I happened to be walking in my neighborhood and noticed a few guys frantically running to and from a slow moving budget rental truck. They were distributing stacks upon stacks of brand, spankin' new phone books. No stoop was left behind - every single residential door was graced with updated contact information for the entire borough of Brooklyn.
Now, can you tell me when was the last time you flipped through the yellow pages to look up a phone number?
I understand this is a community service thing or paid advertising or something altruistic - but in our digital age (we'll suspend the e-waste topic for this posting) is this tower of telephone books really necessary? Even though they are made on paper that contains "up to" 40% post-consumer recycled material, what if they weren't printed at all? Or what if half as many were printed?
Good question. Aside from the environmental cost, distributing printed yellow and white tomes to every home and business in Australia must represent a huge cost to their business. Wouldn't you want to reduce that if you could?
In Australia, the phone books are produced by Sensis (a subsidiary of Telstra). They have a phone book opt-out: you can call them on 1800 810 211 and request not to receive one (and I'd encourage you to do so) but that seems a pretty inefficient way to reduce the number of phone books distributed - how many people know about (and will bother) opting out?
I've asked them if they're taking any other measures to reduce the number of phone books they need to produce and distribute and I'll let you know if I receive a response.
Update Thurs 18 Jan:
Sensis has replied - see the comments below.
Some of the measures they take to reduce the number of books are:
- Splitting of the metropolitan White Pages into Business and Residential volumes, and only delivering the Business section to business customers. If they want a residential section, they can ring up and order one.
- Reduction of business delivery numbers through asking a representative how many copies they require at the time of delivery.
- Directories are delivered to secured apartment buildings and calling cards left in each residence’s mail box. If the directories are not collected within 14 days, they are collected by Sensis and re-distributed elsewhere.
- Refining of print orders based on each year’s distribution figures for each area.