This column by John Mott-Smith is republished from the Davis Enterprise.

The US Postal Service is making a commitment to sustainability with “Go Green” stamps and practices.

I confess: I still go to the library to look things up, have a land line in the house, and use snail mail to pay bills and (gasp) correspond with friends.

I have always thought that the U.S. Postal Service was one of the greatest deals ever. For pennies (OK, now it’s dimes) I can write a letter to a friend who lives across the country in New York, drop it into a mail box (not so many around as there used to be) and it will be picked up, taken to a post office, sorted and sent to a distribution center, put on a truck, airplane or both, and delivered in just a couple of days to my friend’s door.

I know; email is faster, but still.

Green Stamps
Anyway, as a user of the postal system I was really happy to find out that USPS is totally committed to sustainability. I found this out a year or so ago when I went to the post office to buy stamps and one of the options was a sheet of 16 “Go Green” stamps; with a message printed on the back of the sheet that reads: “Big environment. Big issues. Little you. If you feel there’s not much one person can do to make a positive impact on the environment just take a look at these ‘Go Green’ stamps. They illustrate simple things we each can do every day.”

It’s a perfect message for a column titled “Per Capita Davis.” The 16 small actions are: buy local produce; reuse bags; fix water leaks; share rides; turn off lights not in use; choose to walk; compost; let nature do the work (this one is about drying clothes on a clothes line); recycle more; ride a bike; plant trees; insulate the home; use public transportation; use efficient light bulbs; maintain tire pressure; adjust the thermostat; and, finally, an all-green stamp with the message “GO GREEN reduce our environmental footprint usa step by step.”

Curious, I explored the website a bit and found their interest in sustainability is not just about stamps. Their corporate mantra is “leaner, greener, smarter, faster.” They effectively have a Climate Action Plan with goals and reduction targets.

They have a chief sustainability officer and have been inventorying their greenhouse gas emissions since 2007 to measure progress on reaching those goals and targets. They annually produce a sustainability report. They have established 10 “key performance measures” that include some of the obvious ones such as “revenue,” “profit (loss)” and “mail volume,” but four of the 10 measure sustainability.

”Further, the level of carbon in the atmosphere won’t be reduced until its cost is incorporated into the everyday activities that contribute to it, such as using gas- or coal-generated electricity, driving a car, shipping a package, or flying around the globe.”

They track greenhouse gas emissions, with a goal of reducing by 20 percent below 2008 levels by 2020 (the 2011 report indicates they had reduced by 7.4 percent). They track energy use at their post offices and other facilities with a goal of reducing by 30 percent by 2015 (the 2011 report indicates they had reached nearly 26 percent).

It may seem like I’m making a big deal about the post office and its contributions to combatting the climate crisis, but consider: The post office has more than half a million employees, all of whom are a part of the “Go Green” culture of the organization. Moreover, they have nearly a quarter-million vehicles in their fleet. And, they have more than 30,000 buildings that have to be lighted, heated, cooled, etc.

I’m not sure if it is true of all the mail carriers, but whether there is sleet, snow, wind, rain, cold or heat, they are mostly walking as they do their jobs.

One last bit of news: The post office recently issued a new “Forever” stamp in a series called “Global: Sea Surface Temperatures.” The stamp depicts ocean temperatures and currents that are forecast to result from global warming. The stamp shows our planet, with the U.S. between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the North Pole and the Greenland ice sheet visible, with color gradients going from blue to orange to illustrate cold to hot. There’s a whole heck of a lot of orange.

Putting a Price on Carbon
Taking care of business: A recent Associated Press article indicated that “hundreds of corporations, insurance companies, and pension funds called on world leaders gathered for the recent U.N. summit on climate change to attack the problem by making it more costly for businesses and ordinary people to pollute.”

Quoting from the article: ”Further, the level of carbon in the atmosphere won’t be reduced until its cost is incorporated into the everyday activities that contribute to it, such as using gas- or coal-generated electricity, driving a car, shipping a package, or flying around the globe.”

According to the article, the World Bank claims that “73 countries and more than 1,000 companies expressed their support for a price on carbon.”

It’s worth mentioning that two organizations important in our area are among those speaking out. A spokesperson for CalPERS put it in a nutshell: “There’s a market failure that needs to be fixed” and CalSTRS indicated it is increasing its investments in clean energy to $9.5 billion from the current level of $1.4 billion.