Rather than sit here and continue to blog about questioning why people are still using the white pages phone book (aka ‘WPPB’), WhitePages has decided to get involved and take action! Today we launched BanThePhoneBook.org to help significantly reduce the unsolicited, and unnecessary, printing and delivery of the white pages phone book. The goals of BanThePhoneBook.org are simple:
- Educate others about the environmental impact of printing white pages phone books
- Encourage people to sign a petition showing their support for an ‘opt-in’ program
- Support phone companies, consumers and others in their efforts to curb the unnecessary printing and delivery of WPPB.
My interest in the topic began when I first joined WhitePages and noticed that both our website users and advertisers were continually confusing us with the printed phone books that are delivered every year. As AT&T started stepping up their efforts this year to implement ‘opt-in’ delivery programs within certain States earlier in the year this whole white pages phone book thing has been top-of-mind for all of us here at WhitePages.
With that interest in mind, we’ve been busy gathering as much information as possible over the past few months. We’ve had conversations with numerous folks who’ve shown interest in curbing the printing and delivery of the WPPB, scoured hundreds of websites, talked to environmental organizations and delved into some really thorough research papers. And just recently, the WhitePages team even surveyed our own user to get their take on the WPPB issue.
So exactly what did we find during our WPPB research efforts?
The environmental impact and economic costs are mind-boggling: WhitePages estimates that 5M trees need to be harvested each year to print ~147M white pages phone books. And the costs to recycle these books each year costs taxpayers an estimated $17M. (Are you kidding? Any way you look at it these estimates, the numbers are absolutely staggering.)
State laws exist that require telephone companies to print and distribute WPPB: It’s not that the phone companies want to print these wasteful books (it’s a pretty big cost for them). They’re required by law to deliver a phone book to every landline customer! Makes a ton of sense, right?
Consumers are unaware of the environmental waste of printing the WPPB: When asked if they knew that millions of trees are cut down each year to print the WPPB each year, 74% of survey respondents answered ‘No’. And Less than 16% recycle their old books (that’s nuts).
Consumers would overwhelmingly support an ‘Opt-in’ Program: When asked if they would support an “opt-in” program (only receive a white pages phone book if you request one) if they it would have a positive impact on the environment and save taxpayers millions of dollars each year, 81% of survey respondents responded ‘Yes’.
Many different free alternatives to the WPPB exist: Whether it’s an online directory like whitepages.com, social networks, search engines or killer mobile apps like this one, there are clearly alternatives to the printed white pages phone book. And the vast majority of these alternatives are much, much, much more environmentally friendly than the WPPB. (yeah, we have a couple of self-promotional plugs, afterall we do provide free contact information for over 90 percent of US adults!)
Ultimately though, our efforts with BanThePhoneBook.org are all about making a big environmental impact. If this initiative succeeds in making people aware of the issues and impacts real, measurable change, then we’ll be nothing but smiles here in Seattle.
There’s no reason for the white pages phone book spam to continue (think doorstops, booster seats, monitor stands, etc.) only to end up in landfills. If you agree, sign the petition. If not, at least recycle them!
I’m almost afraid to ask, but if you have any comments, questions, criticisms or concerns, just post below.