Somebody dropped this really weird book on my porch today. Apparently it's full of phone numbers! Who knew?! I think I found your number in it, too.
Did you know that phone books waste a ton of resources? According to Vox Media: "All that wasteful printing produces roughly 3.57 million tons of greenhouse gases and consumes billions of gallons of water, despite the fact that recycled paper is generally used. Furthermore, municipalities pay millions of dollars to trash or recycle stacks of books that haven't even been removed from their shrink-wrapping. There must be a better way."
According to the Product Stewardship Institute (yeah, there's an institute and association for everything), "recycling or throwing away the 650,000 tons of phonebooks distributed nationally each year costs municipalities somewhere between $45 and $62 million."
But white pages, with residential listings, are required by the local municipality (in this case, DC) to be delivered. From the Vox article:
The white pages — which contain residential listings — are a very different story. They cost money to print and distribute, and provide essentially no revenue. For years, states have required landline providers to distribute white pages as a public service.
Gradually, though, that's changing. In 2010, Verizon submitted a request to regulators in several states to allow it to create an opt-in system for white pages, and in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania, they got permission.
Since then, at least 12 more states — Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — have given various companies permission, though white pages are still being distributed in some areas of them. Other state legislatures, such as Maryland's, have denied the requests, asking for hard evidence that people truly don't use white pages. In response, Verizon has commissioned polls showing that just 11 percent of households rely on white pages to look things up.
What if you don't have a computer?
For those without computers or internet access, phone books might be the only way to easily look up numbers. On the flip, DC offers low-cost computers and internet access via Connect DC.
But are the phone books delivered by Verizon used enough -- even by those without easy internet access -- to justify the cost and resources? I think Verizon would love to stop printing them, and I'd love to stop recycling them, so are they useful? Do you use them?
If you want to opt-out of yellow page delivery, you can register at Yellowpagesoptout.com. And if you want to stop getting all those catalogs in the mail and save a few thousand trees, you can opt-out at Catalogchoice.org.