The Greening of the Holiday Catalog
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
It's too early to tally receipts from today's shopping blitz, but analysts say they expect to see the weakest growth in five years. To boost sales, businesses can always look forward to this Monday, which has become known as cyber Monday, the beginning of the Internet holiday shopping season.
It's also peak time for holiday catalogs, and these days, at my house and maybe at yours, too, when the mail gets dropped through the slot, it seems like the house shakes.
Well, if you feel overloaded with catalogs, a new online service can help out. It's called Catalog Choice, and it lets you opt out of the catalogs you don't want to get.
David Mizejewski is with the National Wildlife Federation, which is one of the environmental groups behind Catalog Choice.
DAVID MIZEJEWSKI: I have to tell you, I was pretty shocked to learn the numbers involved here. There's 19 billion catalogs that are mailed in the U.S. every year - as billion with a B. It's about 53 million trees that are needed to be cut down every year just to make the paper just for catalogs.
Obviously, that forest land, its great wildlife habitat, that's one of the reasons why National Wildlife Federation, my organization, is involved. The other two partners are National Resources Defense Council and the Ecology Center.
BLOCK: So that's where you guys all came into the picture. I am on your Web site, catalogchoice.org and I, earlier today, set up an account with you, which is free. And the way this works - I'm going to click through here in the catalogs under letter A. And if I click on, say, anthropology, which has a lovely catalog, but, say, I don't want it, I could click on that - which I've just done - and said I do not want to get this catalog, and I've now declined that catalog, and you can go through an ad as many as you want.
MIZEJEWSKI: Exactly. And if you have a catalog that you've been mailed, there's a customer number that's found right next to your address. And one of the beauties of Catalog Choice, the Web site, is that you can enter in various iterations of your address. So, in other words, a lot of times, they'll write your full name, but sometimes you'll get something mailed to you at your first initial and your last name, or maybe something's coming in your spouse or partner's name to your address. Or, maybe, it's even people that no longer live at your address. And that's a case with me. I've been able to use the site and opt out of those catalogs that are being mailed to my house, my address, even under different people's names.
BLOCK: Let's say I opt out of catalogs through catalogchoice.org and it stops coming, but then that company gets my name from another mailing list and lo and behold, I'm getting their catalog again, is there anything permanent about this?
MIZEJEWSKI: Well, there is that possibility that that will happen. Again, the site has not been up long enough for us to actually test that in the real world. But if those instances do happen, there's a mechanism set up on the site to - where you can go in and report that, and we will definitely be following up with the catalog companies in making sure that your name is permanently marked not to receive that catalogue.
BLOCK: Are there any merchants who were upset about this?
MIZEJEWSKI: There hasn't really been a major backlash. They're spending around 80 cents per catalog that goes out. And for every person that gets it that is never going to order for them, that's basically money out the window.
In fact, we've had some major catalog retailers sign up, like LOB and Land's End, and Gardener's Supply have actively engaged with us by creating merchant accounts. And I think that's a great sign. You know, they're saying, you know, we were committed to helping green our industry while keeping it viable, but, you know, eliminating some of the waste involved so that it's a little bit more efficient and the industry can feel good about kind of eliminating some of their contribution to deforestation and to global warming.
BLOCK: David Mizejewski with the National Wildlife Federation, that's one of the environmental groups behind catalogchoice.org. David, thanks very much.
MIZEJEWSKI: Thank you, Melissa.
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