Kings of Trash?

You might remember a few weeks back when we discussed the wastefulness of all those logo-branded merchandise mailings from the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS sends an incredible amount of calendars, notepads, keychains, tote bags, lunchboxes, and other assorted junk to prospective and current donors. And an awful lot of it winds up selling for pennies on eBay.

Put "HSUS" into the search engine at eBay, and you'll find a treasure trove of HSUS gizmos, doodads, and other assorted paraphernalia—such as an HSUS dog and cat fleece blanket (opening bid, $12.99), HSUS women’s fleece gloves (starting bid, $12.99), and a 2009 "Tennessee Member" HSUS keychain (yours for just 99 cents). We also saw sweaters, buttons, coffee mugs, calendars, greeting cards, umbrellas, t-shirts, and … well, the list goes on.

We've known for a long time that HSUS's factory fundraising operation runs at "campaign speed" constantly. But does the group really need its own “Happy Holidays” t-shirt? Or member pins? Or hand towels? Or Christmas tree ornaments?

How much does this junk cost?

Here’s a clue: HSUS’s fundraising costs exceeded $24 million in 2008, the most recent available year for its tax filings. That means more than 25 cents of every dollar HSUS collects goes right back out the door to raise more money. And it’s spent on stuff like blankets, plastic tote bags, and yes, "HSUS member" sports watches (opening bid, $15.99).

For a holier-than-thou organization that's fond of lecturing the rest of us about being earth- and animal-friendly, you’d think HSUS would be keeping a closer eye on its own eco-footprint—starting with the landfill space all of this debris takes up.