12 December 2006

Hugging Big...uh...Trees

Just after posting a picture of my Christmas catalogs, I heard a radio news story of people protesting Victoria's Secret for printing its catalogs on virgin paper.

Please, give me a moment to savor the glory of using "Victoria's Secret" and "virgin" in the same sentence.

Okay, I'm done.

Tree preservation is a serious concern for some of us back-to-paper types, myself included. I open my junk mail just so I can strip out the window envelopes, fake credit cards, etc., and recycle the paper parts. I reuse manila envelopes and folders, and print on both sides of the paper, even though it means taking the paper out and turning it around to do the even pages. And I've often thought about writing "refused" on the junk mail and putting it in a mailbox, on the theory that if the Postal Service is forced to deal with returned paper, it will rethink its paper-wasting bulk mailing policies. (You can learn more about such campaigns at places like www.ecofuture.org. And if the above www.victoriasdirtysecret.net link expires, just do a Web search for "victorias secret paper protest.")

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I'm too grateful for the convenience of catalog shopping to banish them from my life completely. So I recycle them when I'm done. And if it makes a difference, recycling in my town doesn't mean taking them out to the curb. We have to sort all our trash, yard waste, and various reusables and recyclables and deliver them to the town waste station ourselves, placing them in the proper color-coded receptacles.

Conclusion? Well, I guess there isn't one...except that Victoria's Secret has pledged to use 10% post-consumer recycled paper for its catalogs from now on.

And I'm still really tickled about that "virgin" thing.


  1. Interesting point. I recycle on a regular basis because it's good for the environment and is the right thing to do, but I honestly couldn't tell you what most of my magazines and catalogs are printed on. I can say one thing though - I like junk mail. It's a refreshing change and it keeps the postman employed. Each trip to the mailbox is like opening a grab bag. Granted, this sounds silly but the older I get, the more I appreciate the little things.
    One of the things I receive more than catalogs this time of year are requests for donations from charities and causes that I have never heard of. Most requests come stuffed with preprinted address labels that are always misspelled or wrong in some way. Some include calendars for the coming year or a stack of all occasion cards that I will never use in an effort to play on my conscience and motivate me to send them something for their trouble. There are select charities that I always remember around the holidays and I draw the line. There must be a considerable amount of waste involved when these little 'token' gifts are printed in bulk and sent out to thousands of people that never asked for them in the first place. With this much wasted paper floating around, does it really matter what it's printed on? I don't know.

  2. Yes, I agree with the total amount of paper wasted by companies like Victoria's Secret, 10% recycled content is a mere gesture. Some will say it's a drop in the bucket. I'm a "step in the right direction" person, myself. It strikes me that Victoria's Secret didn't *have* to do anything -- the company's not about to go out of business over this -- but they decided to at least acknowledge the environmental concerns of some of their customers.

    You know, I went to a seminar once when I was working for a non-profit organization, about how to do those direct mailing. What to include in the envelope, what to say in your letters, how to track the results you get from each mailing. It was given by a speaker who was absolutely *crazy* about junk mail. I was skeptical when I went in, but I found her enthusiasm infectious and couldn't wait to start doing some mailings!

  3. With junk mail I'd say what they're printed on (recycled or not, etc) makes up only a small part of their environmental footprint. The total carbon emissions getting junk mail item "A" to your mailbox must be staggering. The only environmentally sensible way forward is to stop it at source and eliminate junk mail entirely - trying to clean up after the fact is futile.

  4. Yes, well, that's the dilemma. How do we balance a person's (or company's) legitimate desire to make a living and spread the word, with the environmental principle that almost anything anyone wants to mail out is less important than preventing global warming from growing worse than it already is? Whose decision is that to make?

  5. Perhaps we should allow people who like junk mail to opt in by registering on a central database.

    Otherwise TV, radio, newspapers, the internet and billboards etc. give plenty of opportunity for enterprise to flourish.

    There is no point in sending out junk mail if all it does is make the recipient hostile.

  6. Good idea, Andrzej -- People have to opt-in to get e-mailings (legitimate e-mail, not spam). When you think about it, it's even more important to do the same for paper mailings, which are something physical arriving at your home and much more of an environmental burden than e-mail.

    Of course, it's because the postal system is operating on antiquated laws when it comes to bulk mailing. (What they do for a mere $0.39 with personal mail is still WAY cool!)