Junk mail – all those unwanted credit card solicitations, flyers, and requests for money – is a bother.

It is also an environmentally-destructive practice, particularly because it is done on such a large scale. It has been said that Americans receive 4 million tons of junk mail annually. That is a whole lot of trees. Not only that, but unwanted junk mail ends up as litter on streets, in oceans, and in landfills.

Where does all that junk mail come from? Well, you receive junk mail because someone, somewhere has obtained your name and address. That brings us to the first tip on stopping junk mail and its subsequent littering of the environment.

1. Be careful when sharing your contact information. When you check in to a hospital, apply for a credit card, or otherwise give your information to an organization that will put it into a database, make sure you request that your information not be shared. This holds true for other solicitations for your information, such as raffles, door prize registration, and product registration forms.

2. Be sure to recycle your junk mail. The reason it ends up as litter is because the recipients do not dispose of it properly.

3. Stop the flow of junk mail to your house or business. You can do this several ways. You can go online and search for websites that provide helpful links. There are websites that will guide you in stopping general junk mail, catalogues, free papers, and phone books. You can also contact the Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11736-9008.

4. If you move, contact your friends and colleagues individually. Avoid filling out an official change of address form at the post office.

5. Consider creative uses for your junk mail to keep it from becoming litter. Here are some ideas.

* Unwanted, colorful magazines or catalogues can be cut into strips and used to make decorative paper chains. You and your children can use these publications for cutting out shapes for collages or decoupage. Children also enjoy making up stories and pasting images cut from catalogues or flyers as illustrations.

* Shred junk mail and use it as mulch, cat litter, or animal bedding. It works well in chicken coops too.

* Use those inactive credit cards or expired gift cards to scrape ice from your car windows in the wintertime.

* Paste your own design or information onto those free, business card-sized magnets that come in some junk mail (or stuck to the front of your phone book).

* Junk CDs make good trivets or coasters for drinks and candles.

* Write lists on any junk mail that has a blank side.

These are all tips that will help keep junk mail out of the environment.

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