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??


Psychologists Now Want to Help You Think Green

Posted in Misc Green News by Ken C on August 15, 2008
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As reported in USA Today, a four-day meeting of the American Psychological Association in Boston had some 16,000 people attend to explore how people think about environmental protection.

Among the most interesting findings:

  • Walking outside rather than inside (even just 15 minutes) tends to make people feel “happier, more energetic and more protective of the environment” – unless of course you are walking around downtown Los Angeles
  • Negative feedback about their ecological footprint undermines their environmental behavior – I assume the approach of the beatings will continue until you get it right don’t work?
  • Psychologists report that people are conscious that they should be doing more to protect the environment, yet they are confused about what to actually do. What a surprise – see prior post on this
  • News stories that include global warming skeptics seriously undermine the public’s concern over climate change. Say what? Guess people really don’t want to hear the facts?

The relevance of this item to the Yellow Pages industry is that the printed books delivered to the doorsteps of every household are an easy target because people are not informed, numerous erroneous facts have proliferated the Internet, and their perceptions are different than the reality of how this consume and use information.

The industry has a lot more educating to do.

YPA Adds “Think Green” Column

The Yellow Pages Association (YPA) stepped up its efforts to inform and educate by today introducing the “Think Green Column” on its “Yellow is Green” Environmental Web site.

YPA indicates the Think Green Columns will appear monthly to share opinions, ideas and even historical perspectives on the environment and the yellow pages.

In its press release, Neg Norton, president of YPA said:

“As Yellow Pages are the lifeline for many small businesses trying to reach ready-to-buy consumers, it’s imperative for our organization to provide a forum where yellow pages and environmental industry influencers can share their views and break new ground,”

The inaugural issue features John Howell from Nippon Paper Industries’ Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Drawing on his nearly 30 years of working in the yellow pages paper industry, he discusses the paper supply challenges facing the Yellow Pages industry today including increased demand from China for fiber; low fiber availability due to the housing market decline; and environmental pressures from proposed Yellow Pages legislation. John was instrumental in helping YP Talk with its extensive article on “How Paper is Made”.

Kudo’s to YPA for adding this effort. The more positive conversation we can generate, the better it will be for the industry overall. There are still plenty of uninformed advertisers and users that need to hear the real story behind what the industry provides.

“Green.” What’s the Problem?

Posted in Misc Green News by Ken C on July 16, 2008
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Sure, everything you see, read, and hear is about “going green”, being “eco-friendly”, “environmental consensus”, etc. etc. etc. But the bad news is that the average consumer doesn’t have a clue what that really means.

The Shelton Group, a Knoxville, TN based ad agency that is suppose to specialize in energy efficiency and sustainability (now there’s a new twist), recently conducted a national study, the “Eco Pulse”, which asked consumers open-ended and multiple-choice questions about green issues. The findings suggest there is a whole lot of confusion out there.

Some of the major findings:

  • Name which features a home would need to have before they would consider it green? 42% said they didn’t know.
  • While 49% of respondents said a company’s environmental record is important in their purchasing decisions, only 21% used that information when making a product decision. Even worse, only 7% could name the product they purchased.
  • “Given a choice between your comfort, your convenience or the environment, which do you most often choose?” Surprise (NOT). Most Americans put their personal comfort ahead of the environment – 46% chose comfort and 31% chose the environment.
  • We love the media — 40% admitted to negative or ambivalent responses (“skeptical,” “irritated,” “guilty” or “unaffected”) to increased media attention regarding our impact on the environment
  • We only do it to make us look better — when asked why most companies that adopt environmentally friendly practices do so, the most common response (47%) was “to make their company look better to the public.”

The message from this study is it is still early in the development of what “green” is or should be. It does offer all Yellow Page publishers an opportunity to make their print and IYP products a source for the valuable information consumers will need.

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.

Let the market decide

Posted in Publisher Efforts by Ken C on June 27, 2008
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One of the arguments that the industry makes to the anti-print Yellow Pages crowd who get so twisted that they receive 6, 7, or more directories a year at their doorstep, is that the marketplace will ultimately decided which products survive and prosper, and which exit the business.

With the unprecedented growth in book publishing over the past few years, outside of a few very small, somewhat dubious publishers, there really haven’t been many cases we could definitively point to where that was true, until yesterday.

Reports from various sources (Kelsey Group, others) indicate that Idearc will cease production of some 28 independent directory titles which amounts to some 7.6 million copies (or about 6% of their total distribution). This will also result in about 200 people being laid-off and several offices being closed.

What brought this about? Current economic conditions certainly where a contributor but the growing volume of Yellow Pages in some markets will just not support the level of small business leads needed to provide the ROI required by advertisers. In effect, too much competition diluted what every publisher could offer to its advertisers.

As a result, the marketplace decided which products should continue and which should leave.

Print Mistakes Can Draw Signficant Attention

Posted in Print Yellow Pages by Ken C on June 25, 2008
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If you believe what some bloggers are telling you that only the elderly and the great technologically unwashed are the only ones using the print Yellow Pages, than why do some businesses get so upset if their listing is incorrectly published in the print books??

Latest example is the A-American Self Storage, a Carson Valley, California-based family-run self storage company, who is demanding an apology from phone book publishers who listed the Gardnerville location as the first listing under the Entertainment-Adult category, right before the Bunny Ranch brothel.

While errors in the printed books are rare (i.e. less than one omitted ad per 1000), they do happen. And you had better believe that not only the advertisers that pay for those ads notice it when a mistake occurs, but also the users who generated those 14 billion annual look-ups (even if bloggers think it is a bogus number).

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.

Now it get’s personal

Posted in Editor Picks by Ken C on May 13, 2008
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You’ve seen them — bloggers who by virtue of the fact that they have a keyboard, an Internet connection, and half a brain can start spewing all kinds of inaccuracies across hyperspace. Among those I have seen:

  • Yellow Pages kills trees — Not true — see article on how paper is made (click here)
  • No one uses them — Not true, unless you consider nearly 14 BILLION look-ups last year to be “no one:
  • the Industry makes up the usage numbers — Not true unless you believe that all the research organizations that do research for a range of media have some compelling reason to ONLY bake the number for Yellow Pages
  • I don’t want one, I don’t use, I am offended you deliver one to my doorstep, — me, me, me. Please people, get a life. It’s just a phone book. It takes them longer to write their rants and complaints than it does to just recycle what they don’t want.

And so on and on. Usually I find the vast majority of these people are well intentioned but totally uninformed. Usually when presented with the facts, they will at least take the time to reconsider their position.

But now it’s getting personal. Case in point — this captain of commerce ignored all the facts presented and still ran this charming write-up: click here, but don’t do so on an empty stomach. He even went as far as to suggest everyone send me books they don’t want. Well, if they want to waste the postage and be even less eco-friendly, fine, I will gladly recycle any that show up. But you should note that the writer also closed his blog to further comments — hence, you now see the ugly side of the Internet, and it’s personal. Of course the other thing to note is the writer is hiding behind his site — you don’t know anything about who this, they don’t even have a formal mailing address, and it appears they are some local search engine marketing group (so of course there is no agenda there).

I hope all of you that read this have this key takeaway — these efforts are not going to go away, this industry in under siege, you livelihood will soon be under attack –> it’s time to start pushing back. All of us. Now. Because it’s starting to get personal….

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