Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stop printing phone books!

AT&T continued its wasteful practice of stuffing mailboxes in New Canaan, Conn., and elsewhere with unwanted phone books this week.
I received two new AT&T phone books.
Nearly three years ago, I wrote about how baffling it was that companies still printed phone directories when the Internet makes searching for phone numbers and businesses much easier. The fact that phone books still exist is one of the failed promises of the digital era.
Left on their own, phone book publishers would continue this practice for years to come. So it’s time for governments to get involved.
Governments often overstep their bounds in regulating business practices, but I think this is one area where they could make a positive difference.
San Francisco has taken the right approach. It passed an ordinance that allows Yellow Pages phone books to be distributed only to people who request them. It’s billed as the first opt-in program for phone books in the U.S.
Elsewhere in the U.S., people can opt out of getting phone books by visiting, which is run by the Local Search Association, formerly called the Yellow Pages Association.
For my zip code in Connecticut, six commercial phone books are offered.
The Local Search Association says directory paper is made from recycled newspapers and residual chips from sawmills, not from freshly cut trees. It also says it uses vegetable-based inks and eco-friendly adhesives that pose little threat to the environment.
But not printing phone books to begin with would be even better for the environment.

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