The United States Postal Service is making big strides in the green movement. According to recent news releases, the organization has incorporated everything from customer recycling to green rooftops to emissions reporting to make sure their operations are at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

In a recent move, post offices at 115 national parks, memorials, and historical sites have incorporated customer recycling facilities. According to a press release, the Postal Service recycled more than 220,000 tons of materials in 2009, avoiding nearly 800,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Sustainability vice president Sam Pulcrano says the Postal Service has been a leader in environmental efforts for 100 years. He cites the use of the Winton electric automobile in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1899 as the beginning of the organization’s efficiency practices. The electric vehicle collected mail from 40 boxes in 90 minutes, chopping in half the time it took for horse-powered mail delivery. Electric vehicles are still used to deliver mail, including a fleet of 30 in use in New York City and 12 plug-in tricycles throughout California, Arizona, and Florida.

At headquarters, the Postal Service is making progress toward its energy savings target of reducing its energy use by 30 percent by 2015. One way to do this is through a green roof at the Morgan mail processing facility in New York City. The 109,000 square-foot roof (2.5 acres) is the largest in the city. The roof is predicted to last 50 years and has helped save the organization more than $1 million in energy expenses. In addition, the roof helps to reduce polluted water runoff. The roof incorporates 90% of the materials from the previous roof that were repurposed for the green space.

Pulcrano and his team work to create a “culture of conservation” among postal employees. The efforts have resulted in an energy use decrease of 21 percent compared to a 2003 baseline and over $400 million in energy cost savings--strong progress toward the energy savings goals.

Other projects the Postal Service has tackled include Cradle-to-Cradle certification for its packaging materials, meaning that every step of its production and eventual recycling considers materials, energy and water use. 

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