How much junk mail do you receive in the mail everyday?
According to New American Dream, "More than 100 million trees' worth of bulk mail arrive in American mail boxes each year - that's the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months." Most of us, if we don't recycle our junk mail, we throw it away, but we never really think much more of it. Fortunately, there are people like Gretchen Fleener, an industrial designer, who have found ways to make good use of junk mail.
Who is Gretchen? Gretchen is from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is an innovative junk mail recycler. One day, fed up with continuously throwing junk mail away she was inspired by a credit card envelope that read "Do Not Discard" and she didn't. Instead she has taken junk mail and has turned it into treasures: purses, wallets, beads, bookmarks, hand made paper and even jewelry. But, before she puts her products for sale on her Junk Mail Gems website, she and her husband test the products out for themselves. Her husband has been testing a man's style tri-fold wallet for about the last six months and she has been testing a zippered coin purse for over a year. So far so good.
In an email reply to my questions, she wrote, "I am an industrial designer (product designer), and with that role comes some pretty big responsibility when it comes to environmental impact. Nobody wants to see their designs piling up in a landfill, but sadly enough, that's what happens to so many products these days. Part of that problem is that it's all too easy to ignore...it's the old "out of sight, out of mind" kind of thing. But you really need to think about the entire life cycle of a product...not just from concept to store shelf, but all the way through its use, abuse, decline, and ultimate disposal."
With this in mind, she does her best to be as green as possible. For example, not only does she make products out of junk mail, but the packaging material she uses to ship it out is shredded junk mail. The boxes or envelopes she ships her products in are reused boxes and envelopes. Her product tags and business cards are made out of junk mail too. Whatever pieces of junk mail are left over she turns them into hand made paper and so on. Gretchen believes there are many ways to be green in design and she's proving it by doing it.
To know more about Gretchen and her products visit her Junk Mail Gems website and don't be afraid to email her ideas. She loves suggestions and already has a list of suggestions she's received. What was my suggestion to her? I suggested a junk mail welcome mat and shoe rack, though; I like her place-mat and napkin rings idea more.
f you are not as creative as Gretchen, there are other ways you can also stop the junk mail hassle and help the environment at the same time. The Do-it-yourself website will provide various options for you to stop or at least reduce the amount of junk mail you recieve in your mailbox. If you are interested, you can also go to New American Dream and sign a petition to help free us from junk mail and larger landfills.
Happy Earth Day!
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