Yellow Pages Environmental Forum

Setting the record straight

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on August 5, 2010
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It can be frustrating for those that work in the industry to see posts like this recent one:  Get 100000 Canadians to opt out of the Yellow Pages – George Dearing

Not because this one person doesn’t want a book.  That’s not a problem.  If someone is among the less than 5% of people who have issues with a print book, fine, publishers all have opt-out programs now so they won’t send you one in the future.  But more so because of the ongoing perception that there is a direct correlation between a printed phone book and the loss of a tree somewhere on the planet.  The fact is that isn’t true, and I’ve written about it many times – here, here, and here are just a few examples.

But I don’t blame the public for their lack of understanding, I blame the industry.  How would someone know about how recycled white material, wood chips, and even some good old fashion trash are the sources of the content/fiber that makes up the pages of the a phone book – we’ve never bothered to tell anyone about it which is really perplexing at a time every industry is shouting about its environmental efforts.

I’m not sure why the yellow pages industry has been so shy about promoting where the source of its paper comes from, the recycling programs they coordinate, and even the local economic value they bring to the communities they publish in.   Perhaps it is an old hangover from the original one telephone company/old AT&T days.  The directory operations were always this strange non-telco unit that most of the senior managers in the telecom based company never really understood, but which generated a lot of revenue for them.  It was always one of the biggest, successful brand images in their local market.  So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?

When I see these type of posts and can provide information, most reasonable people like George will acknowledge they were unaware of the process, are surprised, even reassured to see what really happens.  The few obtuse paper jihadists, whose comments you will  see sprinkled all through this and other blogs, well, no matter what factual content you provide them with it’s never enough for them  — the industry has rigged the numbers — we are still delivering to vacant houses — no one wants the books — or any of a dozen other rambling rants.  And then should another new book arrive at their door, my God, it becomes a major affront on their space and civil liberties.

But once again, I’m not sure we can totally blame them for their responses.  In a way we have conditioned them that no matter what they say or do, no matter how incorrect their commentary, the industry seems to sit back and ask for more.  It then usually comes down to having to meet with a local legislator who has a small handful of people complaining to their office on a regular basis to set the record straight.

I thought we were an advertising media.  Why aren’t we telling our story more frequently, more forcefully, more accurately so the greater public get to hear it??


Kudo’s to Wake County for more recycling efforts

Posted in Publisher Efforts by Ken C on January 22, 2009
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Kudo’s to Wake County (local county where Raleigh is based) for expanding the opportunity for residents to recycle more.  Specific to phone books, this just announced:

In the past, Wake County offered drop off sites during a three-month period when telephone books were delivered. Over the last several years, directory distribution has increased and become a year-round process. The County has decided to expand the program at existing facilities, to keep pace with the market, giving residents and businesses the opportunity to recycle telephone books at anytime.

This effort is beng sponsored by AT&T Yellow Pages and R.H. Donnelley (publisher of Embarq Yellow Pages).  And yes, both companies are promoting the recycling sites in their respective directories.

Cincinnati Bell Seeks Regulatory Permission to Stop White Pages

Posted in Publisher Efforts by Ken C on January 7, 2009
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Channel 5 – WLWT in Cincinnati reports that Cincinnati Bell has asked the Public Utilities Commission in Ohio for a waiver to cease the required annual devliver of  the printed White Pages to each residential customer.

This 1950’s era regulatory requirement made sense in the pre-Internet days when the Telco was the only source for numbers in the local area.  But attempts by publishers in several areas to discontinue this archaic practice have been met with resistance from local regulatory groups.  Most recently AT&T attempt to make this change in North Carolina and met significant resistance (source).  Most commissions view it as some kind of back door opportunity for the Telco to raise 411 – directory assistance rates, even though the changes have been supported by government recycling authorities.  In most markets in Canada, Yellow Pages Group is on a biennial distribution schedule for its residential white pages.

The value of commerce generate by the printed Yellow Pages is not the question here.  It is the value of printed residential white pages which do largely go unused.   I think the industry and consumers can gladly come together to support these type changes in every jurisdiction which still requires it.

Print Yellow Pages As a Source for Recycling Info

Posted in Publisher Efforts by Ken C on November 13, 2008
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From Yellow Pages Association press release:

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ, Nov 10, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) — Nov. 15 may be America Recycles Day, but recycling stays top of mind for many Americans each day of the year, with more than 10 million references for “Recycling Centers” in the Yellow Pages annually.
Aluminum claims the top spot of materials people want to recycle. Yellow Pages data shows that 21 percent of total calls are from users looking for information about where to recycle aluminum(1). “For many, aluminum cans are the starting point for recycling,” said Amy Healy, director of public policy for the Yellow Pages Association (YPA). “Most people know that aluminum should be recycled, and oftentimes, recycling aluminum puts some extra money in your pocket.”
What else are Americans recycling? According to the YPA, bulky items such as auto parts, computers, VCRs, and refrigerators account for 20 percent of the references(1). Six years ago, bulky items didn’t even register as a reference for local searches. Other top searches include:
--  Copper and scrap metal (16 percent)
--  Paper and newspapers (13 percent)
--  Glass, bottles, and plastic (7 percent)(1)
“Americans have long been aware of the importance of recycling paper and aluminum products,” said Healy, “but now we’re seeing increased awareness of the need to recycle home appliances, TVs, and cell phones — items that can have a more detrimental impact on the environment if not recycled properly.”
Young Adults Lead Recycling Efforts
In addition to what people are looking to recycle, Yellow Pages data shows who references recycling the most and where they live.
“Directionally, the data shows that users of the ‘Recycling Centers’ heading in Yellow Pages are more likely to be between the ages of 25 and 34, have an income between $25,000 and $60,000, reside in a household with three or more persons, and reside at their current address for less than a year,” said Larry Small, director of research for the YPA.
“Geographically, the ‘Recycling Centers’ heading is referenced most in smaller metropolitan areas across the Midwest and West census regions.”
Finding a Recycling Facility
To find a local recycling facility, Small recommends searching the Yellow Pages for “Recycling Centers,” as well as “Landfills-Sanitary,” “Waste Disposal Reduction & Recycling,” and “Environment & Ecological Services.”
In addition to offering a source for people to find information about recycling, the Yellow Pages industry is committed to ensuring that old phone directories are recycled. Consumers can reference the front or back of their local Yellow Pages or visit for information on how and where to recycle Yellow Pages directories.
(1) Knowledge Networks/SRI, May 2008

New Yellow Pages Recycling Effort Trial

Posted in Publisher Efforts by Ken C on October 28, 2008
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The Yellow Pages Association announced a new recycling program in conjunction with the printer RR Donnelley called “Recycle As You Shop” (RAYS). The RAYS effort is a recycling program being piloted in Maryland and designed to offer consumers and small businesses an added incentive to recycle paper products – including all types of telephone directories.

The pilot will begin November 1st. It gives shoppers an opportunity to receive a $10 coupon at 25 participating Office Depot stores throughout Maryland just for dropping off recyclable paper products. Green in-store recycling containers carrying a “Don’t Come In Empty-Handed” sign will be located at select Office Depot store locations in the trial area. The website has additional details on the program.

The RAYS effort is a collaboration between RR Donnelley and various publishers from the Yellow Pages industry such as AT&T Yellow Pages, Idearc Media Corp, and RHD/Dex, as well as non-industry entities such as Hearst Magazines, Sundance Catalog and Waste Management.

If the pilot is successful if may be expanded to additional parts of the country.

Green Pages In the Print Yellow Pages

Posted in Publisher Efforts by Ken C on July 9, 2008
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Kudo’s to AT&T for a new partnership with Hutchinson, KS’s “Green Team” (link to full story). A proposal will go before the Hutchinson City Council for final approval next week for a four-page insert listing area recyclers, educational information about recycling, Web links and more in the upcoming December edition of the Reno County (KS) area directory .

The Green Team is a group of city staff and citizens who are working on recycling issues in the town, and the Green Pages project was born out of the Team’s desire to update a Reno County recycling brochure that was distributed by the health department nearly a decade ago.

Because they “didn’t want to print a bunch of material that would end up in trashcans” (Meryl Dye, Green Team member) the group approached the AT&T yellow pages about having green pages. In exchange for the green pages inclusion on the AT&T phone book, the Green Team will promote the AT&T’s sponsorship of the project.

Because the book is provided to every house hold in the area, the local government can be assured that residents have ready access to the recycling information they need.

And all this in a printed Yellow Pages.

How The “Truth” Can Be Skewed Any Which Way You Want

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on June 16, 2008
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In a recent YP Talk article titled Now We Are “Paper Fetishists”, I cover just how far some of these anti-Yellow Pages people will go. I even quoted this jem:

“…Recycling isn’t the answer. Rather, phone books, like gas-guzzling cars and cheap air fares, are so last year. Now that over two-thirds of the country has access to the internet, people are surely using their paper directories less and less. I reckon that phone books are on the way out — so let them fade away gradually, and provide small numbers for the elderly, the unconnected and the paper fetishists. The rest of us are done….”

But what really set off some people was this list I presented which followed. The print Yellow Pages:

  • Uses no additional energy all year long unlike the computer you are probably reading this on, which does use electricity continuously.
  • It requires no batteries or power or connectivity to make it work
  • It is made with recycled paper, is fully recyclable, and in the .3% of the landfill space it takes up, it does not pollute the landfill with the many toxins that all the electronic junk and batteries does.
  • It is not made with plastics which requires petroleum (at some $135.00 or more per barrel) like the computers, PDA’s, IPODs, fantastically equipped cell phones, switching equipment, cable shielding, and all the related hardware does
  • Is quicker in nearly every case I have seen to find the information you need
  • Is often more complete and accurate than many electronic products
  • Isn’t biased because of your age – with tattoos, sushi, and skateboards being some of the fastest growing headings, I doubt it is only being used by “the elderly”

Ok, we all acknowledge that the Internet will someday be the preferred source for information. But currently, it is far from perfect. And please don’t ask me to click away on my cell phone using some 2” screen to find what I need.

So next time you see comments like this in another post: “Of course, this doesn’t take the environmental costs of delivery, recycling transportation, recycling, or the 85% dumped-in-landfill costs into consideration.” be sure to ask them how their PC arrived — since I assume there was no environmental costs to produce, delivery, and landfill their machine.

It’s all in how you define the real “truth”.

Recycling Phone Books Into Packaging for Mushrooms

Who says Yellow Pages/phone books can’t be a valuable item to be recycled??

Here’s an interesting result from a recent Sustanible Packaging Leadership Awards held in Toronto on Earth Day, April 22nd.  At the event, Jim Downham, the President and CEO of the Packaging Association of Canada welcomed over 400 leaders in the packaging industry to recognize the very best in Sustainable Packaging.

A Bronze award went to Cascades which has been using recycled fibers from newsprint and Yellow Pages to create recyclable mushroom packaging. From their web site:

Category B – Raw Materials and Ancillary Services – Product


Cascades Inc.
Cascades UltraTill Mushroom Packaging

In response to decreasing waste in landfills in the future, and as an alternative to plastics, Cascades developed a 100% recyclable mushroom package made entirely from recycled fibres, principally from old newsprints and phonebooks. The production of the mushroom package helps to divert 1.5 tons of recycled paper per day from being landfilled.

Why I’m Still “Bullish” On Print

Posted in Print Yellow Pages by Ken C on April 21, 2008
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On my YP Talk newsletter, I received the following email the other day from a “Dominic”:

Ken:  In the condo complex where I live, I estimate that 30% of the print directories delivered end up in the collective trash bins on the day of delivery. I see it with my own eyes when I dump my directory. I understand your vested interest in print YPA, but I fail to see where your bullish position about print directories has merit. They are dying.

Dying???  Here is my response back:



Thank you for your comments.  Couple of points:


How many people in your complex??  Let’s say 2,000.  And you say 30% of directories end up in recycling??  How exactly did you come up with the 30% number??  Could those be older books, books from last year that people are replacing and recycling??  That still leaves 70% (by your count) of books still being used regularly.


My “bullish” position on print comes from some very real facts:

1.    Many print publishers use tracking numbers in the ads.  That phone number only appears in that that ad, in that book, and in no other forms of advertising.  Hence the only way that an advertiser can receive a call on that number is from an ad in the book.  The overwhelming majority of publishers I have talked to big and small indicate that those call volumes are UP in the past year.  So if “no one” is using the book, how can that be?

2.    The printing presses for phone books are full.  There is virtually no excess capacity anywhere.  Publishers are not dumb people who just want an excuse to print more than they need, so again, someone must be using these books are the publishers wouldn’t be printing them.

3.    The formal research the industry has conducts annually just showed the print usage as flat from the prior year.  This research is conducted by a viable, highly respected research group who does research for a number of media industries, so it is not plausible, as some have suggested, that they are cooking the result just to give the industry the numbers they want.

4.    Print gives you something the Internet doesn’t – a sense of a company’s size and worthiness based on the size and information in their print ad with others in that heading.  When a Google type search brings me back a zillion plus hits, you still need to cull through all the results to find what your looking for, and even then there is no way to differentiate between possible suppliers


Are there more options out there for consumers to find information – heck, yes.  But that old print book still is the most mobile product available, requires no special connections or technology, and is available in every home and business – it people would just take a minute to keep it.  They might discover as billions did last year that it is a pretty poerfull, but low tech informaiton source..



Find Paper Recycling Information in the Print Yellow Pages

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on April 14, 2008
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Those that have spent any time recently in and around the Yellow Pages industry are more than aware of the rash of new bloggers ranting away that the print Yellow Pages are a real problem for them — THEY get too many of them, THEY never use them,, etc. etc. etc..

While I suspect this is really the efforts of just 3 or 4 malcontents with way too much time on their hands, it was refreshing to read the following post:

  • “…Today, almost everyone can get into eco friendly and patriotic action with recycled paper….. To get started in this business, all you need is a phone and the yellow pages….” (link to full post)

Really?? Those big old clunky print Yellow Pages that are delivered to every home and business, require no special electrical or broadband connections, and where you can find whatever you need in less than a minute.

So next time you encounter one of those ranting bloggers who are loosing it online, tell them they are not being rational, or patriotic. Print books provide a valuable service to EVERYONE, not just the Internet elitists.

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