Heads Together

May 19, 2008 at 6:41 pm Leave a comment

I had lunch with two super-smart Forest Hills women last week, and when the conversation rolled around to the environment, recycling, and what any of us can do, it was pretty productive. I’d say this was in large part because all three of us give this subject a lot of thought on an ongoing basis. I bet many of you do too.


Some of the things we discussed:

Catalog Choice is a Web site where, after signing up, you can quickly scan through the site’s list of retailers and indicate which ones from whom you no longer want to receive catalogs. It really works. I no longer get unsolicited catalogs from the likes of JCrew, Lands End, LL Bean (all of which I can easily access online if I want to make a purchase), and I was able to file a semi-complaint that Anthropologie was still sending catalogs, even though I’d checked it off. I’ve blogged on this before and can’t tout it enough.

Similarly, there is Direct Marketing Association’s Preference Service, where you can opt out of all direct mail solicitation. Definitely a good thing, but one caveat: just before you finish signing up, and because this is the DMA after all, you get this message:

Are you sure you want to proceed?

The average household can save $1422 dollars per year from marketing offers. By eliminating all mail offers not only will you miss out on these savings, but you’ll miss out on at least 80% of all commercial offers and discounts!

And you will miss the environmental benefits of shopping at home rather than driving to the mall!

By replacing just two shopping trips to the mall each year with shopping by catalogs or direct mail, DMA estimates that Americans could:

  • Reduce the amount we drive by 3.3 billion miles.
  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3 billion pounds.
  • Save more than $490 million on gas costs.

If you can resist this last-ditch effort to tap into your compulsive consumerist tendencies, you should be able to save yourself much more than $1,422 in purchases you don’t need (maybe just want) and skip the mall altogether. Really, most of our effort needs to be directed at using less, doing with less, and certainly buying less.

Another idea on the table was not to use paper towels as much or anymore. Wow, that would never have occurred to me, but the logic of it has convinced me to give it a try. Instead of running through countless rolls of Bounty—which is expensive and requires a lot of energy to get into my hand—I now use one washable, reusable cloth each day to accomplish what up to 20 sheets of Bounty would do. Some might argue that the energy used to wash the cloths equals, perhaps outweighs, the energy that goes into producing and shipping Bounty to Walgreens, but given how small a wash cloth is, I find this hard to believe.

Recently I heard about a site called Fake Plastic Fish. The site’s “mission statement” reads: “Welcome to the fish tank. Swim around for a while and get your feet wet. Please don’t go without leaving a comment! I need your ideas, opinions, suggestions, advice about how we can eliminate unnecessary plastic, dramatically reduce our plastic waste, and live responsibly with the rest.” So I’ve been swimming around, getting great ideas, like foregoing the use of produce bags, because as site writer Beth Terry asserts, “What are we worried about? That our produce will touch other produce? I think the apples and broccoli can get along without killing each other. Or is it that the produce will get dirty? Hey, it grew in the dirt. and we’re going to wash it anyway, right?” The site is filled with many nuggets like this, thus it is definitely worth taking the swim.


If you will take a moment to contribute your ideas, I will happily create a master list of suggestions and make it accessible to all readers.


Entry filed under: Forest Hills.

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