• on Apr 20th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 27 comments
    Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 this year, making now an appropriate time for a blog on the Postal Service’s green initiatives. The Postal Service’s environmental efforts fall into many areas including:
    • Packaging — The Postal Service is the nation’s only shipping company to achieve Cradle to Cradle certification for human and environmental health for its premium products’ packaging. The certification means that more than 15,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions are avoided annually.
    • Fuel use — The Postal Service has increased alternative fuel use by 41 percent since 2006, in part by using hybrid and ethanol vehicles and T-3 Motion electric vehicles. In some places, the Postal Service uses foot and even bicycle routes. The Postal Service plans to continue implementing green strategies to further reduce petroleum use by 20 percent over the next 5 years.
    • Facility energy use — The Postal Service has conducted energy audits and reduced energy use at its facilities. By law, it is required to achieve a 30 percent reduction in facility energy use from 2003 levels by 2015.
    • Recycling — The Postal Service annually recycles more than 1 million tons of paper, plastic, and other materials. It also offers recycling opportunities to customers including recycling bins for P.O. Box customers at post offices and a mail-in recycling program for e-waste (small electronics and printer cartridges).
    • Purchasing — The Postal Service has a Green Purchasing Team to bring environmental practices into its supply purchasing and contracting processes.
    • Building standards — The Postal Service’s new “green” lobby design incorporates low impact environmental materials such as linoleum and bamboo.

    The Postal Service has won numerous awards for their green initiatives. In fact, just this month, the Postal Service accepted the California Climate Action Registry’s (CCAR) Climate Action Champion award in recognition for its leadership role in engaging and shaping public response to climate change and for substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Yet there may be opportunities for the Postal Service to promote sustainability beyond these successes. In a commentary in the New York Times, Postal Regulatory Commissioner Ruth Goldway proposed the government provide money to convert the Postal Service’s fleet to electric vehicles. Not only would electric vehicles save gasoline, but they would also be more suited to the start-and-stop driving practiced by the Postal Service. In addition, the Postal Service could help jump start green vehicle technologies. To support this electronic fleet, post offices could be retrofitted with solar panels to generate electric power. Perhaps customers could even recharge their cars when they stopped to buy stamps.

    What do you think of converting the Postal Service’s fleet to electric vehicles? Would it be feasible to implement? Do you have other suggestions for green initiatives the Postal Service could pursue?

    This blog topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).

  • on Apr 13th, 2009 in Strategy & Public Policy | 12 comments
    The Postal Service spends approximately $13 billion each year with contractors, most of whom are also customers of the Postal Service. Meanwhile, the Postal Service has experienced the most significant mail decline in its history. Mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces in fiscal year (FY) 2008. The economic stress of current times is a major factor in this decline, and additional Postal Service revenue is lost when major businesses merge and combine their customer mail base.

    In March 2007, U.S. Postal Service officials developed Supply Management’s 3 Year Strategic Plan. One of the goals of the plan was to develop revenue generating opportunities. The plan mentioned that Supply Management should look further to identify additional opportunities to generate revenue. To meet its goal, Supply Management will focus on revenue generating opportunities that include partnering with Marketing and other business partners to identify revenue generating opportunities, increasing the use of volume rebates, and increasing licensing of its intellectual property (for example, cluster box unit delivery equipment). Royalty payments from various mail automation technology purchased through contracts will also increase revenue. The Postal Service is also considering advertising opportunities in its contracted transportation program.

    The Office of Inspector General has efforts underway to analyze Postal Service efforts to leverage its significant buying power to create revenue generating opportunities. We would like to solicit the knowledge and opinions of Postal Service employees and the mailing community. Our question is: How can the Postal Service best leverage its buying power to generate revenue and what opportunities may it currently be missing to do so?

  • on Apr 6th, 2009 in Mail Processing & Transportation | 14 comments

    Two families trade in their vehicles for more fuel-efficient ones. If both travel the same amount each year, which will save more fuel by making the change?

    • Family 1 decides to trade in their 4-wheel drive Jeep Patriot (25.5 avg. MPG) for a Civic Hybrid (42.5 avg. MPG).
    • Family 2 decides to trade in their 4-wheel drive Chevy Trailblazer (14 avg. MPG) for a 4-wheel drive Jeep Patriot (25.5 avg. MPG).

    Please vote before continuing if you don’t want to cheat.

    Did most of you think Family 1?

    Well . . . that is wrong by a long shot. In fact, Family 2 will save more than twice as much fuel as Family 1! The problem here, however, is not you – it is the poor metric of MPG (miles per gallon).

    If you don’t believe us, let’s do the math. Assume both families drive 10,000 miles per year.

    Family 1 goes from buying 392 gallons of gas per year (10,000 miles / 25.5 MPG) to buying 235 gallons of gas per year (10,000 miles / 42.5 MPG) — resulting in an annual fuel savings of 157 gallons.

    Family 2 goes from buying 714 gallons of gas per year (10,000 miles / 14 MPG) to buying 392 gallons of gas per year (10,000 miles / 25.5 MPG) — resulting in annual fuel savings of 322 gallons – or more than twice as many gallons as Family 1.

    What does this mean to the Postal Service? The best way the Postal Service (or any organization for that matter) can save fuel is to find the least efficient vehicles and replace them with modestly fuel efficient vehicles. Small changes can mean incredible savings. Use the math above to prove to yourself that raising a truck from 5 to 6 MPG will save more fuel than raising a car from 20 to 50 MPG! Also, prove to yourself that raising that truck from 5 to 10 MPG will save more than twice as much fuel as making a 20 MPG vehicle use no fuel whatsoever!!!

    Do you have any ideas about how the Postal Service can use fuel more efficiently?