Opting out of waste


Whenever I receive a package or a letter, the first thing I do is throw away the junk. You know, those mini-catalogs, special offers, and other things that someone pays to include with credit card bills, Amazon.com shipments, and other legitimate mailings. This phenomenon got me thinking: could businesses provide a way for customers to opt-out of these piggyback mailings or eliminate them altogether, and would the increased customer satisfaction make up for the lost revenues?

The benefit of offering an opt-out preference or just getting rid of the mailings is straightforward. Customers would save the time they otherwise spend discarding these items, and much less waste would end up in landfills (since I’m sure not everyone recycles the mailings). Taking this a step further, the company offering such an option (“Don’t include special offers or catalogs with my shipment”, etc.) would be perceived as more trustworthy, and kinder to the environment. In today’s green-friendly marketing climate, the latter fact alone could be hugely beneficial in PR and advertising campaigns.

On the other hand, marketers are clearly paying something to get their brochures included in otherwise unrelated mailings. As to how much this might add up to for someone like Amazon.com, I really have no idea. But it’s definitely a significant number. Here’s an interesting idea: start by calculating the average amount of revenue generated per package. Then approach the existing advertisers (or new ones) and let them become “green package” sponsors by printing a shorter version of their offers on the outside of the box or envelope itself, or on the packing slip. All the junk that used to go in the package is eliminated, either for all customers or just those that choose this option. Under this model, revenues stay the same (or even increase), customers are happier because they save time, and the vendor looks like a hero for protecting the environment.