May 7 2010 08:55 AM

Businesses looking to “green” their expedited shipping — and their bottom lines — need look no further than the United States Postal Service. 

Priority Mail service, the Postal Service’s 1- to 3-day expedited product, has introduced new cost-saving initiatives this year that are part of a concerted effort to “lower the carbon footprint” of packages, according to Expedited Shipping Vice President Gary Reblin.

“At the Postal Service, we have a comprehensive approach to sustainable business practices, from the way we sort mail, to the way we deliver it, to the green packaging we provide customers,” says Reblin. “Now, our new tier of Priority Mail pricing offers another approach to sustainability.”

This January, the U.S. Postal Service launched Cubic Pricing for businesses shipping more than 250,000 Priority Mail pieces a year. The pricing offers reduced rates for packages smaller than 0.5 cubic feet that weigh up to 20 pounds. 

Reblin explains why smaller packages are greener packages: “We’re encouraging space-efficient packaging so that more packages fit in transport vehicles. When customers are charged by weight, there’s little incentive to consider package size. When they’re rewarded for minimizing packaging, we gain transportation efficiencies that reduce our fuel consumption.”

And Cubic Pricing isn’t the only small-package incentive introduced this year. Customers who ship 100,000 Priority Mail pieces a year now qualify for half-pound pricing (for packages up to eight ounces) and the new Flat Rate padded envelope (9 ½ x 12 ½ inches) . Envelopes are more eco-friendly than boxes, says Reblin, because they’re more space efficient. 

All customers can save money with another addition to the Postal Service’s popular flat-rate lineup: the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box. The 8 5/8 x 5 3/8 x 1 5/8-inch box promotes eco-friendly shipping practices at the same time it controls cost. 
“Why use a big box, when a small box will work?” says Reblin. “Now customers with smaller items can have the convenience of our flat-rate program without using an oversized box.”

Shipping the box anywhere in the U.S. costs $4.90 retail — that’s $5.75 less than the next size larger box. Paying postage online or using an approved meter brings the price down to $4.70. Qualifying high-volume customers save even more.

Keeping packaging to a minimum also reduces the “carbon footprint” of shipping by reducing the amount of material that goes to landfills or gets recycled. The good news is that all Priority Mail and Express Mail packaging is recyclable and compostable. The Postal Service is the first mailing or shipping company to achieve Cradle to Cradle certification for its packaging. That certification means more than recycling. It means meeting higher environmental standards that consider design, energy and water use — as well as recycling.

Customers can get these eco-friendly packaging supplies and send out packages — without driving anywhere. Customers go online to The Postal Store at to order Priority Mail and Express Mail boxes in packs of 10 or 25, at no charge. And they can request free Package Pickup when shipping any Priority Mail or Express Mail parcels. Letter carriers coming to deliver mail pick up packages while they’re already at a location. 

“Customers who use our packaging can send environmentally friendly packages across the country or around the world,” says Reblin. “And in a time when companies are trying to find ways to say they are environmentally friendly, our packaging helps them send that message.”

Priority Mail Cubic Pricing, the Priority Mail Flat Rate padded envelope and the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box — good for the planet and good for the bottom line. Great things really do come in small packages.