Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Fri Mar 03 2006, 08:44PM

Each American receives seventeen trees worth of junk mail per year

Each American receives seventeen trees worth of junk mail per year. And that junk mail weighs one ton. Uh huh. Each American receives one ton of junk mail per year. In case that doesn't do it for you, two average-size horses weigh one ton. Two horses in your mailbox! But that's nothing compared to the elephants. Four typical elephants weigh 17.8 tons. And a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service carries all four in the course of a year on the job. Well, he doesn't carry elephants. He carries 17.8 tons of junk mail!

OK, so those numbers were tabulated by environmentalists (who send out billions of pieces of junk mail themselves, by the way), but if the stats are even half that bad, it's maddening. Of course, you didn't need me to lay out all those numbers to make you mad, did you? All you have to do is go open your mailbox. If you are jinxed with junk mail, if the envelopes seem endless, there is hope.

The Direct Marketing Association maintains a list of consumers who don't wish to receive what it insists on calling "direct mail" or "advertising mail." Write to the DMA and include every name --and every spelling of every name-- under which you receive junk mail. Also make note if you are a "Jr.," "Sr." or "III." List your current address, your previous address and your phone number. It'll take a couple months before you really notice a difference. (Plus marketers who aren't members will still send you mail.) Keep the address below somewhere safe, because the Direct Marketing Association honors each request for just five years. After that, you'll have to renew your request. To join the list for free, with full results in about a month, write to:

Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512.

For faster service, you can register online, but it costs $5. Go to:

Credit card companies are the worst offenders in my mailbox. They obtain lists of consumers who meet their criteria and then deluge them with "pre-screening offers." The big three credit bureaus have given you a way to block those too. Just call 1 (888) 567-8688. The first prompt you'll hear offers you the chance to opt out for the next two years. Don't jump the gun! A later prompt offers you the opportunity to opt out for good. Once you've made a choice, you will have to provide your social security number and some other basic information.

If you're still not satisfied, you'll have to contact other direct mailers, well, directly! Here's a hint: when you receive a mailing from a group or company you don't want to hear from again, write to them. (Make up a form letter on your computer, if you like.) Enclose the envelope or the mailing label the group sent you, and ask them to stop.

1. Send out one piece of mail and block thousands from coming in. Write to the Direct Marketing Association.
2. Call the big three credit bureaus and opt out of credit card offers.
3. Don't sign up for sweepstakes. Don't fill out warranty cards. Give a fake address when you apply for a grocery store discount card. All these can be tools for busybody companies bent on building mailing lists.
4. If the people at your Department of Motor Vehicles give you the choice of keeping your name and address private, take the time to take them up on it.
5. Learn to recognize misleading junk mail designed to get you to open the envelope. Some of it is actually illegal! Junk mail is often disguised as overnight mail, government mail, a bill or a personal letter.

"Address" complaints about junk mail to the U.S. Postal Service or the company in question. To gripe about misleading junk mail, contact your local postal inspector.