Cost-cutting measures will coincide with new goals to slash emissions, USPS says
The Postal Service has laid out new plans to cut its carbon footprint significantly by 2030.
The U.S. Postal Service is committing to significantly reduce its carbon emissions in the coming years, with leadership saying its ongoing efforts to strip costs out of its system would result in a greener footprint.
USPS will slash its own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, the mailing agency announced on Tuesday, and cut the indirect emissions resulting from its business by 20% over the same period. As the agency transforms its mail processing network through reforms implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, it plans to realize much of these reductions as it builds more efficiency and less transportation into its daily operations.
The Postal Service’s commitment to a more sustainable future follows DeJoy’s initial hesitance to electrify the agency’s vehicle fleet without additional funds from Congress, as the postmaster general repeatedly said his only priorities were to deliver the mail to every U.S. address while covering the organization’s costs.
USPS altered its initial plans after Congress provided $3 billion for the electrification efforts and DeJoy engaged in negotiations with the White House, and USPS now plans to ensure at least 62% of the more than 100,000 vehicles it aims to purchase over the coming years are battery powered.
In announcing the new sustainability goals, DeJoy reiterated mail delivery and cost controls remain his top two priorities. The agency has continued to lose money each year, however, and DeJoy noted he saw opportunity in his efforts to reverse that trend.
“We haven't been doing that,” DeJoy said of his cost coverage mandate. “And in the process of trying to do that, to the extent that we can align all of these initiatives with the reduction of carbon burning is important. It's an important aspect for us to take on and alignment happens because of cost reduction initiatives.”
USPS also committed to, by 2030, diverting 75% of its waste away from landfills, ensuring 74% of its packaging comes from recycled content, ensuring 88% of its package materials are recyclable and boosting its use of renewable energy to 10% of its consumption. The USPS Environmental Council, which was established last year and DeJoy chairs, will oversee the sustainability initiatives.
DeJoy will look to drive those changes as he seeks to remove $5 billion in costs out of postal operations. About half of that will come from reducing regional and local transportation as part of his plan to consolidate processing and sorting and fewer facilities, while also continuing to slash air transportation. The other half will stem from insourcing previously outsourced operations, such as trucking, and realizing efficiency through improved facilities, equipment and schedules.
DeJoy said USPS will accelerate its opening of sorting and delivery centers, which require letter carriers to go to a consolidated facility, rather than their local post office, to pick up mail for their route each day. The impacted post offices will still conduct their retail operations, but a lot of the back-end functions will be stripped away and relocated. USPS has so far opened 29 of the consolidated sorting centers and plans to open 400 in total, which will relocate sorting operations away from thousands of post offices.
USPS has, at times, faced bipartisan criticism, employee protests and stakeholder concerns over its proposed network changes. The Postal Regulatory Commission and postal inspector general are both engaged in probes on the changes, with postal management pushing back on the legitimacy of the former inquiry. DeJoy has said such efforts are slowing down necessary reforms and pose an existential threat to his agency, though he vowed to not let them alter his course or impact the related sustainability goals.
“I doubt everyone will be standing up and applauding for the changes that we're making in reducing transportation and closing and closing operations,” DeJoy said. “It's just another day in the work of the leadership team at the United States Postal Service to improve our operations and serve the American people.”
The postmaster general said his team worked closely with the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality and President Biden’s senior advisor for clean energy issues, John Podesta, in drafting the new goals, but stressed they did not have any undue influence on them.
“We're an independent agency free of political influence,” DeJoy said.
USPS also vowed to educate and engage its workforce to meet its emission reduction targets, which Peter Pastre, the Postal Service’s vice president for government relations and public policy, said would “generate organizational pride” around the issue. That will include on-site and online training related to new initiatives for 100% of relevant employees.
The Postal Service is planning to purchase 10,000 electric vehicles from Ford this year as it awaits its custom-made Next Generation Delivery Vehicles through a contract with Oshkosh. The firm will deliver 100 of the vehicles at the end of this year, 5,000 next year and the vast majority between 2026 and 2028. USPS has committed to ensuring at least 75% of the 60,000 vehicles it receives through that contract are electric, though DeJoy said the agency’s EV commitment “most likely will grow significantly” as it fine tunes the plan.
Last month, USPS rolled out its first charging stations at a new sorting and delivery station in Atlanta. The Postal Service has contracts with three companies to produce its first 14,000 EV chargers. While USPS is starting to make progress on some of its major initiatives, DeJoy said he is growing restless at the slow pace of getting new vehicles on the road and the rate of change in general.
“I am not satisfied with the speed of anything, especially when the changes that we need to make will drive significant costs and improve service to the American people,” DeJoy said. “There’s probably not one thing I'm not impatient with in this job, but we march on.”