Do you ever look at the volume of junk mail you get in a week and think to yourself how utterly wasteful it is. You don’t read it, you didn’t ask for it, yet somehow they got your address and sent you this letter which you’re about to get rid of. What a waste.

earlier this year I was getting vast amounts of junk email. It was mainly made up of credit card companies sending me ‘pre-approved’ applications. I had no idea there were so many cards out there. But unlike junk email the mail that came via the postman didn’t really bother me too much. I’d just put it straight in the recycling.

I then started to get a little concerned that just chucking my ‘pre-approved’ credit card applications in a public recycle bin was maybe not that wise so I invested in a shredder. It was then when I came to understand just how much junk mail I was receiving – and moreover, just how much paper was being wasted trying to get me to sign up for this, or buy that. I thought to myself that while I wasn’t responsible for sending the mail, if I am to try to live in an environmentally responsible way then maybe I should find out how I can prevent such vast amounts of paper being wasted on me.

A quick Google found the UK’s mailing preference service. A rather cool service that will stop or at least dramatically reduce the amount of junk mail you get. Minutes later I’d signed up online and was assured that the service would be in full effect after about a month. They weren’t kidding either. It’s been some three months or so since I put my name on the mailing preference service and I get pretty much no junk mail at all.

I was chatting with a friend in California last night and they complained about the amount of junk mail they receive which reminded me of the UK’s preference service and made me wonder if there is such a service available in the United States, and sure enough there is.

Removing your name and address from junk mail lists

According to the blog of a couple living in DC a great way reduce the amount of junk mail you get is to use a service from Equifax called the Opt-Out Prescreen.

According to the Opt-Out Prescreen website “Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies, are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance. The FCRA also provides you the right to “Opt-Out”, which prevents Consumer Credit Reporting Companies from providing your credit file information for firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you.”

“This sucker stopped all our personal credit card applications dead in their tracks. I can practically hear the trees thanking us.” Wrote Laura from Oak Park, Illinois. She does mention that the Opt-Out Prescreen service hasn’t stopped her from receiving catalogs but for this she suggests checking out the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website.

In general it would seem that it’s a little harder to get off mailing lists in the United States, but there are things you can do if you feel strongly enough about the issue. The Direct Marketing Association give details on their website of how to get off mailing lists, plus there is a useful website out there devoted to the issue at

For me the difference is quite amazing. I used to fill my paper recycling box very quickly. I put it down to the fact that I work from home. But since the junk mail has been stopped it now takes me weeks to fill the paper recycling box. If I turned my music down then maybe I too would hear the trees thanking me.

UK mailing preference list
Equifax Opt-Out Prescreen
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse