By Seymour I. "Spence" Toll
However unimpressive the amounts, I make contributions to a number of charities, and I am being flooded with mailed solicitations as a result. A major component of the flood consists of the countless return-address labels that so many charities now routinely include in their requests for contributions. Not incidentally, many of the labels I'm receiving come from charities I've never dealt with or even known to exist.
Against the improbability that some readers may not be familiar with these labels, here's a sketch: Stuck next to each other on sheets of, say, 10 or 20, they are imprinted with the addressee's name and address, often with decorative touches around the edges. When needed, they can be peeled from their backing and stuck to an envelope, card, or package.
Rather than using them, though, I have to trash most of the labels I get because I don't operate a mailing service. Nonetheless, those I save are making such a pile in my study that it's soon going to be difficult to open the door.
What began years ago as a slight drizzle is now an endless downpour, not only of labels, but also of other enclosures in charity mailings. The growing list of what I've received in recent months includes notepads, ballpoint pens, calendars, coins, junky religious jewelry, patriotic music CDs, blankets, window stickers, and Band-Aids.
As evidence of how desperate this is getting, consider one charity's recent request for a contribution. It was accompanied by a booklet that, among other things, included blank pages for note-taking and a calendar — for 2013, eight months ahead of time.
These labels are a modest but growing addition to our environmentally worrisome mass of solid waste materials. If we don't need them for mailings, I suggest we think about using them for something else.
You may fairly ask what other uses they could possibly have. Although they're not likely to be what the charitable organizations had in mind, consider the following alternatives for sparing address labels from the wastebasket before they've had a chance to have a purposeful life.
Create a long, narrow strip of any length by slightly overlapping the sticky end of one label with the non-sticky end of another. Then make an identical second strip and press their sticky backs together. The result can be a graphically unique, seemingly endless ribbon to adorn the place where you throw your next party.
Bicyclists can follow the same procedure and then attach the strips to their handlebars or themselves.
Many blank walls could use some decorative relief. Try brightening them with a mosaic of different address labels.
Instead of marking your kids' homework with unimaginative gold stars, you can personalize it with Mommy's or Daddy's address labels, delightfully stuck together into airplane shapes and "XXX" kisses.
Rather than risk fretting over the price and permanence of tattoos you may come to regret, address labels can serve as cost-free cosmetic stimulants whose useful lives will be much too brief for them to become boring or age-inappropriate.