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How Does Junk Mail Affect the Environment?
Blog...How Does Junk Mail Affect the Environment?

How Does Junk Mail Affect the Environment?

Ecology News
Global Warming
empty envelopes
In this article, we’ll explain what junk mail is, the different types of junk mail, how junk mail can affect the environment, and what you can do to prevent junk mail from increasing your carbon footprint.
Ecology News
empty envelopes

The internet has proven itself to be a double edged sword, as it helps us to connect with people all around the world, host remote work to improve business productivity, and look up information in a split second – but certain facets of the internet, such as junk mail, aren’t as beneficial to people or the planet.

Junk mail refers to either paper or electronic mail that is delivered to you without you knowing or wanting it to be – making unuseful or “junk” in your eyes, and can contribute to waste and an excessive carbon footprint.

In this article, we’ll explain what junk mail is, the different types of junk mail, how junk mail can affect the environment, and what you can do to prevent junk mail from increasing your carbon footprint.

What is junk mail?

Junk mail refers to excessive or unwanted mail, either paper or digital, which is delivered to you either in your physical mailbox, online inbox, or spam folder.

For many, junk mail is viewed as an annoyance and unnecessary – as it is often delivered without the recipient’s consent or request.
i hate junk mail thumbnail

Think about it – let’s say someone sends a giant cake to your doorstep everyday. At first, you may enjoy getting that cake – but overtime, it becomes irritating because it is something you have to deal with everyday. Eventually, you’ll start throwing the cake away – contributing to unnecessary food waste that doesn’t need to be created and could easily be mitigated if someone stopped sending cake to you on a daily basis. The same goes for junk mail – as people who send and receive junk mail are indirectly negatively impacting the environment whether they want to or not.

Examples of junk mail include:

  • Brochures or fliers such as political campaigns or for a yard sale;
  • Enclosed envelopes with credit card offers;
  • Coupons or sales at various stores;
  • Newsletters and magazines.

It is important to remember that junk mail is sent through both postal and electronic mail, the latter more often being referred to as, “spam” – but regardless of where junk mail is sent, it is often an irritating part of anyone’s day. In addition to this, junk mail can impact productivity and organization – as it crowds both our physical and digital inboxes

👉 It can be surmised that junk mail began in line with industrialization and the growing culture of consumerism, as junk mail serves as a way for companies to relentlessly and shamelessly promote their product, service, or campaign without the need for “permission” from anyone.

laptop on email in the morning

Which is worse: junk mail or junk email?

Both junk mail and junk email are bad for the environment, but ultimately – we can infer that paper junk mail creates a greater ecological impact than junk email does.

The reason why paper junk mail may create more of an ecological impact than junk email in the long run is because once paper is created and thrown away, it can’t be undone. On the other hand, junk email, while still contributing to an excessive carbon footprint – can more easily be controlled long-term.

💡 Did you know that it takes 1.7% of the energy used to create and send a paper letter than it does to send an email? 

2 minutes to email bliss

The main difference between the environmental impact created by paper junk mail and digital junk mail is that paper junk mail depletes our natural resources and contributes to deforestation, whereas digital junk mail takes up excess energy and data storage.

For instance, paper junk mail destroys over 100 million trees every single year – which is a massive problem seeing as the United States and other countries across the world have struggled to implement an effective recycling program.

On the flip side, junk email can overwhelm digital servers and waste energy. This is because it requires electricity and the eventual use of data storage to send and receive emails, and seeing as over 150 billion spam emails are sent a day – the environmental impact is huge.

👉 It is important to note that the environmental impact of an email is bound to vary depending on the attachments of the email or which servers the message is being sent to, whereas the carbon footprint of paper junk mail can be more easily calculated.

purple ballot mail with reusable blue cloth mask

Why is junk mail bad for the environment?

Junk mail is bad for the environment, seeing as it can have an impact on wildlife, contribute to deforestation, deplete natural resources, utilize excess energy production and consumption, and create a massive carbon footprint.

Seeing as junk mail requires extensive energy production to process paper, it’s about more than what happens after junk mail is disposed of – but how the entire process of creating and sending out junk mail impacts the environment in different ways.

Here are some of the different ways that junk mail impacts the environment:

  • Impact on Wildlife –  Unbeknownst to many, paper junk mail has an impact on various species due to the need to cut down additional trees for paper production – which destroys their habitats and can even threaten their existence.  
  • Deforestation – Paper junk mail can’t be created without trees, meaning that junk mail directly contributes to deforestation. If we stopped producing paper junk mail, the up to 100 million trees that would be unharmed would help to absorb 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide each year – which is something that the world desperately needs in the midst of climate change.
  • Urbanization – Seeing as deforestation leaves behind barren land, junk mail may indirectly provoke further urbanization – creating more cities which will emit excessive amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Excessive Energy Consumption – In order to both produce and dispose of unwanted paper junk mail, insurmountable amounts of energy are required. In fact, the printing industry accounts for 1% of all global emission – much of which is bound to come from junk mail.
  • Depletion of Resources – It isn’t only paper that is used when producing junk mail, but other resources such as plastic for laminating fliers, coupons, or brochures or ink being used to print text and images on junk mail. 
  • Overwhelming Data Servers – When it comes to digital junk mail found in the spam inbox of your email account, too much junk email can overwhelm your email account – as more electricity and energy will be required to store all of the excess emails on a data server. In fact, it is estimated that each junk email can emit up to 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide emissions.

👉 Overall, both paper and digital junk mail have a profound impact on our environment – and ultimately contribute to continued climate change.

USPS United States Postal Service Truck

How else does junk mail affect us?

While Junk mail is certainly bad for the planet, it also isn’t great for our everyday lives either – seeing as junk mail can have a negative impact on our mental health, productivity, and community engagement or cooperation. 

Here are a few ways in depth that junk mail could have on your daily life:

  • Impact on Community – Junk mail could create issues amongst the community or strife that wouldn’t otherwise be there if it weren’t for the persuasion of junk mail.
  • Loss of Time – People can spend precious time weeding through junk mail from their mailbox or deleting spam emails from both their work or personal emails. 
  • Reduced Productivity – Studies have shown that people with less clutter in their homes are bound to benefit from improved mental health: such as by feeling happier, reduced anxiety, and having improved focus. This means that having less junk mail, whether it be on your kitchen table or in your digital mailbox, can help to increase your productivity.
  • Increased Anxiety or Paranoia – It’s no secret that in today’s day and age, our phones and computers are tracking our activities on the internet – constantly curating content that algorithms know we will be more likely to engage with. However, the negative side of this is that it can trigger increased anxiety or other mental health issues – as people will feel like the internet can track their every move. 
  • Irritating Allergies – Did you know that excess paper, such as from newspapers or junk mail, can contribute to paper dust and ultimately more allergies in your home? This is a major reason to try to mitigate the amount of paper junk mail in your home, as junk mail can have a direct impact on your health. 

👉 Seeking to reduce junk mail is important for our mental health, physical health, and most importantly – to protect the environment in the midst of climate change.

no junk mail sign outside of house

How can you avoid junk mail and reduce the environmental impact of your mail or email?

Luckily, you don’t have to just sit back and watch your inbox fill up with spam email or spend your weekends sifting through the fliers or credit card applications that came in the mail – we can all do things to avoid junk mail such as by unsubscribing to mailing lists or seeking more sustainable ways to market a product or service.

Junk mail may seem like an inevitable part of your daily routine, but the truth is – there are many ways to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive and ultimately reduce the carbon footprint from your junk mail.

Here are some tips to remove various types of junk mail from your inbox:

Tips to Reduce the Impact of Paper Junk Mail:

  • Opt Out of Mailing Lists – Most people are unaware of the many different organizations that work to remove your company’s address from junk mail lists.
  • Recycle – If you’re still receiving new junk mail, always be sure to properly recycle it if you do get it.
  • Call Your Postal Delivery Service – Some countries like Switzerland have allowed people to deny potential junk mail to be delivered. It’s worth a try to call your local post office or mail delivery service to see if they’ll do the same – after all, it gives them less work to do!

Tips to Reduce the Impact of Digital Junk Mail:

  • Unsubscribe – Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to sit down and go through your email and decide which mailing lists you actually read and which ones are best to unsubscribe from.
  • Delete Emails – Although this may seem self explanatory, it really will help to reduce the stress felt upon serves that save all of that data from your emails – even the ones you read once and never opened again. 
  • Mindfully Send Emails – Be mindful of the attachments you are sending via email, and if they can be shared via an external hard drive or flash drive if possible – or by using another cloud sharing service. This way, the email isn’t forwarded numerous times and has a place on the internet to be viewed without creating a massive ecological footprint via email.

Alternatives for Companies to Promote Their Product or Service without Junk Mail:

  • Social Media – These days, your company is more likely to catch people’s attention with a video on Tik Tok than with a junk email or flier in the mail. Therefore, a great alternative to sending out junk mail is to create social media channels and share the benefits of your product, service, or campaign via an online platform.
  • Host New Events – Junk mail is often sent in order to persuade someone to invest their time or money into something. A great alternative why not create an actual event to invite the people who you believe may find what you were sharing with them via junk mail to be useful.
  • Advocate for Responsible Marketing Practices – It’s important for your company to share the importance of sustainable marketing practices in order to mitigate future junk mail.

Overall, junk mail isn’t only a nuisance – but something we need to rectify in order to effectively fight against climate change. The good thing is, we all have the power to implement at least one of these mitigation strategies to help fight the impact junk mail has on the environment.

What about Greenly? 

If reading this article about junk mail and how it impacts the environment has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Keeping track of junk mail in your company that can contribute to excessive emissions can be challenging, but don’t worry  – Greenly is here to help. Click here to schedule a demo to see how Greenly can help you comply with all of the upcoming regulations relevant to your company. 

Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.

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