Direct Mail Catalogs: Who’s Been Naughty and Who’s Been Nice?

naughtynicestamp.jpgTo help you green your holiday shopping, ForestEthics has published their 3rd Annual Catalog Environmental Scorecard which ranks the eco-sympathies of some of the companies you might be shopping with this season. Topping the “Nice” list this year are companies like Timberland and Crate & Barrel who are recognized as leaders thanks to their environmental practices around direct mail catalogs. Take Crate & Barrel for instance – they just announced a new paper policy that calls for recycled content, sustainable sourcing, Endangered Forest protection and reduced paper use. Another winner is Macy’s who has decided to stop printing their Bloomingdale’s catalog and take all their orders online. Very merry, indeed.
Every year, the precious forests of Canada’s Boreal, the U.S. Southeast and Indonesia are shrinking as 100 million trees are cut down to create the 100 billion pieces of unwanted junk mail and catalogs that make up 60% of all the mail we get. The junk mail industry also contributes as much greenhouse gas emissions every year as almost 10 million cars.
Founded in 2000, ForestEthics is a nonprofit environmental organization whose mission is to protect Endangered Forests and wild places through initiatives like the Do Not Mail campaign aimed at the direct mail industry. They are preparing to go to committee hearings with San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors about a resolution calling for a statewide California Do Not Mail Registry. The registry would allow citizens the choice to stop receiving junk mail, and would be the first of its kind. If this is a cause you believe in, make sure to visit to sign the petition. And read on to find out which companies have been naughty and which ones nice this year.

Naughty or Nice?
The scorecard ranked 21 companies according to four criteria: whether or not Endangered Forests are cut to produce the company’s catalogs; whether the company uses Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper; the amount of post-consumer recycled content in the company’s direct mailings; and the company’s efforts to reduce overall paper consumption.
Topping the Nice list
are Timberland, Patagonia, Crate & Barrel, Dell, Victoria’s Secret, REI, Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s, Williams-Sonoma, and L.L. Bean. Patagonia has the highest post-consumer recycled content in the catalog sector, and Timberland (like Macy’s) is phasing out their catalog.
ForestEthics spokesperson Ginger Cassady commented: “Bloomingdales and Crate & Barrel have joined the ranks of companies improving their environmental performance, and in doing so have helped raise the standards of the catalog industry. Public concern for the environment has never been stronger, and consumers expect brands they trust to meet new standards for environmental, social, and economic responsibility.”
Credit card solicitations alone account for 30% of all junk mail so it’s not surprising that the Naughty list is dominated by companies like Capital One, Chase Bank, Citi, and American Express. They are joined by retailers Sears, Neiman Marcus, and Eddie Bauer. Many of these companies got a Naughty rating because the “non information” available about their paper policy. What are they hiding?
So this shopping season, make sure to reward those companies who are taking a solid environmental stand about their paper use. And if you are sick of those credit card offers, you can usually find a customer service number on their solicitations that you can call to request removal from their mailing lists. I’ve tried it and it works, sometimes. And don’t forget to visit the ForestEthics website to add your name to the 75,000 people who have already signed their Do Not Mail petition. So make sure to consult the Environmental Scorecard before you shop. It’s the best way to avoid coal in your stocking this Christmas.

My professional experience over the past 20 years has taken me from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley in various marketing research, marketing, business development and sales roles. I now work as a freelance environmental writer and researcher while pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School.I'm especially interested in the use of technology to address the issues of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development.You can keep tabs on me at Triple Pundit and the NY Times Green Inc blog, email me at, or find me typing away at the various coffee shops around Palo Alto.