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An Idea Long Overdue: Opting Out Of Yellow Page Delivery

Updated on February 4, 2016

Growing up in the so-called “analogue age,” everyone old enough to remember the era of cassette tapes and the amazingly new world of cable television can also envision a time when we all had that big ol’ copy of the Yellow Pages to turn to when we needed a sink fixed or car repaired. Every consumer-related service you could think of was contained within those thin, grainy pages, and aside from the (even then) archaic practice of dialing up the operator to ask for a number (and being charged extra to have them dial it for you), people had little choice than to turn to the Yellow Pages – delivered once or twice a year at best to your doorstep – on a regular basis.

Enter the digital age; now firmly entrenched on a daily basis within the wonders of high-speed internet, your average consumer – omnipresent smartphone in-hand – has little remembrance of print Yellow Pages, and even less need. At nearly the speed of thought, anyone with a computer, tablet, or cellular device has access to just about any bit of information that their hearts could possibly desire…including, and especially, Yellow Page listings. Yet, those physical books keep plopping down on our doorsteps each and every half-year or so. But, for the few that even notice anymore, the growing question is- why?

Why even bother when internet-based sources of Yellow Page listings are not only available faster and more conveniently, but are always up-to-date on nearly a day-to-day (and even hour-to-hour) basis? In today’s fast-paced economy, a print edition of the Yellow Pages is almost out-of-date the moment it rolls off the presses. It’s just something that can’t be helped. Medialife Magazine notes that print Yellow Pages are facing a bleak future, having been hit hard by the shift to digital.

“The newspaper industry has been hit hard by the digital era. But the newspaper in print form will be with us many more years, the medium of choice for a significant segment of any community. The same can’t be said for the Yellow Pages, the inches-thick bright yellow directories long stacked next to phones in homes across America," they said. "Yellow Pages have no such loyal constituency. And their primary function–listings of local services like plumbers and pet shops–has been assumed by the internet, which in some ways is a giant electronic Yellow Pages. Mobile has accelerated Yellow Pages’ woes. Having a smartphone is like having a mini-Yellow Pages in your pocket, and that may be the biggest hurdle to the medium’s survival."

Businesses open and close with shocking speed these days, and that listing you spent ten minutes or so tracking down in print may not even exist any longer when you dial it up; web-based resources, however, will have already pointed you towards a current listing within a fraction of the time. And yet your local phone companies continue to deliver those obsolete copies of their Yellow Page directories to your home every year, almost always without being asked to do so. They’re as common a junk mail, and just as hard to stop from coming.

But inefficiency and inconvenience aside, the real reason the era of the print Yellow Pages has fallen by the wayside is far more urgent- their impact upon the environment. In today’s digital age, print Yellow Pages are seen as little more than garbage by an increasing segment of the population, and treated as such the moment they pop up on your front doorstep. That is, millions and millions of them tend to be thrown out with shocking regularity and growing frequency, and all that waste – countless tons and tons of it – has to go somewhere, unfortunately, according to Tree Hugger.

"Annually an estimated 650,000 tons of phone books are distributed to America's 100+ million households. At an EPA estimated national recycling rate of 18%, only 117,000 tons of phone books are recycled each year, many of them on the day that they are received," they said. "The greenhouse gas emissions from producing 650,000 tons of paper are staggering, 1,474,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalents! By comparison the greenhouse gas emissions of the entire Walt Disney Corporation in 2006 were 1,649,717 tons of CO2-equivalents. In addition to the greenhouse gas emissions, the production of 650,000 tons of paper also require the use of 44.2 billion liters of water. Of course there are many more impacts from the production of paper which are not easily quantified, like the loss of forest, the eutrofication of rivers, etc."

And, aside from the blow dealt to the environment on a daily basis simply from creating phone books that very few people seem to want anymore, the fact that many of these Yellow Pages are – 82% of them, as Tree Hugger pointed out – not being recycled and instead are being thrown out to rot in landfills is indeed alarming. But what is the average person looking to make a difference in this terrible situation to do? Simple: they can choose to opt out.

Opting out of Yellow Page delivery isn’t anything new, but nowadays it’s getting easier and more common place than ever as people are finding out more and more. The reason it’s taken the ball so long to get rolling on opting out has more to do with the disregard people hold for print directories these days than anything else; they’re become so irrelevant that people fail to even notice then in this age of smartphones, much the same as phone booths. But that’s doing the environment a disservice, as noticing the problem – and doing something about it – will make for a greener tomorrow for us all.

How to opt out? It can be tough sometimes, according to the Huffington Post, as your local phone company still manages to draw (quickly shrinking) advertising revenue from the delivery of Yellow Pages to your doorstep, but there are multiple online options for opting out that have proven quite effective at curbing the flow; online directory Yellow Pages Goes Green features an effective opt-out resource that allows you to prevent those unwanted Yellow Pages from landing on your stoop, and there are plenty of other options out there just a quick Google search away…as are countless up-to-date business and even residential White Page listings.

Yellow Pages: a fond memory of a bygone era, but now best left to the past. Digital is where it’s at and where it shall always be going forward; faster, easier, and boasting cutting-edge information at your fingertips, it has signaled the death knell of obsolete, environmentally wasteful and harmful print directories. Do your part and join the green-conscious opt out movement now.

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      John C 2 years ago

      Check out this video on their opt-out page. https://www.yellowpagesgoesgreen.org/opt-out.php Two people actually ran around all over the place and collected Yellow Pages books and dropped them all off at the Yellow Pages office. Hilarius.

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