Sustainability

Delivering a positive impact. Leading by example.

Recycling

  • We recycle — a lot.

    Postal employee recycling cardboard

    We recycle nearly 300,000 tons of wastepaper, cardboard, cans, plastics and other materials nationwide annually through our recycling and waste prevention programs.

  • We buy and use recycled materials.

    We purchase more than $200 million worth of products containing recycled content each year. Many of the containers in our mail system are made from recycled materials, and so are the stamped envelopes, post cards, stamp booklet covers and packaging materials we provide.

  • We provide recyclable products.

    The adhesives used in our stamps are biodegradable, and our Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express boxes and envelopes are fully recyclable. So they can go right in the recycling bin.

  • We reuse old materials.

    Through various continued successful partnerships, we’ve facilitated reuse or recovery of overstock and outdated electronic equipment, saving tons of potential landfill waste.

Our green footprint

We deliver to every address in the United States. This gives us a special responsibility to be good neighbors. We’re integrating sound environmental business practices into our day-to-day operations to deliver a greener tomorrow.

Greener facilities

We strive to enhance sustainability at our facilities across the country — for our employees working in them and for our customers conducting business at them. We continue to enhance standards and processes to design, construct and operate sustainable and efficient buildings that are cost effective.

Greener vehicles

Electric vehicle prototype

Throughout the history of our nation, the Postal Service has embraced new modes of transportation to provide prompt, reliable, universal mail delivery. From horse-drawn wagons and stage coaches, to trains, automobiles, planes and alternative fuel vehicles, we’ve been at the cutting edge of transportation.

Now, with one of the largest civilian government fleets in the world — more than 200,000 vehicles traveling more than a billion miles a year — we’re always looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of our fleet.

Managing our energy

Energy use is an important business concern. Sustainable energy management is crucial to our viability and mission. We spend more than a billion dollars every year on energy and fuel for our facilities and fleet. We’re also driven to cut energy use to reduce the greenhouse gases that result from burning fossil fuels like petroleum.

See: U.S. Postal Service National Energy Management Plan

Hydrogen fuel cells

Postal employee fuelling a machine inside a large facility

Improving safety and efficiency with emerging technology

Can hydrogen fuel cell technology work for the Postal Service?

A test currently under way will help answer that question. At a facility in Capital Heights, MD, we’re using hydrogen fuel cells to power forklifts, pallet jacks, tow motors and other equipment used to move mail and equipment.

Currently, USPS uses lead-acid battery systems in more than 23,000 powered industrial vehicles. Lead acid batteries can be costly to maintain and operate because of their limited run-time capabilities, long recharging cycles and limited life cycles when compared to hydrogen fuel cells. There also are environmental, health and safety risks, and lead-acid batteries are subject to federal reporting requirements through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hydrogen fuel cells could deliver operational, financial and environmental benefits. They have long maintenance intervals, short refueling times, reliable voltages and clean operations. We anticipate the technology will reduce operator, equipment and warehouse inefficiency and allow the Postal Service to recover a significant number of operational hours and save millions of dollars per year. Replacing lead-acid batteries with hydrogen fuel cells will also reduce health and safety risks to equipment operators by removing over 100 tons of on-site regulated waste and reducing operator exposure to sulfuric acid, as the only byproducts of hydrogen fuel cells are electricity, heat and water.

The data collected during our pilot test will be used to measure the benefits of hydrogen fuel cell technology in our operating environment and whether it’s feasible to deploy the technology in powered industry vehicles throughout our processing and distribution network.

Lean Green Teams

It takes teamwork

Leaner, greener, faster, smarter. It’s our sustainability call to action. Together, we’re working to reduce energy, conserve resources and make a difference in our workplaces and in the communities we serve — and call our hometowns.

Across the country, postal employees are participating in “Lean Green Teams.” There are more than 1400 of these groups at Post Offices, plants and other facilities. Team members help identify and implement low- and no-cost sustainable projects to help the Postal Service meet our goals of reducing energy, water, vehicle petroleum fuel, spending on consumables, and solid waste to landfills while generating revenue through recycling.

What kind of actions do green teams pursue? Here are some examples:

  • Promoting recycling programs
  • Installing solar panels to generate electricity
  • Protecting soil and groundwater from oil leaks
  • Reducing trash to landfills through recycling
  • Switching to LED lighting

And much more.

As an organization, the Postal Service buys sustainable materials and works to reduce the amount of supplies we purchase. We first developed a “buy green” policy about 20 years ago. We’re increasing the amount of environmentally preferable products we buy. Environmentally preferable products are bio-based, energy and water efficient, eco-labeled or contain recycled material.

In our shipping supplies, the Postal Service uses post-consumer recycled content materials diverted from the waste stream, which benefits the environment and helps customers go green when they mail their packages with the Postal Service.

The Postal Service is the first federal agency to publicly report its greenhouse gas emissions and receive third-party verification of the results.

Explore our Sustainability pages to find out more about how the Postal Service and its employees work to make a positive impact on the environment and the world we all share.

It’s a team effort. And we’re committed.

Measuring our success

We prepare an annual greenhouse gas inventory in compliance with several protocols:

Annual sustainability reporting

Why do we embrace sustainability? It’s the right thing to do. Sustainable practices benefit our organization, our customers and our nation.

Every year we report on what the Postal Service is doing to promote environmental stewardship in our strategic plans and policies. Review our Annual Sustainability Report