Reducing paper usage and cutting junk mail

We had an interesting change the world Wednesday Challenge set this week.

Small Footprints got us thinking about the amount of paper wasted via mail. Over here in the UK Junk mail accounts for 550,000 tonnes of paper annually; not to mention the stuff that is sent which is useful!

According to the article, the EPA estimates that around 40% of waste that’s clogging landfills can be attributed to paper products.

So our mission this week is to rethink our mail and to digitise where possible.

If you think about it, we have so much technology, it’s pretty easy to skip the mail altogether.

Here are some of the things we’ve done at Chez Green:

  • I signed up for the mail preference service about four years ago, which stops most junk mail at source. It has dramatically reduced the number of envelopes coming through the door.
  • Leaflets and free newspapers are recycled, because even if you have a note on your letterbox to stop them, they still get pushed through!
  • Utility bills such as telephone and electricity are through on-line means, so I never get an invoice in the post; I have a pdf I can download and store if I want to.
  • School newsletters are available through an app  on my iphone – how cool is that!
  • I have to keep certain paper documents for my business, but all my invoices are sent by email, using an online accounting software programme – leaving it up to my clients whether or not they want to print it out.
  • Any packaging I get at home is carefully opened and reused, meaning the impact of sending items in the post myself is lessened and if I have to buy new, I’ve found some 100% recyclable mailing bags. Obviously I can’t tell the recipient what to do with the packaging they get from me, but maybe the fact it says recyclable on it will make at least one person stop and think before throwing in the bin!

I really send very little snail mail – I text, pick up the phone or send an email to most people. But I’m all for accountability, so I kept a note of anything I sent and received in the post for five days:


  1. It must be time for my car insurance renewal as I had some advertising mail from a company – presumably I asked them for a quote last year. I’ve written ‘return to sender’ on it and have asked them to remove me from their database.
  2. Second hand books – sent to me by a friend in a brown paper envelope which I can reuse.
  3. One advertising leaflet from a local shop which I put into the recycling.


  1. Way behind schedule but here is an example of where a ‘real’ letter gets the thumbs up from me – thank you notes for Christmas presents. I told Little Miss Green she could go out this weekend only after her thank you letters were written. Funnily enough she asked if she could email instead, but I said No! I don’t know, it feels so much less personal to email than write – don’t you think or am I being old fashioned?
  2. I sent an order to a client in a recycled and recycable plastic bag – there was no way to avoid sending in the post for this. I rarely send things so this was pretty unusual.

We frequently take the post in for my neighbour who travels to visit family and I’m astonished at the amount of junk she gets. So signing up for the mail preference service has made a huge difference to us and I’d urge others to do the same.

What about you – do you send and receive a lot of mail?


  1. Chris on February 5, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Just before Christmas I went on to the Essex County Council website to the recycling page and found they were giving letter box stickers, so I asked for one, with it I received a form for the mail preference service and a form for the Royal Mail service to stop leaflets etc [beware this must be renewed every 2 years]. The Royal Mail opt out sort of works it helps to talk to the postie too.I stopped the local free newspapers by e-mailing the disributer, I have not had any for 5 years. The ones I can’t seem to stop are the council and Parish council , the local rate payer association and the Neighbourhood watch, I have contacted them all and failed, they all seem to think I can’t do without there newsletters. [I can!]

  2. Zoe @ecothrifty on February 5, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Great tips – I have now signed up for the mail preference service! I wonder if that affects the Yellow Pages, as I just had one put through my door and I noticed there is no option to unsubscribe!

  3. Chris on February 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Yellow Pages have a UK free phone number to call to opt out on 0800 671 444.For The Phone Book call on 0800 833 400, Mon – Fri, 8.30am – 5pm Or go to and do them all in the one place.

  4. Zoe @ecothrifty on February 11, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks Chris – that’s really helpful!