USPS Sustainability Report: Emissions Up 0.7% Despite Fall in Revenues
The US Postal Service’s carbon emissions rose 0.7 percent from 2010 to 2011, from 12.31 to 12.39 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The service’s revenues, net profits and mail volume all shrank over that time period, according to USPS’ 2011 sustainability report.
The rise came from a 2.2 percent increase in the Postal Service’s scope 3 emissions. In 2011, scope 3 GHGs accounted for 62 percent of emissions. USPS’s scope 1 and 2 emissions fell about 1.7 percent year-on-year and have fallen 11 percent since 2008.
USPS is aiming to reduce its scope 1,2 and 3 emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from a 2008 baseline. From 2008 to 2011 it has so far decreased its overall emissions by 7.4 percent or by almost 985,000 metric tons, the report said.
Facility energy use increased from 2010 to 2011 by 5.4 percent, from 23.8 trillion BTUs to 25.1 trillion BTUs. This represents a jump of 1.3 trillion BTUs. Since 2003 – the baseline year the Postal Service uses for energy consumption – the organization has reduced its total energy use by 8.6 percent and its energy intensity by 22.4 percent. USPS has a target of reducing both these metrics by 30 percent by 2015, using 2003 as a baseline. The report does not include yearly figures for energy intensity.
USPS has been investing in buildings with energy efficient technologies and now employs energy management systems. The organization’s report provides data on about 75 percent of USPS utility consumption. The Postal Service also carried out over 350 energy audits and installed over 1,000 “energy-impacting projects” in 2011. USPS expects these changes to result in annual savings of $22 million.
The amount of solid waste the Postal Service recycled in 2011 was 2.7 percent lower than in 2010. That metric dropped from 221,655 to 215,879 sort tons year-on-year. This represents 46 percent of the Postal Service’s solid waste. The organization is targeting recycling 50 percent of its waste by 2015.
To reduce costs and increase revenue, the USPS “backhauls” recyclables such as mixed paper from local Postal Offices during daily return trips to distribution centers, allowing facilities that aren’t geographically close to one another to participate in large-scale recycling. In 2011, more than 12,000 facilities participated in the backhaul program, recycling more than 215,000 tons of mixed paper, cardboard, plastic and scrap metal — and earning $24.4 million in recycling revenue.
Last year, USPS service centers recycled over 5,000 tons of mail transport equipment that could not be repaired or reused, resulting in $1.7 million in recycling revenue.
The Postal Service operates the largest civilian fleet in the United States. This vast delivery infrastructure means that vehicle emissions are a primary contributor of the service’s greenhouse gas emissions. From 2010 to 2011 the amount of fleet fuel used by the Postal Service rose 2.4 percent, from 700.9 to 718.0 million gallons of gasoline equivalent, due mainly to an increase in new delivery points.
The company uses a web tool called WebCOR to optimize its delivery routes. The software provides computer modeling to configure carrier delivery routes, to determine safe and more efficient lines of travel. In 2011 the USPS eliminated more than 6,800 delivery routes, while at the same time increasing its number of delivery points by over 735,000. This reduction in routes allowed the Postal Service to reduce its fleet by 1,700 vehicles in 2011.
Currently the Postal Service uses nearly 41,000 alternative fuel-capable delivery vehicles, including compressed natural gas, ethanol, propane, bio-diesel, hybrid and electric three-wheeled vehicles. Between 2005 and 2011, USPS increased its use of alternative fuels 128 percent. It now has more than 8,000 “fleet of feet” walking routes, more than 60 bicycle routes and nearly 75,000 “park and loop” routes, where carriers deliver mail on foot after driving to neighborhoods, the report says.
The Post Office used the Global Reporting Initiative’s G3 guidelines in the report. GRI assessed the reporting level at a “B” level.
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