US Postal Service Gears Up For a Busy Season

Yesterday and today were two of the busiest days of the year for the US Postal Service, which acts like a real-life Santa Claus to make sure that people receive their Christmas goodies in time. Recently, the US Postmaster General spoke at the Durban Climate Talks to make a business case for sustainability. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, the Postal Service will deliver 16.5 billion cards, letters and packages using 215,000 vehicles.

Apart from this, they also advocate walking as the greenest way of delivering mail. For the holiday season, nearly 9,000 carriers will be delivering mail on foot. They have nearly 80,000 ‘park and loop’ routes, where carriers will drive vehicles from the Post Office to neighborhoods and then make deliveries on foot. 

According to Thomas G. Day, the chief sustainability officer for the Postal Service, it is “one of the greenest mailing and shipping companies in the world.” The Postal Service offers more than half a billion eco-friendly mailing and shipping supplies, free package pickup and holiday cards printed on recycled paper. Priority and Express mail supplies are made with recycled material. Stamps, stamped envelopes and postal cards are made with post-consumer recycled content. The USPS has also won more than 75 environmental awards.

Apart from this, the USPS also recycles more than 222,000 tons of material, which generated $13 million in revenue and saved more than $9 million in landfill fees. USPS diverted approximately 56,000 tons of paper from landfills during the last holiday season. That added to a yearly total of 225,000 tons of paper, plastics, and other waste recycled in 2010. They also have sustainability goals and energy targets. For example, they want to reduce energy use by 30 percent and fuel use by 20 percent by 2015. During this time frame, they also aim to increase alternative fuel use by 10 percent each year and reduce 20 of their emissions by 2020.

A recent report from consultancy Oxford Strategic Consulting ranked the USPS as one of the world’s top five postal services. In spite of all this, last year the USPS posted a net loss of $8.5 billion and they do currently waste a lot of resources delivering junk mail. In 2010, the USPS delivered 57.2 pounds of junk mail per person. More than half of this was mass advertising sent out by various companies and service providers. This means that the USPS still delivers about 9.3 billion pounds of junk mail in the US, which is not only unsustainable but is also adding to costs to the company.

The sustainability initiatives of the USPS is impressive but perhaps for the next year they should focus on reducing the amount of junk mail that they deliver as well.

Image credit: Cokeeorg, Flickr Creative Commons

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also