Thursday, May 19, 2011

Go Green stamps: Greenwashing at your local post office?

Yesterday I went to the post office and saw that USPS is offering now Go Green stamps, "showing what each of us can do to promote the health of our environment." The brochure on the stamps (printed on FSC-certified paper) also mentions it's part of USPS' "Go Green" commitment.

Sounds very nice, right? But wait a second, isn't that the same USPS that sends you every day loads of junk mail, wasting important resources like trees and water, contributing to pollution and global warming? Did you know that on average, we receive 16 pieces of junk mail a week, compared to only 1.5 personal letters? And that the majority of household waste consists of junk mail? (source:

Not only that the USPS don't have a problem with junk mail, but it actually helps junk mailers. The Wall Street Journal reported on January that "the U.S. Postal Service began easing rules on so-called "simplified addressing" for bulk mail. The move allows marketers to send letters, flyers and parcels to every home, business and post-office box on a city delivery route—known as saturation mail at the post office, and junk mail by consumers—without using exact names and addresses."

Why USPS does it? The WSJ article explains: "The changes come as many small businesses have abandoned traditional direct-mail advertising in favor of cheaper e-marketing and social-media strategies." This is bad news to the USPS, because according to PrintReady "the business-to-consumer channel is currently responsible for around 70% of its revenues and 80% of mail volume."

Now, USPS is in financial trouble. According to AP "the Postal Service is continuing to hemorrhage money, reporting a loss Tuesday of more than $2 billion over the first three months of the year and warning it could be forced to default on federal payments." So it might be understandable why they do whatever they can to promote companies to send you more mail, which of course also means more junk mail, although from a business perspective it also looks as a mistake, or at least as fighting a losing war.

USPS has of course the right to choose its own methods to try and avoid bankruptcy, but it certainly doesn't have the right to call itself committed to going green and certainly not to try showing others how to do it, when they do exactly the opposite. No matter how bad things are at USPS, this sort of greenwashing is unacceptable.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

photo: Go Green Stamps from USPS website