WASHINGTON - The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recently discovered its direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions amount to 5.3 million tons, just one-twentieth of total U.S. emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is roughly the equivalent of 1 million gasoline cars driving an average of 12,000 miles on the road each year.

Although the agency is exempt from the recent Executive Order establishing energy guidelines, USPS voluntarily determined its greenhouse gas emissions, making it the only federal agency to publicly report them, according to the agency. The study builds on the Postal Service's long history of environmental stewardship, beginning with the purchase of its first electric vehicle for mail delivery - in 1899.

The greenhouse gas report studied emissions from Postal Service facility and vehicle operations in 50 states and five U.S. territories. The Postal Service also went above the standard requirements for reporting GHG emissions to include emissions from contract air, highway, rail, and ship transportation. Because of the size of the Postal Service and the time it takes to do a thorough analysis of emissions, 2007 was used because it provided the most complete and up-to-date data.

Contracted transportation represents the source of 52 percent of the Postal Service carbon emissions. Emissions from facilities represent 36 percent. Given that the Postal Service has 43,000 alternative-capable fuels delivering mail across the country, only 12 percent of the carbon footprint is attributed to vehicles.

The Postal Service has stated goals to reduce energy use 30 percent by 2015, reduce petroleum fuel use 20 percent by 2015, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020. Achieving electric and fuel reduction goals will be included in pay-for-performance goals for postal managers.

Ryerson, Master and Associates Inc. conducted the greenhouse gas study, the results of which were independently verified by Det Norske Veritas using internationally recognized, world-class standards. The study was independently certified by The Climate Registry (TCR), which specializes in greenhouse gas emissions reporting and reduction.

The Postal Service has been honored with more than 75 major environmental awards, including 40 White House Closing the Circle awards for environmental stewardship, the 2009 Climate Action Champion award, and the 2009 Postal Technology International Environmental Achievement of the Year award.