As I begin my post holiday cleaning, one task includes clearing out all of the catalogs that have piled up over the past few months. Like most households we receive a host of requested and unrequested catalogs during the last quarter of the year.
In October we often welcome these peeks into the world of rampant consumerism. In November the real work begins- sifting through; ripping out the particularly enticing pages and adding items to various family members Christmas lists. By December we’re beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed and ready to stop the flood.
Next year that should be a bit easier.
Over 20 billion catalogs are mailed out to Americans each often to their joy and to retailers profit but as often; it seems to dismay from both consumers and environmental organizations. Those 20 billion catalogs, according to Catalog Choice (a new Catalog, opt-out service), are created at a cost of 53 million trees and by using enough energy to power 1.2 million homes per year.
Catalog Choiceis a project of three environmental organizations: the National Wildlife Federation in Virginia, the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York and the Ecology Center in Berkeley.
I found the web site remarkably easy to use and promptly opted out of several catalogs of which I receive duplicates. Once you sign in and provide an email and physical address you can click onto an alphabetical listing of catalogs and select those you’d like to discontinue receiving. That’s it.
Catalog Choice then notifies the company of your request. If you continue to receive the catalog after the 10 week processing period you can report an infraction right on the Catalog Choice site.
The power of this simple system is in the sponsorship. The big name environmental groups sponsoring it have the P.R. clout to force catalog mailers to comply or risk a public outcry and a massive media blitz.
Launched October 9th of this year, over 300,000 people have signed up for the service and opted out of 4,000,000 catalogs. And the catalog distributors have been thrown into a tizzy.
Catalog Choice asks Catalog distributors to sign up with them too but so far there have been few takers as direct marketers struggle to measure exactly how bad the publicity will be if they refuse to comply. In particular catalogs favored by eco living types (like L.L. Bean) have been put between a rock and a hard place. It’s too early to say how this will play out but the stakes are high for those companies who sell their products only through catalogs.
Meanwhile, I look forward to if not a catalog free Christmas next year at least one featuring fewer.