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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hello Yellow or Goodbye White?

by Gavin, The Greening of Gavin

Telephone Directories, Phone Books, Yellow or White Pages or whatever your name is for them. All are heavy, thick, and mostly unwanted due to the arrival of the on-line phone directory and mobile (cell) phones!

When was the last time you used one of these paper dinosaurs? Who is sick of getting them each year, and never using them? I am! So, here are a few facts about phone books from all around the globe;

  • The average UK household receives three printed phone books every year. That amounts to 75,000 tonnes of annual waste – enough to cover Hyde Park twice over.
  • Approximately 10% of people recycle phone books, most just throw them into landfill waste.
  • There are approximately 540 Million directories are printed annually in the United States alone.
  • To produce a US ton of paper (907.184 kg) it takes; 24 trees, 380 US gallons of oil (1438 L), 7000 gallons of water (26497 L), and 4,000 kW of energy! That is a lot of resources.

Besides the stats, I cannot remember the last time I had to refer to a paper based phone book, and yet they keep getting delivered. My fault I suppose, thinking that they would just magically disappear when I stopped using them. A couple of days ago, our yearly delivery of Yellow Pages arrived. Now, because we live near the Melbourne Area, we get these two massive phone books that weigh 4kg in total.

Yellow Pages

Guess what? This year we also got the pleasure of being issued a small version, just for our car? The last time I looked, the car couldn't use a phone! So what can you do about stopping the deliveries? I have done some research and this is what I have come up with.

The good news is that you can do something about it. Not only can the books be recycled, as we do each year, you can now opt out of delivery. I just did, and it took about 3 minutes.

In Australia you can visit the Sensis - In the Community site or call 1800 810 211, option 2, then option 7. Ask to opt out of both the yellow and white pages directories if you wish. They will also ask why you want to opt out, and I gave the environment as my reason.

In the US, you can use the free service offered by Yellow Pages Go Green, who will get you removed from delivery lists or call 1-(877)-243-8339 who will also help you opt out of phone book deliveries.

I couldn't find any opt out scheme in the UK, but did find this helpful site, Say No to Phonebooks, who have an on-line petition fighting for the right to have a system to opt out.

For our Kiwi mates, I also found getting info about opting out very difficult. I did stumble across an article in the current issue of Good Magazine (p26), which I couldn't read, so you may have to buy or borrow it to find out how you can do this.

You can also try the Paperless Petition, who are trying to scrap the yellow pages. When you sign up to the petition you can request that you be removed from delivery in your country. So far it covers Australia, UK, US, and Canada. I don't know if this actually works, but it is worth a try.

If all else fails, then your only other option is to recycle the books. You can do this in kerbside recycling if you have it in your area, or special phone book bins scattered around major cities.

Wouldn't it be a far better world (and we would have more trees to boot), if we only had to choose to OPT IN. I think that like junk mail, this would be a far better way of doing business. Unfortunately, advertisers pay lots of money to be placed in these directories and it is a $13b industry in the US alone. Advertisers want the best coverage they can get for their dollar, and phone directories kind of guarantee this outcome. Not a great outcome for the environment though, but at least in some countries you can opt out. As more and more people use the on-line version, due to convenience and global environmental concerns, maybe, just maybe the directory companies will get the hint. We can only hope.

If there are other phone book opt out scheme other than the ones I have found, please feel free to add them via a comment. It would be great to get a comprehensive list all in one place.


Jessica said...

ooh thanks for that link!
I was whinging about the exact same problem yesterday- especially since my delivered books were left in the rain and had turned into a useless pile of mush! ;)

EJ said...

my local phone book is less than 3/4" thick. I use it weekly. No cell phone coverage here. This is all good.

Gavin said...

Jessica - No problems. I have always wondered how to opt out of these deliveries, and it just took a bit of research to figure out how. I took a look around the neighbourhood yesterday, and I would say that about 80% of the directories are still on peoples door steps two weeks after the initial delivery!

EJ - Don't get me wrong. I still use the our very skinny local directory, because that is all I need. But not these huge books that constitute half a tree.

Willo said...

Thanks! I just opted out!

Shel said...

Thank you very much Gavin - I have now opted out of all directory print. Sitting in my cupboard gathering dust is hardly a good use for them!!!

You would think they'd advertise the opt out service a little more; but I imagine that if too many people opted out, it would become less lucrative a business.

Thanks again!!

Chiot's Run said...

I opted out of the big ones but I can't for the small local ones.

I just tear them apart and into the compost pile they go.

Debbie said...

I "opted out" some time ago but they didn't stop. They just dump a big stack in my apartment building lobby, and there's a huge amount sitting by my office door (maybe 100 books) that nobody's even taken the shrink wrap off of.

It'll be kind of interesting to see how long they sit there, but you know they'll just get thrown away.

Janet McKinney said...

Funny thing is - I use the yellow pages most as a street directory. It saves me having to buy a new on every year to take account of the ever increasing suburbs eing established in Canberra.

With broadband, using Yellow Pages on line to find a phone number is a far easier and less troublesome format. And I know - I could use "whereis" for a directory.

Funny they give you a car directory - when it is illegal to use a phone while driving, and still most of us drive the car with just one person in it... Some things just don't make sense

Crunchy Chicken said...

Ha! I thought you were talking about laundry and the use of bleach.

Anyway, I'm going to go extricate myself from phonebook hell. Thanks for the link.

[BTW, my word verification is "noweed". Now, how do they know about my lawn?]

goldpearl said...

We live so far out in the country, I have been known to use the yellow pages for emergency toilet paper when a quick trip to town wasn't possible. I also shred them by hand and add them to the compost or use as mulch.
Now, with the U.S in a recession, cheap toilet paper might actually be appealing!

Kath said...

I couldn't agree more! I thought exactly the same thing when mine arrived a couple of months ago when I reflected that I had opened my yellow pages about once in the last 12 months (I think hubby was hogging the computer at the time so I couldn't do it online) and the white pages not at all. I have opted out!

Em said...

hmmm... I've just spent half the Xmas holidays computer-less and *really* appreciated having a directory to use! But I must be a dinosaur, b/c I'm quite uncomfortable relying on computers and mobiles; can't help thinking what happens when the power goes out or the system goes down in a disaster. I use our phone directory for the maps too and always have a copy in the car. But, again, I like to touch the paper and turn the pages; Ebooks will never spin my wheels.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

I opted out a while ago, even though I do still occasionally use our local phone book - as a phone book. I don't need this year's book because stuff just doesn't get updated all that often.

But I also use pages from the phone book in lieu of paper towels. They can be used to soak up grease from fried foods, to wash windows and glass, and I've had some luck using them for seed germination tests too. It's still a lot of paper, but at least I'm getting some value out of it and not paying for paper towels.

Nice leg work on rounding up the opt-out options.


livinginalocalzone said...

Like Diane, I tried to opt out a couple of years ago and kept getting the silly book. What makes it even more crazy is that now, moving into my new home, I *don't* get either telephone book! While I am quite happy without it, it does make me wonder how effective it is to opt-out....
I find the online resources so much more easier and accessible, as if I always have access to my computer, etc. but won't carry around such a massive tome like the hard-copy book. Maybe as the trend shifts more to online, the enormous energy spent on the books will ebb.

livinginalocalzone said...

Whoops, sorry for the typo there = I meant to say "like Debbie" - I'm working on a project for a "Diane" and have that name "in my fingers"!

Eilleen said...

THANK YOU so much for this post Gavin!! Have bookmarked this post for when I am in my own home again so I can opt out. :)

Anonymous said...

I use the phone books on a regular basis so was surprised to read that others may think that they are obsolete. Just try using Telstra directory assistance and I say give me a phone book any day! Going online for a phone number is a pain too.

Kim said...

Hi Gavin,
haven't opted out yet, but have found a good use for them. If my freezer is a bit empty, I put old 'phone directories in the freezer and it fills up the gaps

Hereford UK

Hilde said...

We don´t have this problem in Germany. When there are new telephone directories, we can pick them up at the post officeif we want them. And as each household has a bin for paper, which is picked up every two or for weeke, there is not much paper in the landfill.

Dani said...

Thank you so much for this post. We've just received the yellow pages and my husband and I were not amused at the extra addition. We didn't want the first two volumes, let alone a car version! Off I go to opt out!

Mist said...

Like a few others have mentioned, I don't find my phone book to be obsolete, and I certainly would keep it around in the case of power outages. I do use mine quite often.

We get three different phone books, though, which is excessive. I opted out of the two we used the least, but they still deliver them. Heck, I cancelled our newspaper subscription months ago, and we're still getting the newspaper daily! Grrr.

We use our outdated phone books to press flowers and leaves. They're just the right weight and absorbent. Once they've outlived this amount of usefulness, they go into the compost.

jenniepowell said...

I can't remember the last time I used a phone directory or the yellow pages. My sons' school offers a recycling programme for yellow pages in conjunction with (I don't know how many) other schools, so we sent ours there and my son got a sticker. Not ideal, having to recycle something that we didn't want in the first place, but at least my youngest got a sticker out of it!

nikkishell said...

I opted out last year and guess what was on my doorstep the other day when i returned home?! Two big books and oh look, they had a baby! just for the car that i don't own. I was NOT impressed.

Amaya 5 said...

I too have opt-ed out more than once for every phone book in our area. But the delivery guy doesn't look at the list, he just puts it at the end of everyone's driveway. Maybe in a more rural area it might work better.
I was disappointed when I came home a few weeks ago and there it was...
My postman does pay attention though, and our junk mail and catalogs are nearly non-existent.

Either call everyone that sends you a catalog to cancel it, or go to

AJ said...

Once anyone opts-out, they can use (US only)

You can find a white pages for most major countries at

Chookie said...

I can't say I use the Yellow Pages frequently, but their search engine is so unreliable that I often find the hard copy to be better value.

Graeme said...

Having to "Opt Out" from the delivery process of these monsters is fundamentally flawed. What gives anybody the right to dump crap on our doorstep and drive off? It should be that we have to "Opt In" to recieve them.


Thelonius said...

This year - not only have they dumped an unwanted copy of the Yellow and White pages on my step - but the idiot delivering it left my front gate wide open. My wife and I pulled up in front of our house to observe the idiot leaving. He had also left open the gate of every other house on the street. Thanks, Sensis. You're worse than Telstra - your parent company. And the link to the Sensis website to stop the delivery - has been changed by Sensis - obviously too many people were using it - so they've taken it down...