Junk Mail Weighs on Their Minds

By John Kelly
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

When Margaret Reynolds worked as a technical editor, she learned an important lesson: Numbers count.

Data. Statistics. Proof . That's how you get your message across.

So last year, disgusted by the amount of unwanted catalogues she received in the mail and worried that the planet was sinking under the sheer weight of them, she decided to do something.

"I thought, 'Well let's just find out what we're dealing with here,' " said Margaret, 66.

She started a routine: saving the catalogues as they came in each day, piling them in boxes and then lugging the boxes to her bathroom at the end of each month. She weighed them on the bathroom scale, photographed them, noted the poundage and then put them into the recycling.

The bottom line: 165 pounds of catalogues in 2005.

"I just keep thinking about the trees and the landfills," Margaret said. "There's got to be a better way."

Margaret admits that she does order from the occasional catalogue. She made exactly 11 purchases from them last year. But she wishes marketers wouldn't send what appear to be the same catalogues over and over again to her Springfield home.

"I am not really a campaigner," Margaret said. "I'm a bird-watcher, and I love to do my artwork. I love to take care of my grandchildren and teach them about bugs and growing plants. I'm an ecologically minded sort of person, but I'm not out there campaigning or knocking on doors."

The folks at the Center for a New American Dream in Takoma Park are campaigners. Their latest crusade is Junk Mail Awareness Week, which they will mark Oct. 1 to 7, just as the avalanche of holiday catalogues begins. The nonprofit group is urging states to adopt do-not-mail registries, similar to the federal do-not-call list established three years ago.

"We just try to help people consume responsibly," said the center's Sarah Roberts . "Our motto is 'Get more of what matters out of life.' "

In the big scheme of things, the Pottery Barn catalogue might not matter.

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