Get off catalog mailing lists painlessly

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I don't always take my own advice, but this year, I am resolute to do something about one of my weak points. I must have inherited it from my mother. For one reason or the other, we both have a weak spot for receiving presents in the mail. Maybe her need stemmed from being born in an Irish household with seven siblings. Though neither of us is a big shopper, I know the blame lies with the catalyst: mail-order catalogs. Every other month, they tempt me (or the current resident) with the latest styles and sales from the convenience of my own couch.

We are strict recyclers in our house, but that doesn't help the guilt of the catalog pile. I have quite the selection, but my specialties are cooking, clothing and (of course) shoes. There's really no reason. I know perfectly well how to go to a Web site and make a purchase for myself. The waste is unnecessary and yet, I can't quite find the will to call and be removed from the mailing lists.

Well (lucky me) there is, a free service that will allow you to opt out of catalogs. It's almost too easy. (Too easy for these eco nerds taking away my perfect shopping companion!) All you do is create an account with your mailing and e-mail addresses. The site promises to keep this information confidential.

The next step is to browse the catalogs and select the ones you do not want to receive any more. After that step, Catalog Choice will contact the creator of the catalog with a customized stop request.

All of this for free? Who would want to make so many husbands this happy? While I will continue to investigate and ponder some misogynist anti-shopping conspiracy, the Web site claims that this is the work of the Ecology Center and further endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council and funded by the Overbrook Foundation, the Merck Family Fund and the Kendeda Funda.

Their mission is to reduce the number of unsolicited catalog mailings. They believe that this will help both consumers waste less with unwanted catalogs and help save businesses money by saving postage and printing fees. Catalog Choice claims this is a win/win situation.

From the Web site I also found some eco not-so-fun facts that are the effects of our 19 billion catalogs-a-year problem. This many catalogs use 53 million trees and enough BTUs to power 1.2 million homes. The yearly contribution to global warming is the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions of 2 million cars.

And, for the water weary, the waste water from this much paper is enough to fill 81,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

OK hippies, you win. I have unsubscribed to most of the catalogs I receive.

It's kind of funny, though; while I was canceling the catalogs that I legitimately don't want to receive, I found a few that I think I'd like to try out. So, this Web site is useful for something other than saving the planet.

Reach Heather Hamilton at

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