Green is Good

April 20, 2009 3:52 PM
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I recently read a newspaper article about the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) encouraging residents to “make easy environmentally-responsible changes in their habits, beginning with junk mail.”

Knowing how environmentally cognizant the Postal Service is, and then considering the millions of Americans who depend on the mailing industry for their livelihoods, “Do Not Mail” campaigns such as this can be dangerous to our economy — all in the name of another “get-green-quick” scheme.

Environmental Stewardship

The Postal Service has been honored with more than 70 major awards for its environmental programs including 39 White House Closing the Circle awards, the 2009 Climate Action Champion award for environmental stewardship and eight EPA “Partner of the Year” awards for recycling innovations.

Agencies and individuals condemning mail as an environmental problem might not understand that mail accounts for less than 2.4 percent of all waste in municipal landfills. That’s a very small amount. And, more than 35 percent of all mail is created from recycled paper. Every year USPS recycles 1 million tons of paper, plastic and other material.

The Postal Service created the “environMAIList” and “green white paper” with practical tips and solutions that marketers can adopt to create environmentally friendlier advertising mail. Mandatory Move Update, for example, directs mailers to update their address lists every 90 days for advertising mail which eliminates waste and duplications.

Post Office lobby recycling bins are also available in 5,900 Post Offices across the nation. The secure recycling bins are available for customers who wish to recycle any of their mail. A complete list of participating Post Offices with read, respond, recycle bins can be found at, using the word “mail” in the search engine. The list is sorted by ZIP Code.

Beyond recycling programs, clean-energy vehicles that run on electricity are currently being tested in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona, and fuel-cell vans have been used to deliver more than 1.2 million mailpieces and packages in Washington DC, and Irvine CA, doubling fuel economy over similar gasoline-powered engines.

The Postal Service is the only shipping or mailing company in the country to earn Cradle to Cradle certification, for human and environmental health, for its Express Mail and Priority Mail packages and envelopes. The certification means that more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions — climate change gases — are prevented annually and 17 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are prevented annually.

The Mailing Industry

Beyond the financial ramifications for the Postal Service, think about the $900 billion mailing industry employing 9 million Americans in businesses ranging from catalog sales to paper manufacturing and printing.

This industry is the conduit for roughly $1 trillion in commerce annually, representing nearly 7.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. It drives our nation’s economy. Take away the mail and millions of jobs would be at risk.

Mail is big business and it’s a crucial link for every part of our economy from finance to housing and retail. It’s also an indispensable part of our social systems — supporting charities, enabling our political processes, and advancing education and the dissemination of information. Whether we’re talking about an absentee ballot, a wedding invitation or a mortgage payment, the mail is important and there’s a lot riding on its success.  

Advertising mail enables a free market and businesses can target their products and services specifically to their customers’ needs, increasing the efficiency of their message.

Direct mail also allows start-up and small businesses to make an immediate impact. Every business has equal access to the consumer through the mail which promotes competition.

Just remember: Mail is recyclable. It’s only ‘junk’ if it ends up in a landfill.

For more information about the Postal Service, its environmental initiatives and how you can help, check the website at


© 2020 Marilyn Jones. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Marilyn Jones.

About the Author

Marilyn Jones has been a journalist for more than 30 years and is currently a freelance feature writer specializing in travel. Her articles have appeared in major newspapers including the BostonGlobe, Akron Beacon Journal and Chicago Sun-Times as well as regional travel magazines.

Visit her website at