Junk Mail – Green (Environment) or Green (Money)?

Posted by: Mitchell H. Kirsch 0 comments

The era of the green office was supposed to bring us more eco-friendly business processes, recycled office furnishings, and smaller footprints overall. But we’ve yet to find a way to integrate junk mail into the era of the green workplace.

Junk mail is a paradox – more than 40% of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but without junk mail, we’d never be able to afford postal service. Take it from the Postmaster General of the US Postal Service, John Potter

“Somehow, they think a sale offer coming through the mail — as opposed to a newspaper, a magazine, TV, radio or the Internet — is a bad thing. Ads pay for the Internet, as well as broadcast TV and radio programs,” [Potter] said during a speech at the National Press Club. “So, too, ad mail helps pay for universal mail service in America.”

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Potter is quite infuriatingly right: direct mail still creates sales for companies who use it – retailers who depend on direct sales attribute over 60% of their revenues to paper catalogs, compared to about a fifth who profit from their websites. In fact, marketers say that direct-mail catalogs drive sales at websites, instead of the latter cannibalizing from the former!

This is a big obstacle to environmental do-gooders whose green paperless initiatives run smack into the reality of dollars and cents. For now, junk mail has the upper hand. (Not at Cubicles.com, though – we save the environment by putting out a lovely online catalog that didn’t cost a single tree to make.)

One solution seems to be mutiny in Potter’s ranks – a US Postal Service mailman in North Carolina was sentenced to three years’ probation for refusing to deliver junk mail. Steve Padgett was his community’s walking spam filter, hoarding a mountain of junk mail until he was found out. Instead of being incensed by his actions, though, the locals praised him for his actions.

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