USPS® Sustainability Efforts Promote Natural Resource Conservation in Honor of Earth Day
Postal Service™ Employees: Putting Our Stamp on a Greener Tomorrow®
The idea of Earth Day was inspired by Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator, in response to a 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He proposed April 22nd as a national day of environmental education and action. Rallies were held from coast to coast on college campuses and this expanded to a global movement. Today the Earth Day Network continues to promote natural resource conservation efforts worldwide through education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.
Like many events on our calendars, the date reminds of us of the importance of environmental responsibility. But there are people who implement green activiities all year long!
Here are a few stories of employees who are doing their part to promote natural resource conservation on and off the job.
Maine’s Islands of Excellence
Iselford, ME Postmaster Joy Sprague recycles at her island Post Office
Eight island Post Office™ facilities off Maine’s coast are role models for resource conservation. Operating with virtually zero waste, the offices embody a spirit of self-reliance and resilience that we can all learn from. Consider the Islesford Post Office on Little Cranberry Island. It recycles all of its paper, plastic, cans and bottles, and partners with community members to protect its pristine island ecosystem.
Postmaster Joy Sprague, who also serves local government as Selectman for the Poor, describes sustainability efforts on the island such as a book-sharing box installed by home-schooled children at the town dock and a “treasure” shed of re-usable goods at the local transfer station. Of course, the Post Office is also a lifeline for provision of medicine and routine supplies and is an outlet for the products of local artisans.
Iselford, ME children take part in protecting their home
Richard Hill creates baskets out of old lobster float ropes while others use sea glass, discarded sweaters and other recycled materials for their artistic creations. Composting garbage and seaweed for local gardens and home canning are also standard practices on the island. When you walk into the Islesford Post Office there’s a poster that reads “We Recycle.” And they mean it!
Iselford, ME resident and artisan Richard Hill creates baskets from upcycled ropes and ships using Priority Mail® service
Evergreen Goes Green
Mt. Hood, OR Plant Supervisor Adam Fox
When Adam Fox took a job as custodian at the Evergreen Delivery Carrier Unit in Hillsboro, OR, he also assumed the role of local Green Team Champion where he saw an opportunity for some planet-friendly improvements at his new location. Each week 12 yards of waste was being hauled to a landfill, costing the Postal Service more than $600 a month. Fox set about showcasing the difference that employees could make with recycling efforts.
Now carriers in Hillsboro recycle all shrink wrap as well as paper at their stations. Cardboard, plastic bottles and cans are also consolidated at locations around the facility. These efforts have resulted in a 60 percent reduction of solid waste going to landfills and trash costs have dropped by two thirds.
Based on his leadership and experience, Fox accepted a temporary assignment to a mail processing plant at the other end of the district to help establish a recycling hub under the National Recycling Operation utilizing backhauling. Backhauling is utilizing space on vehicles for recyclables during their return journey to the plant. In 2013, he received a Postmaster General Sustainability Excellence Award in recognition of his achievements.
Fox currently serves as a supervisor of maintenance operations in Portland, Oregon, and is looking forward to continue his recycling and sustainable efforts. Meanwhile, at his former facility in Evergreen, the recycling program that he initiated four years ago continues to make a difference — to the environment and the USPS™ bottom line.
Leo from Toledo Drives Postal Sustainability Home
Toledo, OH Motor Vehicle Operator Leo Brenot
In 2013, the Toledo Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) was in waste management limbo. It wasn’t able to participate in the Detroit recycling market because it didn’t separate waste materials at the source. Its recycling vendor was terminating service to the plant because of low volume and contamination between waste streams. Smaller Post Office facilities in the area did no recycling at all.
Enter the ad-hoc Lean Green Team Champion — Motor Vehicle Operator Leo Brenot. Working with managers, functional groups at the plant and unions, Brenot set his sights on creating a “zero waste” facility in Toledo. This started with systematic separation of paper, plastic and cardboard while establishing a backhaul program to transport recyclables from Post Office facilities in the service area to the Toledo plant.
This improved the quantity and quality of recyclable materials, enabling negotiation of new, more favorable contracts with vendors. Meanwhile, with expanded recycling, the cost of hauling waste to landfills plummeted.
Recycling is now part of the normal routine at the Toledo P&DC. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Brenot and his team of recycling entrepreneurs reached out to all Postal Service™ facilities in the district to empty their basements and storage rooms of “junk.” This reduced clutter, increased working space and produced a windfall of revenue thanks to local recyclers and collaborators in the Postal Asset Recovery program who assisted in sale of excess equipment, furniture and supplies. Over the past three years the team has been endorsed by major postal unions, honored with two Postmaster General Sustainability Excellence Awards, and recognized by both the governor of Ohio and the Environmental Protection Agency for their landmark work.
Meantime, Brenot, who started his recycling journey as a side job from his duties as truck driver at the Toledo P&DC, is still leading recycling efforts and is working toward his Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification. He’s also acting as area recycling coordinator for postal facilities in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Sustaining environmental activities
These shared stories just begin to reflect the full scale of USPS sustainability and show the heart that our employees put into protecting their environment. In 2016, Postal employees recycled over 255,000 tons of waste –– generating $10.8 million revenue and saving an estimated $13 million in landfill costs. Since 2009 we’ve reduced waste to landfills by 50 percent, reduced intensity of water consumption by 50 percent, reduced intensity of energy consumption in facilities by 4 percent, and dramatically cut back on purchasing of products that have negative impacts on our environment. This has everything to do with the voluntary leadership efforts of our employees and the hard choices they make in preserving the natural resources around them.
To learn more about USPS Sustainability efforts read the Annual Sustainability report by clicking here.
Featured image: Store, by Edith R. Wright, watercolor.