I’m a little late for my semi-annual plea. I missed Earth Day by about 5 days, or 371 days if you count the fact that I didn’t post last year…
Anyway, previously I’ve posted about services that help you eliminate junk mail. Unfortunately, those sites are all dead now, probably because they set their fees too low to be successful in the long-term. 41pounds.org, however, has managed to stick around. I can’t vouch for their specific service, but I can say that taking advantage of one of these services that will help get you off mailing lists is pretty awesome. They are currently running a special for $24 to cover every adult in your household for 5 years. $4.80 per year to stop most junk mail. Totally worth it in my opinion.
I also haven’t gotten a phone book in over two years thanks to their new opt-out policies. Yay!
We’ve continued the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra around the house. We generate about a bag of trash every two weeks or so, and I’ve been working harder to turn off unused electronics. I’ve gone 100% over to electronic billing, except for medical bills – hospitals insist not only on paper bills, but on generating several copies of every bill, and every bill contains the full accounting of the charges and payments. It’s a miracle that they allow me to pay online.
Both the wife and I have gotten Kindles, her the Fire and me the basic model. We’ve switched over to buying most new books in eBook form. I doubt I’ll ever buy comics or graphic novels that way, at least not until there is a cheap high quality 14 inch tablet that can view them full size without zooming or going panel to panel. And with two-page splashes the way they are, a 28 inch tablet is just impractical.
Most importantly though, and the intent of the title of this post, is that most of our efforts have actually been to save money. The eBooks are cheaper than they physical counterparts most of the time (especially when you read classics and keep an eye out for deals), electronic billing means so buying stamps and envelopes, keeping electronics off drops the power bills, drinking water saves on groceries, less junk mail means less trash bags, and so on and so on. Nothing we’ve done was specifically to save the planet. It was all done to save us money, and the side benefit is it just happens to be better for the world (or at least our continued ability to live in it) in the long run.
Now, if I could just figure out a way to afford solar panels and an electric car…
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
This is the mantra of the efforts to “save the planet”. Now, while I’m the first to deride people over that particular turn of phrase (I mean, seriously, the planet is not really in danger – the ecosystem humans require to live in is, but until a comet lines us up in its cross hairs the planet is doing just fine), I do actually agree with many of the methods and goals of environmentalism.
I’ve blogged numerous times about reducing junk mail, and I’m about to do it again. I simply cannot say enough about the program that was called Green Dimes, then Mail Stopper and is now called Precycle. Back when I first bought my house we were getting a mailbox full of junk nearly every day. There was so much wasted paper that it was a pain in the ass to bother dragging it to a place that would recycle it. It seemed like such a no-brainer that better than recycling junk mail was to stop it from coming at all. Combining the use of this service plus switching over to eBilling for nearly all my bills, I have an empty mailbox three or more days a week. The junk is just gone. So, not only do I not have to deal with it coming in, I also don’t feel guilty about throwing it out because I’m too lazy to recycle it. Win-win.
We’ve switched over almost entirely to drinking water (or Crystal Light which is just water with some powder mixed in), so this means less cans and bottles. Much like the Precycle above, not having things to recycle is better than recycling.
We also tend to buy in bulk when we can, which reduces the amount of packing materials. Combined with the stopping of junk mail, I almost feel ripped off paying for weekly trash service because we only cart the can to the street once a month (more often if it’s stinky). I say almost because driving to a dump and paying per bag ends up costing about the same, and since a few dozen of my neighbors use the same trash service (and more often than us) I wouldn’t be saving anything by cancelling our curb pickup.
Over the winter, the wife an I experimented with a space heater. Rather than heat up the whole house we kept the thermostat relatively low and then just heated up the room we were in. It worked out fairly well and we managed to save a little money. It’s a plan we are going to try this summer as well with the use of fans. Though while a heater is a heater, a fan isn’t an air-conditioner, so we may be met with limited success.
All in all, I really do feel like I’m doing my part. I encourage everyone to take a look at their lives and see where they can make changes, not just for “the planet” but for themselves and their own pocket books. Saving the environment is good. Saving money is great. When you can do both at the same time, that’s awesome.
Today I loaded up the car with all the things I’ll never sell at my garage sales: 3 monitors, 2 printers, and 2 scanners. They were all old. The monitors were not LCD or Plasma, they are 15″ and 17″ tubes. The printers were an old EPSON and an HP, both with printing speeds of about 1 page per minute, and requiring old ink cartridges that are getting harder and harder to find. The scanners ran about a page a minute as well… or rather a page every two minutes since they don’t have feeders and you have to manually change pages. They all functioned, however, and so I was loathe to just throw them away and have them wind up in a landfill. Most places won’t take them for free, asking you to pay anywhere from five to twenty-five dollars per item to “recycle” electronics, though I suspect many places are just taking the money to offset the cost of landfilling the items and make a little profit to boot.
But today I took my treasure trove of unwanted goods to a local place that was running a one day collection of small electronics. They were sorting them, palleting them and trundling them off for donation and auction. In other words, asking for your old junk that someone else might want and trying to keep them out of the landfill if they can.
So, feeling pretty good about clearing out a good bit of storage space without dropping it into a dumpster, I decided that I should blog today and once again pimp out GreenDimes and urge people to do their part to eliminate waste.
Back when I lived in an apartment complex, they would keep trash cans next to the mailboxes specifically for people to dump their junk mail into. It would be overflowing in a couple of days, often just after one. So much unwanted crap gets mailed to people, and it just goes in the garbage. When I bought my own house, in only took a month or two for the junk mailers to find me. Soon I was bringing in an armload of mail each day, of which maybe one or two items a day were actually anything I wanted to see. At first I decided to try to fight the glut myself. I called the companies, who would direct me to other companies, who would promise me I was being removed. For the first year, I fought the good fight, but I was losing. The mail didn’t stop.
Then I found GreenDimes. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I figured that twenty bucks was worth giving it a shot. I am so supremely happy with the service, that I highly recommend it to everyone. They have been far more successful at getting me (and the previous owners of my house) removed from mailing lists, and that combined with my switching to paying all of my bills online, I actually get no mail at all a few days each week now. I still do get a few local mailers, and I even use them… see, when I get mailers or coupons once or twice a week, I actually read them, unlike when I was getting eight to ten a day and would put them straight into the recycle bin or trash can.
Sure, some people might argue that I am missing out on things by not getting junk mail… but seriously, we call it junk mail for a reason. Arguing in favor of junk mail is like arguing in favor of email spam. Does anyone actually think email spam is a good thing?
Anyway, overall cutting out the junk makes me feel good, and I would highly recommend it to everyone.
Today is Earth Day.
So, being that that is what today is, I figured it was time for another edition of what I will from now on refer to as “Probably Not Saving The World!”
Previously on the blog, I’ve mentioned my efforts to reduce my junk mail. The first couple of steps I took helped, but it always seemed to be a momentary slackening of the flood, not a stoppage. Then I was pointed at GreenDimes. I signed up for their $20 premium package, and the junk mail has all but stopped. At this point, the only things I get that I consider junk are a few local items, which I can excuse because they are local advertisements of local businesses and not big chains. Its nice, and it makes me feel better about not wasting all that paper. With the GreenDimes service, you can even get the names of previous tenants dropped from lists, which is great since at this point nearly a third of my junk was for people who don’t live at my house.
We still keep up on the recycling, but even more so, I recently suffered through caffeine withdrawal in order to stop drinking Cokes, and have pulled way back on the number of canned and bottled beverages I drink. With a decent filter, tap water is just as good, if not better, than anything you can buy at the store. Plus, the more things you buy at the store (like sodas and bottled water) are more things that need to be trucked around the country. While I haven’t gone totally for “buying local”, I am trying to cut back on all the things I buy where I can.
Next up, we are looking to have an energy audit done on the house. That’s where someone comes and inspects the house to find all the places where you can improve efficiency, mostly for heating and air conditioning, to cut back on usage. As it is, we are trying to let the house stay cooler in the winter and a little warmer in the summer if we can stand it.
I’m really hoping that within the next five years I can get solar panels put on the house. You can even get money from the government to help with that, and get a tax write off.
So anyway… Happy Earth Day! Even if you don’t believe in “Global Warming”, garbage is still garbage, and less garbage is good.
A while back, I posted about my efforts to stop junk mail. In January even, I posted here about how I was still getting junk. And even though I can’t seem to win the fight against direct mailings for local businesses, the war is go well on other fronts.
In particular, the fight against credit card offers is going extremely well. In my first post on the subject, I provided a link to a site from the credit card offers themselves. This, perhaps in conjunction with other efforts, have actually resulted in a near complete stop of credit card solicitation.
I say “near complete stop” because the companies I already have credit cards with do occasionally send offers for different cards they represent, or sometimes offers to my wife if she isn’t listed on my card with them. While still undesirable, this is at least tolerable, since it is, at most, one a month in total. I will make an effort to stop this as well, but its no longer high on my list.
Some of the other junk does appear to have stopped. At least once a week I will go to the mailbox and find nothing there, sometimes even twice a week. And the days of my mailbox being jammed to overflowing with catalogs and coupons appear to be over. To make further inroads against junk, I’ve signed up for GreenDimes, which has gotten very positive reviews from people I know in regards to how it helps stop mailers, especially those nasty “Resident” addressed ones.
All in all, I’m much happier not getting all that junk. However, the United States Postal Service isn’t happy about it. My brother forwarded me a link to a Washington Post article which in part is about how the USPS actually relies on the revenue generated by junk mail in order to keep running, and how as an employer of millions of Americans, the USPS (and by association, the junk mail) plays an important role in the economy.
Personally, I’d rather see them reform the USPS system rather than continuing to try to justify the support of the glut of junk mail being sent.
I admire the sentiment, and I even respect the effort… but seriously, who are they kidding?
The parts that I like about it is that people should do more to conserve. I recycle, I replaced as many lights in my house as possible (and tolerable) with low energy bulbs… I try, and I’d like to think I succeed, even if just a little. My ongoing battle with junk mail isn’t just about trying to stop getting junk, but also doing my part to reduce how much of that wasteful crap they print. At least with junk email, there is no real waste, except the couple seconds a week I spend reviewing the junk folder before deleting it. And any effort to raise awareness has its merit.
The line that really gets me, though, is this one:
Organizers say the concerts will be as green as possible, with a tally of energy use being kept and proceeds from ticket sales going to distribute power-efficient light bulbs and other measures that will offset the shows’ greenhouse gas emissions.
This is what I mean by “Who are they kidding?” Directly from their quote, they will be distributing power-efficient light bulbs as part of their emissions offset. That’s a laugh, because 90% of the bulbs they give out at the concerts will be left on the ground or tossed into the trash (ironically, creating more waste than if they’d just not handed them out at all), and of the 10% that make it home with a concert goer I’d guess that maybe 10% of those will actually get used. So we are looking at 1 in 100 bulbs given out being put to use. That’s 99 bulbs in the trash or sitting unused in a garage or closet.
That’s almost as bad as the idea of buying emissions credits. “Well, we’d really like to help the environment, but rather than change our product or production, we’ll just write a check each year to pay for the offset.” Umm… what? The only possible way this works is if the money used to purchase credit is spent preventing or removing the exact amount of or more pollution the credit is buying. Otherwise, you just end up with the same pollutions and a bunch of money sitting in someone’s bank. I feel like I should have heard about buying emissions credits on Snopes where they would promptly debunk it as yet another email chain letter like that Nigerian gentleman who wants to give me millions of dollars.
It all just doesn’t make any logical sense…
Furthering my pursuit to stop junk mail, I have begun attacking the mail that I get that it addressed to previous residents of my home or people who have never lived here.
The first step is the catalogs and coupon mailers that come addressed to someone else “or Current Resident”. One previous tenant was a golfer, I’m not, so the weekly (sometimes twice weekly) fliers from the Golfsmith has to go. The fliers contained no information for opting out of their mailing list, no phone number to call, except the local store who informed me that they were not responsible for the fliers and he wouldn’t give me the main office number. But in the age of the Internet, this didn’t stop me. I went to the Golfsmith website and used their contact page. After a few emails back and forth trying to make the customer service team there understand that I hadn’t ordered anything and just wanted off the mailing list, they finally got it and have claimed that I have been removed.
Thankfully, that was the hardest one to deal with so far. Others have immediately understood what I wanted and responded accordingly, so the catalog of horrifically expensive watches should stop, the fishing catalog, and handful of others should stop within the next few weeks.
Next to deal with are the real mail items for other addressees. Legally, I can’t open their mail to find out if there is a contact number. Nor am I supposed to just throw it out. According to the post office, mail not addressed to me should be marked “Not at this address” and left in the mail box. I’ve been doing this for almost a year now and they still deliver mail for the same wrong people. I suppose I may just have to live with it.
The last thing to deal with is random junk mail, usually for local businesses or those packets of coupons for services I don’t need from companies I’ve never heard of. This level of junk is called Direct Marketing, and there just happens to be a Direct Marketing Association and they publish a method to be removed from their lists. You can find the instructions here. Now, unlike the prescreened credit offers I posted about before, being removed from this list isn’t free. It is going to cost you $1 per name/address combo you want removed. But $1 is worth it to me, not only to stop me from getting this junk, but possibly reducing the amount of this junk that gets printed.
The fight against junk mail continues…
Every day I go to the mailbox with a small sense of dread. Not for any bill that I am expecting, but the glut of junk I know I will find there. On average, I get one piece of “good” mail every three days, and ten pieces of junk per day. What an amazing waste.
So, I decided, rather than just continue to drop these things in the trash or the recycle bin, I am going to try to get them to stop sending it to me at all.
The first step is going to be the easiest, and also the one with the most affect (I hope). A large percentage of the junk I receive comes in the form of credit card and mortgage loan offers. Last week I finally decided to read through one from top to bottom and see if I could find a number to call to make them stop. Eureka! At the bottom of the page was a section about prescreened credit and loan applications. The Consumer Credit Reporting Companies (Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion) provide a web page that allows you to opt out of their prescreened credit efforts for five years, or forever.
I have chosen to opt out myself and my wife forever. The request forms go off in today’s mail, so we will see how this goes.
Anyone familiar with my blog here may notice that I have added a new category, A Little Less Junk, for this post. In the future this category will contain my efforts to stop as much waste in my life as I can. I’m not some super eco-nutjob, but I’ve come to realize that there are many things I can do which would make me happier in my own life, while also maybe helping out the world a little.