Sunday, January 25, 2009

Direct Mail Pros and Cons and what you can do to limit what you get.

I'm in the advertising business and some of my clients use direct mail on a regular basis. The other day I was asked how I could support the use of direct mail given the "environment impact". Like almost every environmental issue, this one has strong opinions on both sides.

The Cons. According to the website 41pounds.org,"An average of 41 pounds of junk mail is sent to every adult citizen each year. Approximately 44% of this mail goes into a landfill unopened."

Here are some of their claims:

1. More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail. 42% of timber harvested nationwide becomes pulpwood for paper.
2. Creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars. Transporting junk mail costs $550 million a year.
3. The pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in developed countries, and it's the third-largest industrial greenhouse gas emitter (after the chemical and steel industries).
4. 40% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste. Junk mail inks have high concentrations of heavy metals, making the paper difficult to recycle.

However, a new study from the U.S. Postal Service challenged claims about direct mail's negative impact on the environment. The study, prepared by a USPS environmental analyst and published internally this week, found that:

a. Even though direct mail volume has increased steadily since 1990, the amount that goes in landfills has fallen, from 2.14 million tons to 2.04 million tons in 2002.
c. The production of household ad mail consumes only 0.13 percent of the energy used in the United States, less than half of the energy consumed by newspaper and insert production.
d. Even though more than 60 percent of households report they wish they received less direct mail, almost 80 percent say they read or scan all the ad mail they get.

So, what's the answer?

In my view as an ad person, it's using the media responsibly, for example it's very different sending something to an existing customer that you know has a need for the service (for example, sending an automotive service offer to a customers that bring their cars to your dealership for service) versus completely blind, unsolicited mail.

Here are nine tips to significantly reduce the amount of direct mail you receive:

Register with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association , the largest supplier of mailing lists for commercial advertising, to remove your address from their list. Note that your registration is only valid for five years.

Stop credit card offers, one of the largest sources of direct mail, by making one phone call. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) to permanently remove your name and address from their lists.

Every time you order something over the phone, internet, or through the mail, your name may be sold. To prevent this from happening, call or write these businesses and organizations and request a privacy designation on your name, address and phone number. Tell them that under no circumstances is your personal information to be sold. It may be helpful to make a list of all businesses that you interact with.

Whenever you subscribe to a magazine, become a member of a group, apply for a credit card, etc., be sure to state that you do not want your name, address, or phone number released to anyone else for marketing, mailing, or promotional purposes.

Get an unpublished phone number, an unlisted number, or list your phone number without an associated address. Unpublished numbers cannot be sold, while unlisted numbers are often sold to other companies on a CD-ROM. If you want to remain listed, request that your name be listed without your address (most phone companies do this without charge) or have your listing published under a pseudonym.

Whenever you move, do not fill out the U.S. Post Office's permanent change of address (COA) form. Instead indicate that you are temporarily changing your address, which will allow you to have your mail forwarded for up to 10 months. Permanent COA information is shared with third parties, while temporary address information is not.

Do not send in product warranty cards unless absolutely necessary. Many of these cards are filled with questions about your personal interests and preferences and are usually sent to a different address than the company you purchased the product from.

To stop receiving any Sexually Oriented Advertising, you can fill out the U.S. Post Office's Form 1500 to stop mail from a business you consider offensive.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hawaii Attempts DTV Switch: Rocky but Weird and Entertaining


Every once in a while my environmental interests and advertising business collide and such was the case when I was in Hawaii last week to do publicity for the Hawaii Bridal Expo. While I was there, Hawaii made the DTV switch.

Here's one version of the story courtesy of Dan Nosowitz of Gizmodo

"Even though our Savior-Elect is pushing back the DTV transition, his beloved Hawaii took a test drive a month early. This odder-than-expected story includes mass confusion, Grey's Anatomy, and the rare Hawaiian dark-rumped petrel. Hawaii took the DTV plunge this past Thursday at noon, broadcasting a message with a looped announcement and a help line the legions of confused islanders could call. As expected, pretty much nobody understood what's actually going on, and many have left buying a converter box until they were forced to do so. Apparently there were angry phone calls streamed in about missing primetime Thursday shows like Grey's Anatomy and CSI."

From my perspective, standing there and staring at the TV set, it was the biggest NON-EVENT since Y2K and the day Geraldo opened Al Capone's tomb.

But why did Hawaii choose to go digital a full month before the original proposed date? Turns out the endangered Hawaiian dark-rumped petrel, a small nesting bird, was the deciding factor in the change. The analog transmission towers on the slopes of Maui's Haleakala volcano obstruct their nesting grounds, and tearing them down before the birds' mating season is an attempt to buck up the dwindling population.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Get Green at the Bellevue Home Show January 23-25

On the heels of my last post, here's some great information on the upcoming Bellevue Home Show which has a bunch of vendors with ideas and products to save money and energy.

Show sponsor PUGET SOUND ENERGY will be there with a booth and all kinds of information and ideas on ways to conserve energy. Another way to stay warm and save money comes from associate sponsor AQUA QUIP who will be there with fireplace inserts and hearth fireplaces they claim can save 30% in energy bills.

You can learn about the ZERO ENERGY IDEA HOUSE, sponsored by SHIREY HANDYMAN. The house will be located in Bellevue on the W. Lake Sammamish Parkway and energy bills are predicted to be less than $40/month for the 1,700 sq ft. home! Learn more and see their newsletter for SMART TIPS on using green building technology and minimize energy use.

There will be many other "green" vendors include SOLAR GEM GREENHOUSES that grow food organically, without pesticides, in a one-piece fiberglas design. Also, SUBLIME LANDSCAPES. Relatively new, they are working in the “green zone,” focusing on functionality matched with aesthetics. They are currently producing hand-made landscape pottery, brick and tile, plus patio furniture built from recycled trees and other materials.

This is only a sampling of what's going to be there, find our more at the Belleuve Home Show website.The event is January 23-25 at the Meydenbauser Center, Bellevue.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy Green 2009 from GH - Time to clean behind your fridge, check your furnace, change a lightbulb and save money!

Happy New Year. It's 2009 and one resolution we should all make is to think about our impact on the planet this year.

If the crazy weather, reports of global warming, predicted food shortages, etc. don't motivate you, how about this one- SAVING MONEY!

Yep, it's hip to be green, but when it comes to saving energy you can simultanously cheer that you are reducing your carbon footprint, and saving cash!!

How? By saving energy.

According to Sloan Barnett's "Green Goes With Everything", do you know that if every household in America changed just ONE lightbulb to a CFL, our nation would save $600 million dollars, equal to enough energy to light 3 million homes, and prevent the release of enough green house gases equal to 800,000 cars?

Here's some obvious, and simple, ways to conserve -compliments of my own experience and Sloan.

1. Service your fridge. Did you know that you are supposed to have your refrigerator serviced once a year? Does anyone EVER actually do this?

You can call someone, but really, hey the main thing is to clean the coils - you pull it out from the wall and vacuum all the dust that collects at the bottom. You might have to remove a panel, and please be careful not to hurt the coils or damage anything. But that's it! Then your trusty fridge doesn't have to work as hard to keep the food cool. Oh, and P.S. you're extending it's life and saving money there too (unless you like buying refrigerators)!

Another thing, double check that you have the thermostat set correctly. Anything below 40 degrees for the fridge and 5 degrees for the freezer is okay. You can buy an inexpensive thermometer and put it in the fridge to be sure it's right.

2. Service your furnace. According to GGWE, 40% of your energy bill goes right up your chimmey. 40%! That's a number that gets my attention!

Many companies will come and do a cleaning and inspection at a pretty low cost. But, at least pull the filters and either replace them, or clean them. This should be done at least annually. Again, your system won't have to work as hard, so it will probably last longer, and it will be more efficient saving YOU more green.

3. Check for leaks in your furnace system. Two years ago, we noticed our energy useage - and monthly bills - were going up and so I headed down to the dangerous netherworld under the house. What I found was that a number of the ducts were not fully connected and blowing lots of warm air UNDER my house - the first hint is when you open the entrance to go down there and it's warm (it's not supposed to be). It took courage, duct tape, some wire, nails, tools and two flashlights (always have a backup)and time but no I'm the hero because our bills this year are HALF what they were a year ago!! I also found a water leak and that could have become a problem, and set some mice traps down there too.

Okay, yes, this is all work, but if you are halfway handy, you'll end up making 2009 greener - both for the environment, and your wallet.

Happy GREEN 2009 from Green Human!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Licking political wounds, Nickels revises salt policy - Blogs like this make a difference!

According to a story in the Seattle Times among others, apparently Mayor Nickels has decided to reverse his policy regarding the use of road salt. And wow, right there in paragraph two, "Nickels - whose stormtime decision making has been criticized in newspapers, BLOGS and talk radio..."

My personal take on Mayor Nickels policies is that they seem to be as much monitarily motiviated (as in "green" is used as a position when it benefits the local government by earning it or saving it "green") as environmental, so this could stand as the exception to this pattern, motivated no doubt by the intense public outcry.

So that being said, now Green Human readers, let's make sure there is a discussion about HOW salt is used, and IF there are viable alternatives out there, that those be considered as well. In other words, let's consider the best way to do things, not just the cheapest.

GH suggested the use of Mag Chloride in our last post, but one reader comment derided it's use saying it is dangerous. I'm not a scientist, so I'll leave that discussion to others, but let's make sure we're salting in the most environmentally sensative ways.