The Great Junk Mail Experiment

| April 26, 2011 | 2 Comments

Junk Mail Experiment

Today, I am profoundly disappointed in my neighbors. Not just mildly disappointed, but profoundly so – a kind of deep, sincere and sulking disappointment.

Here’s why…

You may remember my earlier article on junk mail in which I discussed the many reasons to opt-out of receiving junk mail,  one of the key methods of which is by putting up a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign on your mailbox.

After writing that article, it dawned on me that I could help make things easier for my neighbors by purchasing the signs for them and distributing them around the neighborhood with a small explanatory note.

It seemed easy, sensible and practical.  I should have known.

The Action Plan

  1. I purchased 14 ‘No Junk Mail’ stickers, for $3.89 each, at a grand total of $54.46.
  2. I made certain to purchase stickers (rather than screw on signs) so they would be quick and easy to apply.
  3. I made certain to purchase smaller stickers too, so they wouldn’t be aesthetically intrusive and put off neighbors who are ‘mailbox proud‘.
  4. I then printed 14 letters and hand signed them at the bottom.

The letters read:

Dear neighbour,

I’m writing to you with a simple request…

Please consider putting this “No Junk Mail” sticker on your mailbox

Here are a few quick facts to let you know why I’m doing this:

  • 6% of Australia’s total annual paper usage is junk mail
  • This equates to 240,000 tonnes of paper every year
  • The water used to produce a year’s worth of junk mail would fill 8,640 Olympic-sized swimming pools
  • Only 20 per cent of the eight billion items of junk mail delivered each year are ever read
  • Globally, creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.

By stopping junk mail, you’re reducing the amount of landfill produced every year, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and saving water.

Why not take this small step and help Australia towards a sustainable future?

My thanks for your time,

Simon Ussher

I then hand addressed each envelope as ‘Dear Neighbour’ (Australian spelling), and delivered them around the neighborhood.  (And yes, I am aware of the irony of handing out unsolicited mail to fight junk mail ).

Being a patient and generous soul, I gave my neighbors one week to act on things, and then took a quick stroll around the neighborhood to check on progress.

Not one household had put up the ‘No Junk Mail’ stickers.

I came home surly, sour and sulking.  I may have even kicked a neighbors cat.

I’m not sure why this little experiment failed so drastically.  Maybe I just happened on 14 houses that love their junk mail.  Maybe my neighbors were offended by my patronizing suggestion as to how they conduct their affairs.  Maybe my choice of sticker was out of keeping with current mailbox fashions.  However my sneaking fear is that people simply don’t care.

If you’ve got other theories, I’d love to hear them.  However if it is the case that people don’t care we’re all in for a very rough future.

UPDATE (May 7th, 2011): Two days after I published this post one my neighbors (bless their soul) put up the ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker. Huzzah!

Photo credit Chris Dlugosz

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Category: General

About the Author ()

Simon Ussher is the founder of, a co-founder of the Simplicity Institute, and a practicing medical specialist. He's passionate about the holistic benefits of simple living, and making simple living an easy and viable lifestyle option.

Comments (2)

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  1. Yvonne says:

    Hello Simon,
    Whilst I agree that your idea to assist your neighbours was a good one, had I found your letter and sticker in my letterbox, I would have instantly thought of the irony in getting ‘junk mail’ to ‘reduce junk mail’ and then I would have been quite miffed that someone would be so rude as to tell me what I should do. You might have been more successful had you asked your neighbours, in person, if they would like to put up a ‘no junk mail’ sticker and the reasons why you were handing them out.

    BTW, I am a considerate neighbour, an environmentalist, I re-use and reduce my footprint by making many things at home rather than buying and I have tried to show by example what can be done to save money, consumption and the earth. Oddly, that doesn’t include a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on my letter box although I do put the catalogues in my re-cycle bin.
    Cheers Yvonne

  2. Simon says:

    Hi Yvonne,
    Thanks for your insights – those are very good points. I think you’re right about face-to-face being likely to improve results also – something for the next push!

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