In a world with so many big and possibly insoluble problems (cancer, climate, income inequality, religion), this seems a little thing. But it has the advantage of seeming doable, and probably has a connection to the big things.

I hereby nominate junk mail reform for my short list of no-brainer improvements in the quality of our lives.

Now that letters—remember letters?–have been replaced by email, texting and other electronic means of personal communication, and we’re paying a lot of bills and banking online, it seems like junk mail has become 95% of our mail. Many days I lug home from the mailbox (which in this rural location is about an eight minute roundtrip on foot, so much less convenient than the online version) half a dozen pitches for more credit cards, five pounds of catalogs and assorted other ads and unsolicited junk, only to transfer most of it unread to the recyling bag.

It seems so stupid. So wasteful, so bloated. More and more of less and less.

I want to put a trash can by our neighborhood mailboxes to shorten the process—from mailbox directly to the dump, eliminating the trip home–in part of make clear to the mail delivery person, to one and all, how absurd it has become.

Couldn’t we at least limit the avalanche of unwanted mail? How about a junk mail bill prohibiting mail order pestering, unsolicited catalogs, and more than one reminder about lapsing subscriptions?

Some of the catalogs have become luxurious productions, fancier as well as heavier than most books, some sent numerous times a year with mostly only the dates changed. Eliminate redundancy. If a company has an online catalog, as almost all do these days, it should prohibited from taking up room in your home with the same thing in physical form.
From just that one tweak to life as we know it, how many billions of dollars in post office and other costs would be saved? How many trees? How much of a reduction would there be in the size of the carbon footprint?

How much reduction in the NAQ (National Annoyance Quotient) in not having to shlep junk mail home and to the dump?

No doubt companies would scream infringement of free speech. Presumably they know that what seems like an incredibly wasteful way of doing business pays off in profits. Like so much of contemporary life, the post office seems now to exist mainly for the convenience and profits of large corporations.

Yes, I know, post office employees—some friends and neighbors– would lose jobs if we were to junk junk mail. But I like to think they wouldn’t want to keep, just for the sake of keeping it, a job that no longer serves the essential service to fellow humans it once did.

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