City Partners With Online Service to Reduce Unsolicited Mail

Photo: Unused phone books should be reduced by Catalog Choice's efforts.
Tony Zhou/Photo
Unused phone books should be reduced by Catalog Choice's efforts.

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In an attempt to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail that residents receive, the city of Berkeley has partnered with Catalog Choice - a free online service that helps consumers opt out of retail mailing lists - to help residents take control of the way their personal information is distributed.

The company, a nonprofit organization which was started up in Berkeley in 2006 and launched its website a year later, reviews the privacy policies for retailers, insurance companies and other organizations that solicit their services in order to identify the terms and conditions that will allow consumers to remove themselves from mailing lists. Under the program, which began this month, Berkeley residents select companies they no longer wish to receive advertisements from.

By helping customers opt out of distribution lists, Catalog Choice is reducing the costs associated with the transportation of recycled phone books, mailers and catalogs, said Chuck Teller, president and executive director for the company. The company currently has over one million customers and has helped to remove their information from about 4,000 companies' databases, according to Teller.

"Berkeley makes up 8 percent of the total number of members we have (nationwide)," Teller said. "If we work together, that number can go from 8 to 10 to 12 percent."

The reduction of solid waste in the form of catalogs and phone books will help the city reach the goals outlined in its Climate Action Plan - which aims to reduce the city's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 - according to a city press release. The city decreased waste disposal by 40 percent from 2000 to 2009.

"This service gives residents another tool for reducing their environmental footprint at home and at work," the release reads.

Diane Ives, adviser for the Kendeda Fund, which sponsors Catalog Choice, said the partnership with Berkeley serves as a model for other cities that want to find ways to reduce waste and will encourage them to join Catalog Choice, which she said has simplified the process of opting out of unwanted mailers.

"Berkeley is a logical choice because they already have a concept for diverting waste," Ives said.

Contact Theresa Adams at [email protected]

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