Thursday, February 18, 2010

Postal Pixels: Greenwashing or a Joke?

A prominent environmental commentator is accusing the USPS of greenwashing for including the claim "made from 100% recycled pixels" on its web site.

The web site commits two of the "Seven Sins of Greenwashing" -- no proof and vagueness, writes Gail Nickel-Kailing, managing editor of the Going Green blog for, a news service for the printing industry. The claim "is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer," she wrote this week.

Methinks the reference to "recycled pixels" is supposed to be a joke, perhaps the Postal Service's way of pointing out that most mailed items (e.g. letters, catalogs, magazines) are more recyclable than their electronic counterparts.

Some references to recycled pixels on other web sites seem to refer to the re-use of photos or graphics. Others are a sort of mock greener-than-thou claim; my favorite: "Made from 100% post-consumer recycled pixels. Only organically grown free-range pixels were used on this web page. No pixels were harmed during the making of this web page."

Graphic Arts Online ran an April Fool's announcement last year from a faux digital-imaging company proclaiming that it was recycling pixels, AKA "Pixel Dust", which it "collected from the filters of . . . digital imaging devices." Along with some hilarious technical data is this admonition: "Please do your part! If we all start recycling pixels, an amazing amount of numerical digits will be saved (pixels are stored as numeric values). Numbers are a non-renewable resource, and although they may seem infinite, the prime numbers can never be used again."

Though the Postal Service's claim, or humor, may be off target, its green efforts -- such as recycling 274,000 tons of material in 2008, testing electric and alternative-fuel delivery vehicles, and becoming the first federal agency to publish its carbon footprint -- are worthy of note.

But when is the Postal Service going to get with it and start using post-consumer recycled pixels?

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