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Printed phonebooks. In 2009. Really?

September 7, 2009


Who actually uses them and who just puts them straight in the trash, umm recycling? How many stay on the font doorstop getting soggy, or get stored in a draw until the next one arrives to replace it. Even if you do use it, how many of the 2,000+ pages do you read? I am guessing that many of you are like me and never or at least rarely have a need for this cumbersome old technology. Think about it you want to find the phone number for the local vets, you have two choices.

1. Use that wonderfully simple white box on a well know search engine and type ‘vet in north London’ (or wherever local is to you). Select the first option and voila, you got it.


2. Think about where you put that huge yellow thing about 4 months ago. Then go to the draw in the study, pull out all those unread letters and bank statements that is jamming it in and get your fingers around it a yank it out. Next find V, you calculate V is letter 22 in the alphabet, must be near the end. Great you landed on W must be close. You flick backwards, OMG how many window cleaners are there. Finally V, then V, E, luckily V is not a very large section so this is pretty fast. So you have found Vets. AAAAAAAGH. What’s with all those crazy adverts jumping out at me? You pick the first. No wait there must be one closer than that. Ok so lets start referring to all the addresses. Yes all 127 of them. Finally you have found one. now find a piece  of paper to jot the number down before jamming the phone book back in the draw and wedging it in place with the letters. Before you make the call you need a cup of tea to relax after the stress of the event.

Ok, so I may have been a little unfair on the big book but you have to admit there is a certain truth in my description.

Even if you do this once a month or even 10 times a month that is still a lot of printed pages you will never look at, which means a lot of waste.

But how much waste? According to the official yellow pages website (UK), they distribute 28.4 million copies. With a population of just over 60 million that’s nearly 1 for every other person (this includes babies and children). Then there is the Thomson Local (White pages in the USA). Another 22 million or 1 for every three people. So put together that’s nearly 1 phone book per person.

This is old technology. We can get faster more accurate results on our lap tops and mobile phones.

Remember to answer this question —–>

Of course they are going to keep printing them as long as companies keep paying for adds. But it seems to me that companies’ keep paying for adds because that’s what everyone else is doing. But this just means every company is lost among hundreds if not thousands of companies selling the same product or service. Using an Internet search engine allows us to define our search parameters. In a book we can look for Vet. On line you can search for what you want. EG. ‘Vets 24 hour emergency Hampstead heath, London. And guess what, the first option was exactly right. You can’t do that in 0.1 seconds (that’s the time Google said that it took) with a phonebook.


According to up to 5 million trees are cut down to print the white pages in the USA every year. And the Yellow Pages is printed in more than 120 countries.

So what can you do to stop all this printing? I believe a good solution would be an Opt-in delivery program. Meaning, the directories are only delivered to homes and companies that request it. The idea comes from, which offers a petition for people to sign asking for an opt-in program.

Although afterd oing a bit of digging I found out was the creation of the ‘White Pages’. On their website it says ‘WhitePages launches BANTHEPHONEBOOK.ORG to educate consumers on the environmental impact of printing and distributing the white pages phonebook. Check out the site and sign the petition!’. Nowhere does it say what will be done with the petition.

Does this mean that this petition is just a big marketing campaign? I am interested to find out what is going to happen to this petition. Maybe someone from White Pages would like to answer this.

As I am not sure of the credibility of the above petition, I have created my own. Which can be found HERE, and can be signed by people from any country. So please join me to stop the wasteful printing of phonebooks.

Thanks for reading.


The Petition

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 9, 2009 11:48 pm

    Hi Ed,

    Thanks for bringing more attention to the white pages phone book issue. It’s great to see so many people passionate about making a real difference.

    The petition will be used to help impact and influence State PUC’s to create opt-in programs around the white pages phone book. In order for a petition to be moderately effective, you need around 10K localized signatures (this number coming from multiple folks involved driving grass-roots legislative campaigns). At the moment, we have roughly 15k signees and our next step is to use this momentum to target specific State PUC’s. For example, our efforts have garnered attention from multiple States and they’d like for us to help them with their efforts to bring attention and awareness to the issue. So, we’ll start targeting those specific States with the petition and use the petition to show that folks truly do care about reducing the printing and distribution of the white pages phone book. (i.e. Georgia).

    But you do bring up a good point…we should probably be clearer with people on what we plan to do with the petition. Thanks for the feedback!

    John Lusk
    VP, Marketing
    WhitePages, Inc.

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