Groups Launch Opt-out System for Catalogs

Busy consumers, tired of sifting through overflowing mailboxes can take heart: a new free online service gives users the power to choose the catalogs they no longer want to receive in the mail. Developed by a group of environmental organizations, Catalog Choice aims to improve the efficiency of catalog distribution by reducing the number of repeat and unsolicited mailings and promoting the best environmental practices in the catalog industry.

"Every day, millions of unwanted catalogs clog consumers' mailboxes and are immediately tossed in the trash. More than just an annoyance, they are overflowing municipal waste systems, devouring precious natural resources, and contributing to pollution and global warming," said Laura Hickey, senior director for Global Warming Education at the National Wildlife Federation, which joined the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Ecology Center to launch the new service. Hickey stated that unlike other do-not-mail services, a unique feature of Catalog Choice is that it is free.

At launch time, Catalog Choice has a growing database of catalog companies. In addition to removing themselves from these lists, users can add any new catalog to the database. Over time, the service is expected to have thousands of catalogs listed.

"So many of us are looking for ways to simplify our lives and also do our part to help the environment," says Kate Sinding, an NRDC senior attorney. "Here's a way to do both at once. By providing a free and easy way to get rid of unwanted catalogs, this service not only gives people renewed control over their own mailboxes, but also serves to reduce global warming pollution and deforestation associated with catalog mailings."

In addition to the online service, Catalog Choice plans to survey merchants' business activities and promote sustainable practices in the catalog industry. The sponsoring groups hope that providing consumers with information about fiber sourcing from endangered forests, recycled paper, energy efficiency, and list management will help drive purchasing decisions based on best practices within the industry and prompt catalogers to reduce their environmental footprint.

Catalog Choice also helps merchants. Merchants can obtain a free Merchant Account that allows them to obtain the list of opt-out requests in electronic format on a scheduled basis.

"Catalog Choice is good for business," said Al Bessin, a consulting partner with Lenser, a direct mail and marketing firm based in San Rafael, Calif. "This free service will help catalogers be more efficient by enabling them to remove non-responsive consumers from their lists and reduce expenses associated with paper, printing and postage. At the same time, the service is promoting and rewarding responsible citizenship."

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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