Saturday, 24 January 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.