greendimes: More Trees, Less Junk Mail


Junk mail isn't just annoying; it's also an environmental scourge. While the numbers vary from source to source, millions of trees are cut down each year to produce the ads and non-profit solicitations that likely end up in the recycle bin, or, more often, the trash can. That junk also consumes a lot of water: 25-28 million gallons. If you've ever tried to get yourself off of mailing lists, you know it's a Herculean chore -- you must send out letters to numerous mailing list companies requesting removal of your name and address. And then, if you even buy a product from a catalog or online, donate to a charity, or even change your address, the cycle starts over again.

On Monday, Joel Makower pointed us to a new company that not only wants to eliminate the junk in your mailbox permanently, but also to repair some of the ecological damage. For $3 a month, greendimes promises to regularly request that your name be removed from mailing lists, and to plant a tree in your name each month. Joel, who sits on greendimes' advisory board, notes that the company's founder, Pankaj Shah, believes he's found the perfect middle ground between business as usual and charitable work. According to Shah,

"I think we've found this really cool spot where we're providing a service to consumers to rid them of a nuisance that they can't stand," he told [Joel] recently. "We're helping the environment and building a valuable business." Shah seems fascinated with finding the sweet spot between business and social good. "There are a lot of ways I could have structured this. It could have been a nonprofit, for example, or I could have donated a lot of money to some treehuggers. But business is what I understand. I think we can run faster and do more if it's run as a business."
While speed is one part of Shah's plan, size is another: he's looking to attract millions of Americans tired of sifting through all of that junk to his service. Since $3 won't cover the cost of postage for mailing out letters yourself, much less pay for a tree to plant, we're guessing greendimes' dime-a-day offer will find lots of takers. ::greendimes via Two Steps Forward