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Carbon Footprint of Mail

Life Cycle Inventory Analysis of the U.S. Mail

The U.S. Postal Service, Environmental Policy and Programs, made between 2006 and 2008 a life cycle inventory (LCI) model and analysis to examine the energy consumption, waste generation, and pollutant emissions associated with mail in the United States.

A Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) study tracks the emissions of pollutants along the entire life span of a product.

This LCI looked at the four major classes or 98% mail.
Seven important pollutants including CO2
Incorporated cutting trees to ultimate landfill disposal (or recycling) and everything in between.

This LCI objectively explored how mail really impacts the environment.

It deflated “Do Not Mail” arguments that are based on suspect environmental claims.

The results show that mail is neither a major contributor to environmental degradation in America nor does it consume major amounts of energy. Instead, this study reveals that the carbon footprint of mail for a typical family is the same as the use of their coffeemaker.

What is the Carbon Footprint? It is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). 

First Class
2.4 6.1 8.5
Periodicals 0.4 6.3 6.7
Standard 1.4 15.3 16.6
Package Services
0.7 0.7 1.4
Other Products and Services 3.0 * 3.0
Network 3.1 * 3.1
Total 10.9 28.4 39.3

National Level Perspective

Mail Industry
Mail Industry contributes $900 Million to the Us industry
Equals 9% of Gross Domestic Product (DGP)
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of mail were 0.6% of U.S. GHG emissions.

Postal Service
Postal Service had revenue of $72.7 Billion in 2006 – or 0.5% of GDP
Postal Service greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were 0.15% of U.S. GHG emissions.

Therefore, the study indicates that the mail industry – compared to other sectors like the power generation and heavy manufacturing industries -- is not a major contributor to the Nation’s CO2 emissions.

To understand whet they mean, let’s try to pout them in perspective.


Productive Level Perspective

 Activities of Daily Life Annual KG C02e
 Water Heater  5,000
 Clothes Dryer  3,400
 Dish Washer  1,800
 Dehumidifier  785
 Refrigerator  725
 Coffee Maker  236
 Mail (Average Household)  236


So the annual amount of CO2 in ALL the mail a household gets is not only small, but we should compare it to a number of other household products.

Not surprisingly, energy-intensive appliances like water heater, clothes dryers and dishwashers have the greatest CO2 impact for household activities.

The CO2 impact of mail is much lower. In fact, it is the same as a typical coffeemaker.


Household Perspective

Household Greenhouse Gas Emissions Sources

Milltion MT Percentage (%)
Electricity  7.4  39.3 %
Natural Gas  5.5  29.2 %
Gasoline  5.0  26.2 %
Solid Waste  0.9  4.8 %
Mail  0.1  1.0 %
Total  18.9  100 %


Here is another way of looking at the impact of mail.

Electricity, natural gas and the gasoline used to fuel our cars are the sources of 95 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions for a household. Emissions from solid waste makes up the remainder.

The impact of mail is equal to one percent of your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.