Hello, it's Monday May 12th, and stamps just got more expensive again! I've decided...$0.42 is too much. It's time to stop sending letters.
In lieu of going out and buying a sheet of 100 one-cent stamps, I say we figure out how to not need them. Here's a helpful little guide to make those "forever" stamps you bought six months ago last as long as possible.
Discover the Joys of Scanning
I used to think that, every time I had to send someone an official document, it required a stamp. The truth is, that's just not so. I now invariably ask "is it OK for me to scan and email this?" Ninety percent of the time, the answer is yes. I actually have a signed and scanned W-9 that I've sent to dozens of clients. All I need to change is the date.
Scanners are cheap, and easy to come by. I actually recently gave one away of Freecycle because I couldn't find a buyer for it on Craigslist. It might take an hour or so to figure out how to use it, but once you've got the procedure, you'll save yourself time, money and paper.
Online Bill Pay
By now this probably seems like a no-brainer. But, chances are, you haven't fully switched over yet. You've got most of your bills on auto-pay, but a couple still get paid with a check in the mail. Take an hour out of your day and go completely treeless. Either sign up at the company's site, or schedule monthly transfers with your bank.
And for those bills that you might pay to companies or individuals that don't have billing systems, like my landlord, discuss the possibilities of PayPal. When I showed him how easy it was, and told him that it would significantly reduce the number of times per year my payment was late, he was totally into it!
Say I Love You in Binary
Now, I know that the Greeting Card Industry wants you to believe that caring can only be expressed through dead trees...but it's just not true. While emails are certainly too impersonal a medium for a Mother's Day card, and most online-greeting cards are seriously lame, it can be done.
Spend some time in your favorite graphics program doctoring a photograph, or visually executing an inside joke. Make it personal... and digital. In the end, the thought will be more appreciated, and the delivery will be 100% free.
Send a Video Letter
While people might say that there's nothing more personal than getting a letter in the mail, I suggest they try sending a video. It can be as public or private as you want, and as personal, detailed, or improvised as you want. My wife and I, for her brother's anniversary this year, sang them their song over youtube. Try doing THAT on paper. Thanks to Sarah-Jane for the tip on this one in the comments.
When all else fails: Post a Card
Postcards take far less energy to create and send through the post. Because they are a single sheet, they can be more easily sorted and sent, and are light enough to be mostly trivial in terms of shipping emissions. This is, in the end, why they're so much cheaper to send than letters.
Avoid Airmail at All Costs
I know this story was supposed to be about $0.42 stamps. But if you ever find yourself thinking you want to send a letter that needs to get on an airplane, think again. While most post is sent over ground, a relatively efficient way to travel, air mail is far more carbon intensive.
Any steps you take to minimize airmail will have far more environmental impact than steps you take to minimize ground mail.
These simple steps, if fully executed, should get you down to less than one stamp per month. And while saving forty-two cents a few times per month might not seem like that big of a deal, it's just one more step on the path to ridding ourselves our reliance on physical objects and transportation. When all we need to send are electrons, the Earth, and especially its forests, will thank us.
written by Alan, May 12, 2008
written by Sarah-Jane, May 12, 2008
written by Brianne, May 12, 2008
written by Jozef, May 12, 2008
written by Brianne, May 12, 2008
written by Brianne, May 13, 2008
written by knittinandnoodlin, May 13, 2008
written by Emily, May 13, 2008
written by Meredith, May 13, 2008
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