Commentary: catalog chaos: a new free service reduces the holiday clutter.

Author:Pino, Carl
Position:COMMENTARY - Catalog Choice

Chances are fairly good that you receive junk mail, and it's a safe bet that that same junk mail forms a towering pile somewhere in your house. My household often receives more junk mail than we do legitimate correspondence, bills and holiday greeting cards from family and friends. Most of these junk catalogs and other solicitations are disregarded, and the process contributes to a significant amount of waste and pollution from the trees cut down, the printing operations that churn them out and the trucks that deliver them. A recently developed project called Catalog Choice intends to put a cap on the amount of junk in our mailboxes. Just in time for the holidays!

A group of environmental organizations has developed the California-based Catalog Choice, which provides a free online service that allows customers to choose the catalogs they no longer want to receive in the mail.

A study performed by Environmental Defense in collaboration with Catalog Choice examines the impact of junk mailings. Almost 20 billion catalogs are mailed each year, amounting to 3.6 million tons of paper and accounting for the destruction of 35 million trees. Deforestation contributes to about a quarter of all carbon pollution, the main cause of planet-wide climate change.

The study found these mail order solicitations have the lowest recycling rate of all printed raw materials, just 32 percent. The power used to produce these catalogs is enough to power 1.2 million homes a year, and it results in 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions--the equivalent to two million cars on the road. The production, delivery, accumulation, and disposal of catalogs contribute to global warming and water pollution from various sources. Reducing catalog numbers would be a first positive step.


Catalog Choice has amassed a large database of catalog companies and its users "opt-out" through a process similar to a "do not call" list. The initiative aims to improve the efficiency of catalog distribution by reducing the number of repeat unsolicited mailings, and promoting better environmental practices in the catalog industry.

Consumers can remove themselves from the mailing lists of specific catalogs, and add any new unwanted catalog titles to their personalized databases. Catalog Choice intends to have thousands of catalogs listed as a result of continued user loyalty and interaction with the service. Of course, catalog distributors are not required to...

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