Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Catalog of Grievances

A quiet Saturday mainly at home--unusual for our family. But with temperatures rising to near 105 this afternoon, who wants to go out, anyway?

So we're doing a few chores, or digging out from underneath mountains of clutter, whichever you prefer. The clutter/organization battle is an ongoing one, but there are some things that make it easier.

For instance, as my dear Mr. M. began shredding the identifying information from far too many catalogs mailed to our home as a prelude to disposing of them (a good precaution in the days of pre-approved credit and identity theft), I got on line and started letting various stores know that we didn't really need them to send us large full-color glossy-printed trashcan fillers. I was doing it the hard way, too, using each company's contact information, until I remembered that a while ago somebody out here had mentioned a website called Catalog Choice.

Unlike some similar services, Catalog Choice doesn't charge a fee to let the catalog companies you contact know that you don't want their mailings. They don't eliminate other bulk mail, and you have to select the catalog by name and decline each one individually, but that still takes a lot less time than finding customer service contacts at each company and sending them a message requesting that they remove you from their catalog mailing lists. All in all, it seems like an excellent way to decrease the clutter, and help save some energy costs at the same time.

According to Catalog Choice's site, nineteen billion catalogs are mailed to American customers every year. I can easily believe that, since at any given time it seems like at least five hundred million of them have accumulated in my living room, but I know I'm probably overestimating a little. In any case, the real "kicker" for me in the website's environmental facts statistics is the amount of energy used to produce all these sleek mailings: enough to power 1.2 million homes per year. To put that statistic into perspective, it's about the same energy savings as you'd get if every home in America replaced an incandescent bulb with a CFL--but without the tricky mercury disposal problem afterward, or the flicker-migraines in the meantime.

Which illustrates a little theory I have about energy use: the individual American consumer can indeed take a conservation-minded approach to energy, but it won't have near the effect that large corporations could have if they decided to quit being such energy hogs.

According to one statistic I read, those 19 billion catalogs only produce about 7% of a company's actual sales. Even if that's not completely accurate, consider for a moment: are companies really happy with the notion of spending huge sums of money, huge amounts of energy, using over fifty million trees a year, and spending an incredible sum on the mailing, all for that approximately seven percent of sales?

So before Congress demands that we give up safe, clean incandescent bulbs, or mandates recycling of household goods, or otherwise intrudes into the lives of private citizens to maximize our energy efficiency, we ought to make sure that the giant corporations whose products and services require so much energy to produce, store, and sell are being held accountable for the energy they waste--because catalog production is only the tip of the iceberg.

In the meantime, I'm getting off as many catalog mailing lists as I can. Maybe if enough people do the same, we won't actually be forced to buy CFLs instead of incandescents--though I admit that's a long shot.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

First off, let me say that you have absolutely no idea who I am. After an hour of browsing around Blogger(AKA clicking "next page" repeatedly), I finally came across one worth reading.

From just your "about me", I can tell you have a fabulous sense of humor. I look forward to reading old posts in my spare time. Maybe I'll even comment, although you and others might never see it.

Hopefully I don't come across as a stalker; I don't mean to be creepy, although my friends all think I'm a little bit too creepy for my own good! If I am, please tell me to stop via a post or comment or something.

-----------------

Now that I know about this Catalog Choice website, I'll certainly be giving it a try, although I do admit that it is amusing to see all the ridiculously high-priced junk (especially the clothes) for sale! A friend of mine, a real stickler for saving the environment, recently tried to bring stricter recycling rules to his workplace and was surprised to find out that they didn't recycle at all(which I'm pretty sure is illegal)! Even when using the argument that it was illegal, it still took him a while to get others thinking about recycling more often. Honestly, it's a no-brainer! Just another example of our upside-down world.

~ Stephen James Weaver

Oremus said...

Speaking conservation of energy...since we have had a spike, 30% increase, we have had to make drastic cuts. (clothes lines/cutting off air or up to an absurd degree that it might as well be cut off..)
I don't have the catalog problem but I never realized THAT many were mailed! good grief. They should be fined!

Eutychus said...

"So before Congress demands that we give up safe, clean incandescent bulbs, or mandates recycling of household goods, or otherwise intrudes into the lives of private citizens to maximize our energy efficiency, we ought to make sure that the giant corporations whose products and services require so much energy to produce, store, and sell are being held accountable for the energy they waste--because catalog production is only the tip of the iceberg."

Amen to that.
105, huh? Sounds like our neck of the woods here in Texas. We flooded all last summer and we bake this summer. Ah well.
We've never been on the list of too many cataloges but my wife wrote off to take us off the mass mailings lists. Boy it's great! Very little junk mail gets through. (mostly the cursed credit card apps.) It was well worth the effort.

Margotb said...

At www.stopthejunkmail.com we can not only stop catalogs which seems to be the most annoying part of everyones mail, we also allow members to stop other kinds of unwanted direct mail like, banks, political partys, charities, non-profits, computer resellers, education, alumni's, banks, insurance and many more.

Next time you take a look at your mail see how much junk mail you have other than catalogs, you might be very surprised and they come a lot more frequently. Who has never had a set of checks turn up from your bank asking you to spend your equity line? Did you know you can opt out of these marketing materials from the companies you have accounts with the same way?