Opt Out of Your Next Phonebook

Photo by Lulu Vision

A few weeks ago, I walked into my apartment building and after stepping over the usual piles of pizza coupons, marketing mailers and miscellaneous unsolicited mail that littered the entryway, I started the climb up three flights of stairs to my place. To my enviro-horror, each floor greeted me with this scene: a two- or three-pound phone book individually wrapped in a plastic bag in front of every last door. An environmentally-minded person, I couldn’t help but privately rage. Once I made it to my floor, I mentally prepared myself for that sense of guilt I’d feel when I reached the book at my door.

Then I got there. No phone book. At first I thought, “But, but, everyone else got one, why not me? I’m so left out and alone!”Then I remembered that months prior I had registered with the website YellowPagesOptOut.com, which informs phone book companies that I’ve requested to not receive a book. I was relieved, but still felt bad thinking of the college students in my apartment building using a phone book to prop up a wobbly chair while using their smart phones to Google the delivery number for Hot Box Cookies.

In 2011, the yellow pages and white pages are of little use to most people because of access to the web on computers and smart phones. Though these directories still have utility for many people–especially those with financial or geographic barriers to internet access–activists, lawmakers and even some phone book publishers themselves are making noise in support of an opt-in plan. This would make it so anyone who wanted a phone book would have to call their local publisher and request one be delivered, as opposed to companies simply dumping them on every porch uniformly. That would be good news, considering an estimated 650,000 tons of phone books are delivered to doorsteps across the country every year, of which only about 17% ever ends up in a recycling bin (according to TreeHugger.)

So, while we might not be able to count on the disappearance of the phone book anytime soon, you can still do your part by registering with YellowPagesOptOut.com if you’d rather not see another phone book welcome you home.

However, there are some independent phone book publishers that will not accept a third-party opt-out request. To stop receiving their materials, you’ll have to call them directly.


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