ForestEthics, a non-profit conservation group, points out that Americans receive 100 billion--that's billion--pieces of junk mail every year that cost the earth 100 million trees, while producing as much global warming emissions as 3.7 million cars.
Plus these catalogs are a damn nuisance. Every day I go from the mailbox to the recycling bin with as many as a dozen unwanted catalogs, some of them duplicates of ones that came in only a week before. These direct mail sellers obviously make enough profit to afford the cost of all this marketing, but of course those "costs" do not include the assault on the environment that the catalogs truly represent. (Nor do they include the full cost of paying the postal service to deliver them; instead of making them pay more,the postal service in the past year raised mailing costs of small magazines!)
So ForestEthics has started a campaign for creation of a national DoNotMail registry similar to the DoNotCall registry that has stopped most of the annoying calls from telemarketers.
You can get more information and add your name to their petition at one place on the web, but no doubt it will be tough to get legislation like this through Congress. In the meantime, you can opt out of receiving specific catalogs by registering with the Direct Marking Association. It's a laborious process that requires you to enter the name of each catalog you don't want, but the time spent should pay off in less time sorting the mail and fewer trips to the recycling bin. Another free service for opting out is Catalog Choice.
I've started collecting the covers of the catalogs I never want to see again, and will go through the process. Of course, the companies are not required to honor the request, but some folks report that if they follow up with a phone call, they can make even those companies stop.