The Greening of the US Postal Service

Apr 2, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Going Green, Helping Hands, Margaret Mendel

by Margaret Mendel

Everyone seems to be “going green” these days. Even the United States Postal Services has taken major steps in reducing its carbon footprint. In 2009 the Postal Services voluntarily conducted an inventory of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that resulted in findings that prompted them to make changes in the way they do business.

Lean Green Team

As part of the USPS greening process employees in more that 80 postal facilities across the country have joined Lean Green Teams. The concept of the Lean Green Teams is to build on the Postal Service’s ongoing efforts to create a culture of conservation, develop environmental and socially responsible leadership and to reduce personal, as well as the Postal Service’s carbon footprint. These teams are ongoing and have come up with many ideas on how to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste.

How is the USPS Reducing its Carbon Footprint?

The USPS has the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the nation and over 43,000 of these vehicles are now alternative-fuel capable. These vehicles also use retread tires. Delivery routes have been streamlined to reduce driving time and fuel use. And since a third of all deliveries are made on foot, this is already quite energy efficient.

The USPS purchases more than $200 million worth of products each year and now the Postal Services policy is to only purchase merchandise that is certified recyclable. Postage stamps are printed with water-based ink, the adhesive is biodegradable making the stamps totally recyclable. The containers in the mail system are also made from recycled material. The stamped envelopes, post cards, the stamp booklet covers and packaging material are all made from recycled material. Priority Mail and Express Mail boxes and envelopes can go right into the recycling bin. Through various partnerships the USPS now reuses or recovers overstocked and outdated electronic equipment, saving tons of potential landfill waste.

The USPS has been able to reduce energy use, water and the amount of solid waste that the agency would have dumped into landfills. In 2010 the reduction in petroleum fuel use alone saved the agency more that $5 Million.

The Postal Service has set objectives and goals for 2015 to cut facility energy by 30%; cut water use by 10%; cut petroleum fuel use 20%; reduce landfill waste 50%; cut consumable spending 30%; and USPS is working to expand environmentally friendly business practices.

How Can Private Industry Help in Greening the USPS?

Businesses can help the Postal Services to be eco friendly by regularly updating and improving mailing lists, preventing needless duplications and waste. Another way to help is to use research to effectively target customers and to allow customers to opt out of mailings to insure that unwanted mail is not being delivered needlessly. Using recycled materials for mailings, printing with water-based inks, using uncoated paper stocks and sending windowless envelopes all help to further the USPS to promote ecologically sound postage. Printing on both sides of the paper saves resources and reduces mailing costs. Encourage customers to recycle the mailing once they’ve read it, and let customers know that the mailings they received are as green as possible.

How Can The Individual Participate In This Greening Endeavor?

Almost anything that can be done at the Post Office can be done online. For instance, you can print postage-paid shipping labels online with ‘Click-N-Ship’. Schedule a FREE package pick up and have it delivered by the mail person who already comes to your home six days a week. Purchase stamps and order shipping supplies on line and have them delivered with your mail.

Like clockwork we get our mail everyday of the week except for Sunday. And if the USPS is attempting to be more ecologically responsible why not give them a helping hand. Learn more about what the US Postal Services is doing about going green on their website.

Margaret Mendel was born in San Jose and has a Master’s degree in Counseling from the University of San Francisco & a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Currently residing in New York, she has had several short stories and articles published.

1 Comment

  1. For my part they could stop handling “junk mail”. And to me that includes everything that is mailed without my request and at a reduced rate. Eliminating random bulk mailings from the mail they carry would reduce all of their footprints by more than the things they currently have in place or plan to implement all put together.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.