Environmental Impact

We promote a culture of conservation throughout the organization. We have a rich history of setting goals to reduce our impact on the environment, and we lead by example.

Sustainability Performance — The Postal Service is committed to reporting the results of our sustainability efforts every year. Our targets are in conjunction with those established through executive order in terms of reductions and base years for comparison. In FY2014, we achieved the following:

The first four results met or exceeded our targets. Diversion from landfill to recycling was below target. We’re implementing a standardized National Recycling Operation which, when completed, is expected to drive diversion from landfill to recycling to over 90 percent. The continued increase in fuel use is due to the growing number of delivery points, more postal-owned vehicles on rural routes and an aging fleet of delivery vehicles that is scheduled to be replaced.

We have a rich history of setting goals to reduce our impact on the environment. Our current sustainability goals, which were formulated in the early 2000s, are an example of that history.

As a sustainability leader, we report three separate greenhouse gas inventories. The first is with our federal peers through Executive Order 13693: Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade. The second is with our industry peers at the International Post Corporation, and lastly, with our business peers at The Climate Registry. In addition, we also report progress to the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan and the Office of Management and Budget Scorecard. Each of these efforts furthers our transparency.

In the coming year, we’ll examine our successes and identify areas of opportunity to formulate new goals for the next decade. Additionally, to better align our organization to our federal peers, we’re adjusting our goals this year to reflect a new time frame. This approach is in line with Executive Order 13693. While the Postal Service is not obligated to comply with this executive order, we’ve determined that sustainability is a best business practice.

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation — Executive Order 13693, which was released in March 2015, asks each agency to consider climate impacts in operational preparedness planning by calculating the potential cost and risk to the mission associated with agency operations, facilities, transportation, communication and energy demands.

By addressing the impact of climate change on the Postal Service, we’ll better position the organization to manage emerging mission risks and ensure ongoing effective operations. We’ll continue to incorporate climate change into strategies, plans, business processes and programs.

Subject matter experts from throughout the Postal Service met monthly in 2015 to move planned actions forward, identify additional risks and create a strategy to address the risks. Additionally, team members pledged to take actions in their personal lives to reduce their impact to the Earth, such as upgrading home light bulbs to energy efficient LEDs, purchasing and using a programmable thermostat, and eating a plant-based meal an additional time per week. Moving forward, the team will continue to identify actions that can be taken to address the challenge of making the Postal Service climate resilient.

Read our plan at: http:⁄⁄about.usps.com⁄what-we-are-doing⁄green⁄climatechange.htm.

Annual Sustainability Report — Every year, the Postal Service releases an Annual Sustainability Report that reflects on the prior year’s performance and highlights key initiatives that promote a culture of conservation throughout the organization. The 2014 Annual Sustainability Report was released in April 2015. It featured new infographics to improve readers’ understanding of the USPS sustainability story. It also included an interview with the Postmaster General and Chief Sustainability Officer, touching on topics ranging from sustainability and the Postal Service’s mission to the importance of preparing for a changing climate.

The Annual Sustainability Report follows the Global Reporting Initiative framework to offer consistency and transparency. This is one of the most widely recognized reporting standards for public sustainability performance disclosure.

Read the Annual Sustainability Report at: http:⁄⁄about.usps.com⁄what-we-are-doing⁄green⁄report⁄2014⁄.

Environmental Compliance — Continuous improvement drives our management systems approach to environmental compliance. Environmental compliance reviews (ECRs) are the foundation of our compliance programs and the mechanism to implement several national strategies. ECRs are conducted at approximately 700 of our high-environmental-risk facilities (sites with mail processing, vehicle maintenance, regulated underground storage tanks [USTs] and other significant permits⁄plans) on a three-year cycle. Each year we conduct approximately 200 ECRs. Beyond assessing compliance, ECRs also provide “hands on” training and assistance to facilities in data management, record keeping and other vital functions, and also assist in disseminating policies, guidance and tools, and collecting records and data for corporate systems.

Standardized guidance, training and record keeping are now part of our electronic management systems approach to maintain compliance. Additionally, a centralized data management system provides easy access to key environmental data indicators. This year, we continued to expand our inventory of program guidance and implementation tools on our compliance website.

In FY2015, the Postal Service’s environmental and supply management functions issued a joint policy prohibiting the procurement and use of products containing 13 targeted chemicals. The policy supports USPS pollution prevention goals to minimize the use of hazardous chemicals and reduce the generation of hazardous waste. Additionally, employees are encouraged to purchase environmentally preferred products, which are specifically identified in USPS product catalogs with a green leaf icon.

In FY2015, the Postal Service continued implementing a new UST strategy focused on providing USPS with a modern tank infrastructure that reduces environmental risk, improves emergency fueling planning, and maintains associated bulk fuel cost savings. In addition to strategically removing and replacing USTs, the program establishes a centralized national monitoring system and provides on-site compliance support.

USPS BlueEarth Federal Recycling Program (for Printer Cartridges and Electronic Waste) — With the knowledge gained from our own sustainability efforts, the Postal Service is committed to assisting our customers in achieving their own green objectives.

The USPS BlueEarth Federal Recycling Program is part of a branded suite of sustainability solutions and innovations designed for our federal customers. The program provides government agencies and their employees with the ability to securely and efficiently recycle electronic devices and printer cartridges free of charge on a national level. Recycling programs help prevent e-waste from going to landfills, which can be dangerous to both the environment and human health.

Twenty-three federal agencies are currently enrolled, including the Postal Service. Federal agencies receive a recycling activity report with data to assist them in meeting Executive Order 13693 sustainability requirements. Additionally, this effort has been recognized as an example of “federal government leading by example” under the National Strategy for Electronic Stewardship.

All federal agencies can enroll in the USPS BlueEarth Federal Recycling Program to recycle electronic devices using the Postal Service network. This program makes it simple for federal agencies and their employees to properly dispose of items such as printer cartridges and obsolete small electronics. All items are shipped to a certified third-party recycling facility, which ensures they are either securely recycled or re-manufactured for resale opportunities.

Besides providing a simple, secure and cost-effectively way to recycle e-waste, the USPS BlueEarth Federal Recycling Program also increases mail volume and postage revenue. For information about the program for federal agencies, visit http:⁄⁄blueearth.usps.gov⁄.

National Recycling Program — As previously stated, the Postal Service diverted only 38 percent of its waste from landfills to recycling. We strongly believe we can significantly increase this percentage and do so in a financially beneficial way. The Postal Service generates a large amount of recyclable material, the majority of which is mixed paper. We continue to incur disposal costs to handle much of this material, which would better be turned into revenue through recycling. Just like many other organizations in the transportation, shipping and service sectors in the U.S. economy, the Postal Service is increasingly looking to leverage its existing reverse logistics capabilities into business opportunities. For the Postal Service, with its extensive nationwide transportation network, the opportunity is significant.

In FY2014, USPS launched a five-year National Recycling Operation capital equipment investment initiative that will expand its backhaul recycling to every part of the country. Backhauling is using the space available in trucks and mail transportation equipment to carry recyclables from Post Offices to large distribution centers and hubs on the return trip from transporting mail to Post Offices. The materials are consolidated for recycling at those hub locations, and thus no additional transportation is required for handling recyclables. To date capital equipment has been deployed into 15 districts and 35 USPS facilities.

USPS BlueEarth Secure Destruction Mail Service Program — The USPS BlueEarth Secure Destruction Mail Service Program is another key branded and innovative sustainability solution, launched nationwide in FY2015. Designed specifically for business mailers using the Intelligent Mail barcode, the program securely shreds and recycles letter-size pieces of undeliverable-as-addressed First-Class Mail with personal protected information that would otherwise be returned to the sender. Secure Destruction is an opt-in service that operates under the protection and supervision of the Postal Service.

Mailers enrolled in the program receive a daily electronic notice of the mailpieces sorted for Secure Destruction. These e-notifications are provided to registered mailers through the USPS Electronic Product Fulfillment customer portal website.

Mailing industry benefits of Secure Destruction:

Benefits for registered mailers:

The Postal Service surpassed its FY2015 goal of intercepting and destroying over 21.7 million pieces of RTS First-Class letter mail as result of implementing the program. The target goal for FY2016 is 41.6 million pieces or 5 percent of all automated pre-sort RTS mail.

FY2015 performance:



FY2015 Actual

FY2015 Variance

FY2015 Target

Mail Volume (pieces)




Potential GHG
Reduced (metric tons CO2 equiv)




Paper Recycled (metric tons)




Capture Rate