Two-Way Envelopes Trim Billing Waste

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Despite most companies offering online bill pay features and electronic statements, many consumers still choose not to take advantage of the paperless billing options.

Even in the digital world, companies must offer an alternative to paperless billing to meet customer needs. Mailing a paper bill and return envelope has been the norm for ages, but now companies like Sprint are introducing innovative eco-friendly solutions for paper billing.

According to Keanon Swan, manager of vendor management & postal strategy at Sprint, just over 30 percent of Sprint’s customers opt for paperless billing, meaning the majority still receive their bill in the mail.

While the bill and return envelope are both recyclable, they often go to waste. In many cases, customers receive paper billing, but still pay via phone or online, so the return envelope provided becomes obsolete.

In an effort to reduce paper use as well as lower the carbon footprint of sending bills via mail, this year Sprint converted its wireless customers to the ecoEnvelope, a two-way reusable envelope that eliminates the need for a separate return envelope.

Photo: Courtesy of Sprint

Swan said Sprint started looking at two-way envelope technology six years ago. After seeing many iterations, he said ecoEnvelope was the easiest and quickest to use.

“We needed to do something: doing nothing was not an option,” said Swan, who implemented a pilot of the envelopes in October 2011 with 300,000 customers. “Reduction is part of our sustainability goals and we eventually asked the question, ‘Why not just remove the return envelope altogether?’”.

Similar to how one would use a Netflix envelope, the ecoEnvelope features a perforated edge that you tear off to open the bill. You then remove the statement and separate the payment coupon, along with a check. These documents go back in the now-smaller envelope, which you re-seal and apply a stamp.

Although the return envelope may seem like a small amount of paper, the commitment to reduction is already paying off. Sprint anticipates that in just a year, using the ecoEnvelope will reduce paper use by 447 tons, the equivalent of 11,565 trees. It will also reduce water use by 9.9 million gallons and energy use by 14.4 million BTUs.

Some customers may wonder what to do with the torn-off portion of the envelope, but this has the same components as a normal envelope, which means if your local recycling program accepts mixed paper, it should also accept the ecoEnvelope. For those that would prefer not to receive a paper bill, Sprint offers online billing and automatic bill pay as free account features.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Sprint is one of these partners.

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