What if the catalogs in your mailbox were only the ones you wanted? Catalog Choice hopes to make that dream a reality this holiday season.© Getty Images
Catalog Choice has already signed on more than 45,000 users. "User feedback has been very positive," says Teller. But there’s still a wide gap between visitors to the website and actual sign-ups. "Because the site gets your mailing address, the information is sensitive," Teller says. Some people may not like submitting personal information. "But catalog distribution is a problem all across America and people are responding—we have accounts in every state, plus Puerto Rico," he adds.
Along with its online service, Catalog Choice has plans to survey merchants" business activities with the goal of promoting sustainable practices in the catalog industry that could lead to CO2 reductions. "We hope merchants will become more efficient, and we want them to understand that they can actually save money," says Laura Hickey, a senior director for global warming education at the National Wildlife Federation. Hickey participated in the development of Catalog Choice, and continues to work with its associates to further develop the project.
Catalog Choice’s taskforce plans to regularly monitor merchants to see if they have adopted sustainability as a policy. "We want to know about their paper usage, how is it bleached and treated," says Hickey. "We will also look into what percentage of a catalog producer’s wood fiber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council [which promotes best management practices for sustainable forestry]."
There is a survey for merchants for monitoring and measuring their carbon footprints. The idea is to help merchants recognize sustainable production as a constructive business decision. They can save money by not producing unwanted catalogs they can’t profit from. But will they take the voluntary steps to improve production and distribution for a greener future?
To push the envelope, Catalog Choice is investigating legislative solutions. "We have been studying state and federal strategies to help sponsor this kind of legislation," says Kate Sinding, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, another key player in the program’s development. "We do believe, though, that a large number of merchants will voluntarily comply with the program," she says. "It is in their interest to maintain a clean list. So we’re committed to working with the industry to make this a part of their business model, but legislative action may be necessary."
Some companies would be helped by uniform legislation, requiring all merchants to be in compliance. Legislation would create a single opt-out catalog registry similar to 41 Pounds (whose name refers to the average weight of junk mail received by American families) and Green Dimes, which provide fee-based opt-out services for unsolicited mail.
Coming home to a mess of catalogs in one’s mailbox feels like an invasion of privacy. "As we think about legislation, it would have to have penalties associated with failure to comply," Sinding of NRDC says. "By having a uniform requirement for catalogers, all merchants will have to make known to customers how to be taken off their mailing lists."
The holidays are upon us, and tha
t always means more catalogs to more customers. A mailbox should be personal and unsullied by unwanted junk catalogs and solicitations. Catalogs should optimally be subscription based and opt-in, not mailed indiscriminately to huge and vaguely related mailing lists. These days, most people disregard the catalogs sent to them, lumping them together as useless junk requiring effort for proper recycling. Catalog Choice can help you cut down on the clutter. It’s free, it’s easy, and it will help save our environment.
CARL PINO, an intern at E, is opting out of the catalog racket.
Contacts: Catalog Choice; Green Dimes; 41 Pounds