Feb 25 2009

EcoView – Yellow Pages and the Green Economy

Published by at 9:51 am under EcoView,environment,sustainability

There’s been some tremendous response to this week to the idea of an opt-in program for delivering the Yellow Pages and other paper phone directories to your door. I’m glad. Here’s a prime example of what seems to be a way to embrace the green economy with a little effort from business.

Here’s the 24 News Vancouver story from this morning, Facebook group aims at phone directories. I was quoted as saying “What’s the point of producing a bunch of books [and] distributing them when very few people are using them?” he asks.

(NOTE: Careful, careful. What I meant to say was that “very few people appear to be using them”. My apologies if I misspoke during the interview. I base my view on the evidence of my own eyes and the observations of friends, colleagues and the new supporters on the Facebook site, not the market studies cited in the reports, which don’t seem to have definite information on how many people just tossed their new books into the blue boxes. Anyone have those numbers? Anyone?).
The response of the CanPages President from the 24 News story was illuminating: “Once you have the book in your hand, it’s done,” he said. “If nobody sends you anything ever, how will you think about opting in?”

That’s not what I envisioned when I pondered an opt-in program. Of course such an approach would be ridiculous. Instead, perhaps the publishers could use online sign-ups, email or a single-sheet mail-in form to get people to opt in BEFORE they get books delivered to their door (If anyone has other suggestions, I’m all ears).

That’s the point, ain’t it? To make sure people who want the books get them, reducing the number of unused copies, lowering the printing costs for the publishers, ensuring better value for the advertisers… What’s wrong with that?

Some interesting feedback from the Facebook site, The Yellow Pages Must Be Stopped:

Drina Read: I remember the good old days, when you could call BC Tel if you wanted a telephone directory or you could go in person to a local office to pick one up.

This is a huge environmental issue, not only for the waste of paper and trees, but also the costs of using fossil fuels to deliver tons of unwanted phone books. Then, when you try to recycle the old phone books, the recycling bins are full to the top. I wonder how many people gave up on recycling the old books?
Lisa McKenzie: On top of the Canpages I had delivered a few weeks ago, I just had my SECOND Yellowpages delivered in as many days!!! Now, on top of the 3 white pages, I now have 3 huge yellowpages overflowing out of my recycling bin!! I am steaming mad!!

Bruce Hoffman: Of the 70 sets of Yellow Pages that were left in the lobby of our apartment building, at least half (if not more) went, unopened, directly into the recycling bin outside.

UPDATE: Read my latest National Post Full Comment piece, Yellow Phone Books and the Green Economy.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “EcoView – Yellow Pages and the Green Economy”

  1. Lisa Johnsonon 25 Feb 2009 at 10:52 am

    On the numbers:

    I’m the CBC reporter who talked to Jonathon for the story that got some of this coverage/attention going this week.

    When I interviewed Canpages and Yellow Pages, both had some numbers, though not specifically what you’re asking (which is: how many go straight to recycling?).

    Yellow Pages told me that, according to their audience research, two-thirds of the population regularly uses their printed directory. But, that doesn’t tell us how many never use the book they receive. (About 800,000 are delivered in Metro Vancouver.)

    Canpages told me that, according to theiraudience research, 8% of the population surveyed said they had “never” used a printed directory. They provided other numbers as well (25% used in the past week) but none capture how many never used the one delivered last year.

  2. nancy (aka money coach)on 01 Mar 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Likewise, anecdotally, over the past couple (few?) years in my building, less than half the books appear to be taken from the pile. The rest? Straight to the recycling bin.

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