The Anti-Green – Postal Mail

Receiving postal mail, such as bills, statements, etc and making payments via paper check (either dropped off or mailed in) wastes an incredible amount of natural resources.

Like junk mail and advertisements you receive in the mail, your bills and statements require the use of paper and energy to produce them, energy to distribute them, and energy to properly dispose of and recycle them — plus your paper check payments require the same.

Electronic bills and statements provide you the same information in a form that is far more environmentally friendly.  The production and distribution of that information requires a fraction of the power sending out traditional paper would, and totally saves the paper.

Additionally, paying electronically further reduces the wasted paper and energy.

Most institutions offer statements and bills via electronic delivery at no cost, some even offer incentives such as statement credits or some type of bonus or reward for signing up for electronic statements; and you needed be afraid of electronic statements, you still have every protection that a paper statement would have offered to you.

As for electronic payments, there’s a number of ways in which you can do that…

You could authorize a company to automatically debit your account for the amount you owe.  There are there often used methods.  First, a company could issue an automatic draft against your checking account — that’s essentially like a paper check, though since Check21 it’s likely it would be transmitted electronically.  Second, a company could issue an ACH (Automated Clearing House) transaction against your checking (or savings) account — that’s presented to the bank generally though a purely electronic medium.  Third, a company could issue a charge against a major credit card account.

Personally, I’d be cautious about authorizing any institution to directly remove money from my checking (or savings) account; while there aren’t any real long term issues with them taking out too much, you might find that the time required to correct a mistake is quite long (and you don’t have use of the funds in question during the resolution period).  With credit cards, however, all the mechanism are in place to insure that if someone makes a mistake — you won’t be out the money (or charged any interest) while the error is being looked into and resolved.

Another (entirely different) way you could pay your bills electronically is by using a bill payment service.  Most financial institutions now offer free bill payment services and puts you totally in control.  You decide who to pay, when to pay them, and how much to pay them.  If the bank makes an error, they’re totally responsible for resolving it — and if they remove funds that you didn’t authorize, or in a way you didn’t authorize then they are responsible for the ramifications.  At worst this type of bill payment generates a paper check that’s sent out on your behalf; generally it’s totally electronic.

Another place to look for reductions in postal mail is to discourage companies to send you out anything by mail that can be delivered electronically (remember, in the United States, electronic signatures are legally recognized — faxes and physical signatures are no more binding that an “electronic” signature).  So the bottom line, companies that feel the need to interact with you in writing are simply showing you that they care little for the environment and do not wish to invest in the future.  My advice, look elsewhere and send them a clear message by terminating your relationships with them.

Finally, many people use postal mail to send pictures, greeting cards, personal letters, etc.  Sure, sometimes you’re going to have to — but have you ever considered that most people just throw those away, or put them in a shoe box at the bottom of the closet?  Consider sending what you can electronically — if they really want a picture printed, they can do that locally (for probably the same it would have cost you — and less than the postage you paid).

As I’ve said a number of times before… it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference.

Originally posted 2010-05-11 02:00:16.