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Wurzer tries to save school district from unwanted mail
Solon Middle School associate Diane Wurzer has been collecting unwanted mailings sent to staff throughout the district, contacting the companies and unsubscribing from their lists. (photo by Nora Heaton)

SOLON– The contents of Solon Community School District staff mailboxes should be a little slimmer next month– and that’s a good thing.
For the last few months, Solon Middle School associate Diane Wurzer has been collecting unwanted mailings sent to staff at Solon schools, contacting the companies sending these mailers, and unsubscribing from their lists.
It began when Solon Middle School secretary Mary Ann Jedlicka commented in conversation with Wurzer on the volume of magazines and mailers received over the years by school staff– including staff who no longer work for the school district, Jedlicka said.
“This has actually been happening for years,” she said. “It took time and money to print these. It’s a waste of paper.”
Wurzer responded with a solution: not only would she recycle the unwanted catalogs, but she’d also unsubscribe from the companies’ mailing lists to reduce future waste.
The secretaries at Solon schools know all about Wurzer’s environmentally-minded project, and save unwanted catalogs mailed to school staff. Over the past few months, Wurzer has gone from front office to front office every Friday to collect. She totes the catalogs home, gets on the computer, and unsubscribes. It only takes a minute or two to request removal from a company’s mailing list.
Of course, since Wurzer handles removal requests for all of Solon schools, totaling hundreds of catalogs, it takes her a more substantial block of time. Still, a few minutes every week is a small price to pay to save trees. Environmentalism has been a passion of hers since high school, a time when she remembers adults around her recycling only newspapers.
More than 9.8 billion catalogs were mailed across the nation in 2016, according to the Direct Marketing Association and the United States Postal Service (USPS). More than half of USPS’ mail volume is direct mail. And national reports have consistently shown that more than eight in 10 Americans report a distaste for “junk mail.”
Companies mailing the catalogs, of course, are bound to argue that the content they mail is not junk, but personalized and targeted advertising. And to be fair, some of the catalogs are relevant to the interests of local teachers. Wurzer has observed that catalogs featuring classroom supplies and teaching resources are more likely to be perused than others.
But along with those teacher-targeted catalogs, Wurzer’s stash of mailers includes a variety from companies all over the U.S. advertising cheerleading outfits, shipping and industrial materials, furniture, contracting– you name it. Many companies will mail the same catalog to every teacher or associate in the school whose name they find. Also, companies that sell addresses for bulk mailing lists ensure teachers receive advertising for similar products from competing companies.
Her work isn’t limited to mail. She also collects dried-up Crayola markers and sends them back to Crayola for recycling. That, too, is an easy process, she said, and Crayola pays for the shipping. She estimates she’s recycled over 3,000 markers in the past two and a half years. At the end of the school year, she “dumpster dives” through the hallways on locker clean-out day and collects supplies to donate to local daycare centers.
“Ever since high school, I just try to recycle everything I can,” she said.
If every organization or business in Solon unsubscribed from unwanted mail, the impact could be huge, she said. But if everyone unsubscribed from just one catalog per month, it would still make a difference.
Every little bit helps.