The holidays will soon be upon us, and already the pitches for non-profit donations are on their way, so expect to receive a lot of “free” stuff in the mail.

Within the past two weeks, free items in my mail included one memo pad, one pack of tissues, return address labels from two different charities, one 2024 calendar featuring adorable dogs and puppies, and one set of six birthday cards with assorted designs.  I even received a solicitation that included a one-dollar bill. 

Most of these gifts are from charities that I have never donated to, but have similar missions to charities and non-profits to which I do donate.  Clearly, my interests and personal information are not only shared but fairly transparent.

According to the USPS, only two types of unsolicited materials can be sent through the mail:   free samples which are clearly and conspicuously marked as such, or merchandise mailed by a charitable organization that is soliciting contributions. The Postal Service also notes that “if a company sends you a gift in the mail, but you did not request it, the item is yours, and you are under no obligation to pay anything (regardless of the mail class).” The thing is, though, 90% or more of these unsolicited giveaways are not useful to me.  So, what does one do with these unsolicited gifts? 

It seems wasteful to put note cards, calendars and other paper products out with the recycling, but often that is what I do.  So once again, I turned to some friends for advice and better solutions.

One friend organizes all the cards in a box or file, and then uses them.  This strategy is admirable, because it reduces waste and puts materials to good use. 

Another long-time friend, an award-winning watercolor artist, takes a creative approach, using some of these materials to personalize and illustrate her own planners and calendars.  Before such crafts became popularized and commercialized, she created beautifully designed personal organizers to keep track of the events and obligations of her large growing family. 

A different idea is from another artist friend who suggested that I save these materials and volunteer in a senior center and help lonely seniors create works of art.  Arts and crafts are to be admired, but unfortunately, artistic creativity is not in my skills set.

An online search turned up a local San Francisco Bay Area organization called SCRAP, an organization that provides teachers and artists with reusable supplies.   According to their website, “SCRAP is a non-profit creative reuse center and arts education nonprofit founded in 1976.   SCRAP breathes new life into old arts and crafts supplies and reduces waste by diverting over 200 tons of materials heading to landfill every year.”

This is looking like one good solution to reduce waste and make use of these unsolicited gifts, but not everyone has a SCRAP.  Please share your solution to reducing waste and making use of free stuff in the mail!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. We have donated to SCRAP mostly for educational purposes. Anne Marie Theilen, the mother of my friend, Catherine, was one of the founding members of SCRAP, which included Ruth Asawa. That amazing group of teacher/artists back in the day put forth a lot of time and energy to establish SCRAP, a wonderful jewel and resource in our City.


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