Are you clearcutting Rocky Mountain National Park?

According to this article Junk Mail Madness – How to Make it Stop! | Care2 Healthy & Green Living,  800 pieces of junk mail are delivered to each household in America each year.  It goes on to say that comes to 100 million trees each year, just in junk mail. That’s “equivalent to clear cutting all of Rocky Mountain National Park, every four months.”

I’m trying to do the math, because that is a crazy lot of trees.

According to an estimate given at Wiki Answers, there were 113,567,967 American households in 2009.  Care2’s article says 800 pieces of mail are delivered annually to each household.  Using very very broad math to keep things simple, let’s say there are only 100 million US households receiving the junk mail that equals 100 million trees.  So every household gets 1 tree’s worth of junk mail, according to those figures.  And therefore, 1 tree yields 800 pieces of junk mail.

That seems like precious few sheets of paper per tree.

After tracking down a few links to Conservatree, it looks like the best estimate is that one ream of copier paper (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree. But junk mail comes in all sorts of papers.

Ok, so how many pages of each does an “average” household get?  Based wholly on my own junk mail, in a typical month I’ll get 2-3 magazines or catalogs I didn’t want, 4 newspaper-type fliers, and roughly 20 envelopes full of 4-5 pages of basically copier paper. I check my post office box once a month, and that’s typically what pours out.  Randomly through the year I’ll also get some 401k voter proxies that are about a hundred pages of a cross between newspaper and copier paper.If the magazines and catalogs  are about 80 pages each

So for me, one household, that’s:

24-36 magazines annually x 80 pages = 1920 to 2880 magazine pages.
Let’s call it 2400 since that’s midway and I know some of my junk envelopes have glossy pages in them, too.

48 newspapers x about 8 pages each = 384 newspaper pages.

240 envelopes filled with
960-1200 copier pages.  Taking the average, that’s 1080 pages and 240 envelopes, a total of 1320 copier sheets.

2400 glossy sheets
384 news sheets
1320 copier sheets

I know from other equations on Conservatree’s site that 1320 copier pages = about .16 trees.  Just for me. Just for my copier paper junk mail.

Here’s where I get fuzzy and have to guess.  I don’t know how much magazine or newspaper sheets weigh.  I know how many tons of each use so many trees, but I’m certain that each sheet does not weigh the same as copier paper sheets.  Let’s basically throw out figuring out how many sheets of each type of paper I get and just say they’re all copier paper, which is by far the most trees-per-ton usage.  So this will be a high ballpark estimate.

2400 magazine sheets calculated like copier paper uses .28 trees.  384 newspaper pages mathed like copier pages is .046 trees.  My tree total at the high end is now .48, almost half a tree annually.

If I were to assume instead that it was all low-end magazine paper, which uses 8 trees per ton rather than 24 trees per ton for copy paper, then does my tree usage go down by one-third?  That’s assuming that you get the same number of sheets per ton, which I know can’t be right.  I’ll have to stick to the high numbers.

Ok, at the end of all of that, I have half a tree every year, just in junk mail (if it was all copy paper).  My personal estimate may be off, as I’ve tried to spurn junk mail through the years, and I’m a very small (smaller than average) household.  I can also easily imagine that I’ve skewed my junk mail down by half, especially given that during the holidays I’m sure I got way more junk catalogs and year-end offers for credit cards.

So yeah, I can see that an average household could get enough junk mail to destroy one tree each year, for a total of 100 million trees.

I’m going back to the Care2 article now, and seeing what I can do to reduce the junk mail I get.  Also, the next time I change my address, I’m not forwarding my mail.  I’m going to contact my mailers directly and change my address with them.

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