Earth Day: Greening the Mail, with the National Postal Museum

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Back in mid-March, prior to the National Postal Museum's two-part workshop on "Green Ways to Move the Mail" for teenagers (held on March 21 and April 4), I took on the issue of greening the postal service. Green mail seemed oxymoronic to me, considering the amount of transportation involved and sheer amounts of paper wasted in junk mail. But the postal service impressed me with some of the steps it has taken to become more environmentally conscious—expanding its alternative fuel fleet and advising companies to regularly update their mailing lists and people to recycle their mail. I also asked readers to write in with their ideas. One nabbed us, saying that we could cut down on mailing Smithsonian magazine membership offers. (We could all employ greener strategies.) And I excitedly awaited what the teens involved in the Postal Museum's workshop would bring to the table.

Charity, 14, of Stafford, Virginia, heard about the "Green Ways to Move the Mail" program through a home-school e-newsletter. She thought it would be interesting, having never been to the National Postal Museum or really thought much about the energy used to transport the mail.

What did you learn about what steps the postal service is taking to go green?

I learned about them trying to figure out how to use electric cars, how everyone can pitch in by combining trips to the post office and how they make things safer, more reliable and faster.

Did you and the other teens involved come up with any other ways to limit the negative impact moving the mail has on the environment?

Sort of. Some of them didn't work, but they were fun! One idea was carrier pigeons, another was to use dogs with bags around their necks and another was to use a giant kangaroo—you can put a lot of stuff in that pouch! Not very useful ideas, as you can see, but fun! A more practical idea was to use garbage to fuel the current postal vehicles.

Speaking with Charity reminded me that a little of this playful inventiveness is just what we need to fight climate change.

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