Recently over 100 world leaders flew their jumbo jets to Glasgow to discuss in earnest what to do about pollution and their perceptions of global warming. There were impassioned speeches, photo opportunities, demands and compromises. According to CNBC:
"The two-week COP26 climate summit, which ends on Friday, will emit about 102,500 tons of carbon dioxide — that’s the equivalent of total average annual emissions for more than 8,000 U.K. residents."
One must admit that these leaders seem to be reasonably familiar with carbon output. There has been a great deal of effort apparently invested in understanding carbon production, detailed in various maps and charts. That data says that the residents of the UK each average annually 5.8 "tonnes," That is not consistent with the CNBC quote above. Dividing 102,500 by "8,000 UK residents" yields 12.8 tons. Dividing 102,500 by the 5.8 tons reported elsewhere yields 17,672 "UK residents'" annual average. The disagreement in this math is curious. 
I was contemplating that carbon output, and the divergent math, when I retrieved another stack of junk from my mailbox. Each day, I receive various pieces of unsolicited junk conveniently delivered to my home by a series of federal employees. It includes catalogs, coupons, solicitation, and more. The most perturbing are those that recognize my "seniority" and then offer membership in their "advanced age" club. I am not "retired" and not contemplating it, thanks very much!
This junk is apparently picked up by some federal worker, sorted by others, transported in trucks, and then delivered to my home by still others. Every single day they ply my neighborhood roads delivering this detritus. Occasionally, I will bring it inside. More often, I peruse it while walking from the mailbox and dump it in a large can outside. I need do nothing further, the county pays a different person in another large, noisy truck to retrieve this junk each week and drive it out to the country to be buried by large bulldozers.
In an era of asking that we decrease energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, one wonders whether this ridiculous and persistent circle of life has ever been considered.
Take Care of Texas claims that:
"According to research from the Center for Development of Recycling, each U.S. household receives around 40 pounds of junk mail annually." 
This is said to equate to more than 4 million tons from over 77 billion pieces of junk mail each year. Most of this likely ends up in our landfills! Statista says there are 128 million households. Multiplied by the 40 pounds, this comes out to more like 2.5 million tons. Again, it is troubling that the math seems periodically divergent. 
According to the U.S. Postal Service, its drivers cover 1.2 billion miles each year delivering the mail. That is 1,200,000,000 miles. The Inspector General concluded that 6.3 miles per gallon is a fair figure for calculating the fuel consumption during that effort. That equates to 190 million gallons of fuel used annually to move the mail. Judging from my box, most of that is junk. 
The U.S. Energy Information Administration concludes that burning a gallon of gasoline, depending upon whether the contribution of the ethanol component is included, "produces about 17.68 (to 18.95) pounds of CO2." The 190 million gallons the postal service uses thus equates to 3,359,200,000 (190,000,000 x 17.68). This assumes the 190 million includes all transportation (local pick-up vehicle, interstate transport vehicle, and local delivery vehicle). That is 3.3 billion pounds of C02, or about 33,000 times the impact of all those jets flying to the "climate summit." In short, that is a lot, and in no way seems inclusive of vehicle maintenance needs, etc. 
What if the mail were delivered to each home every other day, instead of daily? Then the 190 million gallons might be cut in half. Perhaps the inflation-soaked $3.30 per gallon for the resulting 95 million gallon ($313,500,000) savings would be a worthwhile monetary savings sufficient to justify the change? Imagine, instead, if physical mail delivery were reduced to once weekly, the fuel consumption might be reduced by at least 80% or 152 million gallons, saving roughly one-half billion dollars annually. The financial savings apparently lacks the appeal to drive such change. 
What would the effect be on carbon output? Consider reduction of that 3.3 billion pounds of C02 by 50% by delivering every other day (1.68 billion pounds/840,000 tons). Consider the 80% reduction if delivery were reduced to once weekly (2.68 billion pounds/1.3 million tons). The average U.S. carbon footprint is 16 tons per person according to Worldometers. Reducing the frequency or our unsolicited junk mail might thus eliminate the equivalent of the carbon output for perhaps 52,487 to 83,000 Americans. That is similar to all of Largo, Florida. And, who would miss the daily (junk) mail? 
None of this even considers the fuel expended to harvest and transport pulp wood trees, or to process them into paper. There is fuel expended to transport that paper to printing facilities in which the various junk mail is produced, so that it can be picked up, transported, sorted, and delivered. 
And, none of the foregoing considers what it costs thereafter to transport all those unsolicited junk mail catalogs, solicitations, and coupons from our homes to the landfill, or the fuel for the bulldozers to cover them in dirt. Apparently garbage may be hauled as far as 100 miles to a licensed landfill. That 40 annual pounds of junk mail being hauled away is thus responsible for significant additional carbon emissions. 
In days to come, it is perhaps inevitable that we will all be asked persistently to decrease our carbon footprint. Who is willing to pitch in right now with less or no unsolicited junk mail? Or, with the savings that would come from reducing the frequency of delivery of such junk mail? 
By Judge David Langham
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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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