12/8/09 1:20 PMFor-Profit Crusade Against Junk Mail - New York TimesPage 2 of 4http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/06/business/smallbusiness/06sbiz.html?ref=smallbusiness
According to the WildWest Institute, an estimated 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce 4.5 million tons of junk mail, with 44 percent of that thrown away unopened.GreenDimes keeps a crawl running on its home page, www.greendimes.com, showingthat more than 310,590 trees have been preserved, more than 4 million gallons of watersaved and nearly 1.6 million pounds of junk mail stopped by its efforts.Mr. Shah, 34, decided to “chase lifestyle dollars instead of charity dollars” when heopened a parent company named Tonic in August 2006 using wealth he had acquired inthe technology industry. He kicked off GreenDimes as Tonic’s first endeavor with only himself as a client when he found a stunning amount of junk inside his mailbox.Today, GreenDimes has 16 employees who manage accounts for 50,000 members. Many of them signed up after the actor Matt Damon, who sits on the board, promoted the siteon “TheEllen DeGeneresShow” and “TheOprah Winfrey Show.”
In August, the company retooled the Web site to attract a hipper audience by includingmore content on environmental matters in a section called W.T.F.? (It stands for Wantthe Facts?) The company expanded its charity choices beyond just environmentalmatters and has started a petition to create a national do-not-mail list similar to the do-not-call list created by an act of Congress in 2003. The Federal Trade Commission, which administers the list, reports that 148,471,508 phone numbers were signed up as of Aug. 31. As many as 300,000 are added weekly, the commission says.Mr. Shah hopes to get enough signatures through word of mouth to take his petition toCongress. But staff members of the Senate Commerce Committee point out that junk mail was left out of the 2003 provision because it was considered less intrusive thanphone calls or unwanted faxes. They further expressed doubt that a do-not-mail list would be created or would be upheld by the courts.But hurdles have not stopped Mr. Shah from, as he calls it, “stepping on the gas,” tomake GreenDimes more accessible and more competitive. The company — the name was based on the annual $36 fee, which amounts to a dime a day to stop junk mail —recently dropped its fee to $15 with a $5 rebate for referrals.The price decrease was in part a response to other small businesses also promising tostem the tide of waste while contributing to environmental causes.Last summer, three brothers in Ferndale, Mich., started 41 Pounds ( www.41pounds.org),named for the number of pounds of junk mail the average adult receives every year. Sofar, 5,000 people have paid $41 for a five-year membership. The company, whichrecently became a nonprofit organization, donates $15 of that to environmentalorganizations.The Web site,Stopthejunkmail.com, has 6,000 members and is run by a married couplein Boulder, Colo. It is the only company to provide the service to small businesses. Feesrange from $19.95 for an individual up to $90 for a business with 25 employees. Forevery sign-up, Stopthejunkmail.com donates $1 to American Forests, a nonprofitconservation organization.It is also possible to combat junk mail free. Web sites like www.ecocycle.organd www.obviously.com/junkmailwill walk you through the necessary steps on how to deal with list brokers and other direct marketing firms that are not part of the DirectMarketing Association.
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