In Denmark, we’ve recently got new mailboxes. Well, the metal kind of boxes that sits on a pole by the house. New regulation has forced us all to move the mailbox to the garden gate, which makes it possible for the mailman to deliver the mail without having to pass locked gates or fight dogs. To me that sounds reasonable and I wonder why this rule has not been introduced ages ago. But something else makes me wonder too: What do we actually use our mailbox (the metal one by the gate) for?
The times where the kids happily found letters from grandma in the mailbox or important information regarding tax, payments or insurance is found in the mailbox, is over. Grandma is on Facebook, and the important information is given through the eBox securely over the Internet. So when I look in the mailbox by my gate, I see very little information that I really need. And if it was not for the badge, stating “No commercials, please” that I have fetched at the post office and registered over their website, I would see a lot of commercials – loads of them, actually.
Danish households receive a yearly amount of 55 kilos of paper commercials in the mailbox. That sums up to 112,000 tons of paper. When asked, only 40 percent of the consumers want the commercials in the mailbox, but today only 22 percent of the households have put the “No commercials, please” badge on the mailbox.
I am glad I’ve put the badge on my mailbox, because 55 kilos is approximately one kilo a week that I would then have to carry to the nearest public return station for paper. Furthermore I am certain that I would never find the time to read it all – even if it had my interest. I think that this is the case for many households.
Still there is a span from how many who wants the commercials when asked and how many, who have registered for a badge. If that is due to laziness or due to consumers wanting to look more environmentally friendly than they are in action is not up to me to judge.
Receiving commercials is a non-avoidable part of living today. Youngsters in western cities are actually exposed to several thousands of commercials every day – in the streets, in public trains and busses, on the internet and on the smart phone.
They are quite good at sorting among this information, but on the other hand also quite easily susceptible if something catches their interest. And maybe we should stop and think: Isn’t this over the edge? Is this what we want as citizens in a modern society? Is it optimal, when we want young people to contribute to developing a sustainable future that we fill up their minds 24/7/365 with things to buy – most of them, things they don’t need?
The solution is just around the corner in Denmark. The Danish Government is looking into the possibility of inverting the “No commercials, please” badge into a “Commercials, yes please” badge. This would help all the Danish consumers who don’t want their mailboxes to be drowned by paper commercials. The default will then be to not receive any commercials in the mailbox, and if you miss them, you may visit your local post office and pick up your badge for your mailbox. The pros for companies will be obvious: They will now only send their messages to consumers who are actually interested – much more purposeful. From an environmental point of view, it is also smart: The potential saving in paper has been estimated to 54,000 tons per year in Denmark alone. That equals 130,000 tons of CO2 plus a lot of other resources saved.
The elegance of this regulation is furthermore that it makes the green choice the easiest choice for the citizens.
I look forward to this potential regulation. It has now been illegal for many years to approach households for sale purposes at the doorstep, the telephone and by e-mail. Now I believe the time has come for the old fashioned mailbox at the gate.