Sprint’s Handy “Eco-Envelope” Saves More than Paper

It still boggles my mind that anyone voluntarily prefers getting a paper bill in the mail, but amazingly, many people do.  The reasons range from simple inertia to paranoia (the desire to have a file cabinet full of records).  In the case of Sprint, despite good efforts to promote paperless billing, close to 70% of customers still receive paper bills – amounting to a tremendous use of paper and labor.  Exact cost numbers are industry secrets but conversations I’ve had here at the Sustainable Brands conference suggest a cost of 50 cents or more per customer, per month.

To make the problem even stickier, past experience has shown that adding a fee to paper billing or simply cutting people off all together leads to sufficient negative backlash that it’s just not an option for a major telecom with millions of customers.  Thus, innovation that reduces cost and materials is the next best thing.

Enter the “2-in-1” ecoEnvelope….

Sprint’s new billing envelope, created with ecoEnvelopes, aims  to radically reduce both cost and paper while making life a little easier for those stubborn folks who still write checks.  Like a netflix envelope, a piece tears off the bottom, the bill comes out, then the top part becomes a new envelope to remit the payment.

The 2-in-1 may not solve all the world’s problems, but it’s a neat development that accomplishes 4 big things:

1) It makes life a lot easier for customers
Little things matter. Eliminating the fumbling around for the little envelope hidden inside the bigger envelope is a little gesture that people will notice.

2) It will save almost 450 tons of paper per year
It’s not called an ecoEnvelope for nothing.  Less paper means less waste.  Unfortunately it turns out that the envelope can’t currently be made from post consumer paper and byzantine security issues require that a plastic window be retained.  So it’s still a better solution that previous envelopes, but certainly not perfect.

3) It will save Sprint on the order of half a million dollars
It goes without saying that green should also make financial sense.

4) It gives the company a marketing opportunity for their other sustainability efforts
Sprint will be able to tout other positive efforts the company is doing by including messaging on the envelope.  Given a captive audience they might as well use it.

I had a chance to sit down with Keanon Swan whose team at Sprint managed the project to take a first hand look at get a deeper perspective.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

9 responses

  1. I agree with the above comment.  I am so annoyed with this confusing envelope that I am going to switch carriers as soon as my contract is up.  Sprint makes LOTS of profit – I’m sure they will not go broke putting return envelopes in the paper bills.

  2. I have tried this envelope 2 times now– The Damn thing won”T seal when I try to close it-
    So have to use scotch tape-To seal it—It won”t open right – half the envelope rips– It is a bunch of crap– Go back to real envelopes-A dissatisfied coustomer

  3. Thank you Sprint for making my life a lot easier with this stupid envelope. Wait.. it takes me 4 times as long to pay the f’n bill now.. but you saved 1/2 million in cash to thrust this piece of crap envelope down the throats of customers who don’t wish to pay online. I did notice the poor quality of glue to close it also. It simply will not seal. What a pile of trash. I do have a novel way to cure that issue however. I simply pump about 30 staples into it, thereby wasting one of your employee’s time removing them one by one. I mean.. insuring that my hard earned check doesn’t fall out. I hope your overly not helpful employee’s recognize this kind gesture of mine as the time saving effort that it is intended to be. Have a great day. :)

  4. This is a complete joke. This is not making things easier for mail customers. They are trying to force customers into online billing. I plan to switch carriers at the end of my contract.

  5. You have been thoroughly “green washed”. Sprint’s new “green” envelope is a joke. They print their bill on 6 pages, and then claim that they are trying to save tons of paper, waste, water, etc by having customers reuse the envelope. What they are really trying to do is make paying by mail such a pain that everyone uses on-line payment instead. Although on-line payment can be convenient, many businesses need the physical paper trail (it’s not “paranoia”, it’s a legal/tax/accounting issue) . If sprint was really interested in “going green”, they would print their bill on one page and go back to a real envelope for those that pay by mail.

  6. Fools, it is blatant ploy to force everyone to paying their bills online. Every attempt to handle this mess of paper and dotted lines is like an advanced test in spatial relations.

    I pay all my bills online except Sprint, just to spite them.

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