making yellow pages green

i received an interesting email this weekend from some acquaintances who want to work on changing the yellow pages distribution system. at the moment, most residences automatically get yellow pages and white pages delivered to their homes once a year – and may even get 2 or 3 versions of the books from competing publishers.  the email contained some interesting facts about how wasteful the entire process is and a link to an organization that is working on an opt-out program called Yellow Pages Goes Green. some quick facts from their site:

Over 500 million of these directories are printed every year. That is nearly two books for every person in the country!

To produce 500 million books:

  • 19 million trees need to be harvested
  • 1.6 billion pounds of paper are wasted
  • 7.2 million barrels of oil are misspent in their processing (not including the wasted gas used for their delivery to your doorstep)
  • 268,000 cubic yards of landfill are taken up
  • 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity are squandered

when you sign up for Yellow Pages Goes Green, they send a cease and desist to the yellow pages publishers. amazingly, they have less than 100,000 sign ups:/ its a great idea and i just signed up.

i know a lot of people do not have decent internet access in this country, but i assume that a significant % of the population (maybe even a majority) no longer use their yellow pages for anything. do we really need automatic delivery of yellow pages to every house in the US once or twice a year? its amazing that we allow this kind of waste to continue. and although the opt-out method is a good start, i think out-in would be even better.

7 thoughts on “making yellow pages green

  1. Hi Joyce,

    My name is AJ and I am working with to reach out to individuals that may be looking for a simple online directory.

    Here’s an interesting article you might enjoy about how the local distributor of phone books in the Columbus, Ohio area, Cincinnati Bell, has created an “opt-in” policy… just like the one that you talk about in your blog.

  2. “i know a lot of people do not have decent internet access in this country, but i assume that a significant % of the population (maybe even a majority) no longer use their yellow pages for anything.”

    – surely you need more than an assumption…

  3. @steve – more than an assumption to advocate change in the present printing and delivery system? or more than an assumption to say we should have opt-in delivery?

    i think that the debate between opt-in and opt-out systems for yellow pages delivery is a fair debate to be had – there are valid arguments for availability of information to people without internet access. however, i think it would be fair to say that we should reexamine the system that requires delivery of several yellow pages to every address in the US and by several competing publishing companies. it is an undue burden environmentally because of the paper and ink and financially, to municipal governments that have to go about gathering and recycling all the rejected books.

    but i would like to see some good data on how many people use their yellow pages on a regular basis (other than data gathered by yellow page publishers themselves for marketing purposes)- it would be an interesting study on american consumer choices.

    i know i may be in the minority, but in the past 3 years, i think i used my yellow pages once – and that was because i couldnt reach something on a top shelf that was just a few inches out of reach;)

  4. My tax dollars pay for curbside recycling of newspapers, which I don’t read. Bottles, both plastic and glass from the beverage industry are also recycled curbside. Cardboard for packaging used in other products are ok in the recycling bin.

    Yet I don’t see any of those industries jumping in to help “municipal governments that have to go about gathering and recycling” those items.

    Aren’t you being a little selective in who you are targeting??

    1. hi letsbereal

      i think the big difference between newspapers, bottles, etc and yellow pages is apparent. we, as individual consumers, go and affirmatively buy the beverages that come in bottles, order the newspapers, or purchase the items that are packaged. however, we do not take any affirmative action to get the yellow pages and white pages delivered en masse to my front door. make sense? 🙂

  5. A big misperception you have is only new materials are used to create yellow page directories. A common practice among publishers is to use recycled materials and wood byproducts that would normally be burned or end up in a landfill. Moreover, publishers are utilizing soy based inks instead of petroleum based ink to reduce environmental impact.

    According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, yellow page directories make up only .3 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, which comes in significantly lower than magazines (1%), newspapers (4.9%), standard mail (2.4%) and tissues & paper towels (1.4%)!

    As far as using the directories – I am 26 years old, have access to a computer and internet 24 hours a day and still use my yellow pages at least once a week.

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