These days, gripes about junk mail tend to focus on those irritating electronic pleas from deposed Nigerian princes or laughable ads for penile enlargement. But old-school junk mail–the kind that clogs mailboxes, not in-boxes–is the real hazard, at least environmentally. An innovative Seattle-based company is using the web to minimize the postman’s eco-footprint. Earth Class Mail routes customers’ mail to a central location, scans the envelopes, and posts the images online. Customers then decide if they want the mail immediately recycled, opened and scanned, or forwarded. The result: 99 percent of unopened and 90 percent of scanned mail is recycled, according to Sustainable Industries (Nov. 2007). That’s compared to about a third of advertising mail that typically makes it to the recycling bin.
Since the junk mail scourge shows no sign of abating–Salon.com (Dec. 17, 2007) reports that 103.5 billion pieces were sent in 2007, up from 90.5 billion in 2003–the scheme could save landfill space and a lot of frustration. Of course, green convenience comes with a price; monthly subscriptions range from $10 to $60 depending on how much mail you receive. Good thing getting off those mailing lists in the first place is still free.