done its job well in the interim --- my post-Christmas armload companies were all present and accounted for.

I know that a few of you probably enjoy your gardening porn, but I hope this will remind others to get rid of junk mail before it starts.  Not only will you prevent waste, you may also find you've developed a more healthy relationship with your mailbox when the only contents are letters from old friends and Christmas cards from the neighbors.

I'm afraid I don't know how to get off those political mailing lists, but I've got another four years to figure that one out....

Our chicken waterer comes with the minimal packaging and I never mail out paper catalogs or sell people's addresses.  Shouldn't that be standard?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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While I prefer ordering online I still look forward to the print catalogue as a planning tool. It allows you to see other options and wishlist items. OK it is a bit like porn the wife hides away in the john. I'm not addicted or anything I can stop anytime I want... I just don't want just yet. I do like the information.

Comment by Tom Sat Dec 29 09:33:20 2012
A different kind of junk mail, but just as annoying, at least to be, are credit offers. You can get these to go away by freezing your credit with the reporting agencies. It just takes a couple minutes, and its free. Now there are times I won't get mail for a couple days.
Comment by ashaldaron Sat Dec 29 10:35:27 2012

It seems to me you could use this mail as mulch or as a firestarter. Modern offset printing inks are relatively benign, with the metal (cadmium, chrome, mercury, lead, arsenic) contents in the 0-10 ppm range. This is in the same range as the background levels for most of them.

And I suspect that the weight of the ink is but a fraction of the weight of the paper, diluting the metal content even more.

(BTW, if you want to keep your address secret, don't forget to wipe the barcode as well. :-) )

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat Dec 29 12:20:41 2012
Roland --- My research tends to agree with you that the metals aren't all that much of a big deal. But the glossy coating makes it really tough for water to soak into the paper, which makes it unhandy in the worm bin or as mulch. Similarly, the coating makes the paper much less flammable --- it doesn't tend to burn fast enough to catch the wood on fire. There may still be a use for glossy, colored paper, but I haven't found it yet.
Comment by anna Sat Dec 29 15:12:52 2012

There are basically two major materials used to make glossy paper;

  • calcium carbonate
  • kaolin clay

For paper coated with the former, you could try pouring some acid solution on it, particularly hydrochloric acid. That would react with the carbonate and convert it in soluable calcium chloride.

Unfortunately there is little you can do to break down kaolin.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat Dec 29 15:47:58 2012
Anna, another easy way to remove yourself from credit card mailing lists is to use The website gives you two options -- remove yourself for 5 years with an online form or print and return a permanent removal form. Using OptOutPrescreen and Catalog Choice has all but eliminated our junk mail!
Comment by Jenn Sat Dec 29 20:26:18 2012

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