By Barbara Kessler

It’s that time of year when the retail catalogs cascade out of the mailbox faster than seals on ice. So we were glad to hear about Catalog Choice, a new project by the Ecology Center
in Berkeley, Calif., that helps you stop unwanted catalogs and save trees, and still receive the catalogs you want to get.catalog-choice.jpg

We’ve tried stop mail services in the past but they have failed to put much of a dent in the accelerating pile of paper flowing into our house. Catalog Choice, a totally free service underwritten by foundations interested in stopping deforestation, sounds like it might have a firmer grip on this problem. Unlike some similar programs, it allows you to set up an account and select the specific catalogs you want to stop and those that you want to continue to receive. This precision approach seems to have a better chance of working. The service takes more time to set up – you have to click on each catalog you want to nix and confirm your decision on a webpage tool and to insure accuracy you can type in your customer codes from unwanted catalogs. But the account continues, so you can check back and retry if catalogs slip through the net.

We randomly checked the program against our current pile of catalogs threatening to slip off the end of the desk and found that about 75 percent of the ones we wanted to de-select were listed on the service, including such usual suspects from Harry & David, Smith+Noble, Coldwater Creek, Pottery Barn, First Street and Land’s End.

It should take six to eight weeks before you can expect to see (or rather not see) the results of your participation. After your paper purge, give yourself a pat on the back. According to Catalog Choice, which is endorsed by the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council, over 8 million tons of trees are consumed each year in the production of paper catalogs. Better yet, tell your neighbors.

(Catalog Choice is funded by the Overbrook Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, and the Kendeda Fund.)