Here’s an interesting video from the Yellow Pages Association where they put the best spin they can on the environmental damage they cause:
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Rather than taking on the real issues here, they’ve come up with at least a dozen talking points:
1. “Nearly 90% of adults use it” so why are they sending three copies to 100% of adults? That’s an extraordinarily huge amount of waste.
2. “It’s a fast and easy way to find out information about local businesses.” True, in a world that doesn’t have better alternatives. Why rely on a list of businesses and ads when you can use comparison sites, the businesses websites, and other sources of information before picking up the phone? In 2009, people want to learn more about a business than the yellow pages provides before engaging a business in a conversation. Consumers are at an information disadvantage when they call a business. They’re working on solving that by doing more research before calling (they still end up calling, but they have to turn to sources other than the yellow pages to find more information). The Yellow Pages are a good place to influence a decision among those who still use the yellow pages.
3. “Return on investment.” The industry’s gross revenues are declining. In a tight economy, people make cuts from things that they can’t justify while investing the same or more in the things that prove to work.
4. “Not all directories contain the same information.” which makes them all less valuable compared to places that aggregate all information like the web. Rather than determining which directory best suits their needs, they may determine that they all come up short.
5. “1/3 of 1% of the solid waste stream” is a LOT of waste. A 1993 report (PDF) from the EPA estimated that there is 195.7 million tons of municipal solid waste generated every year. Surely, that’s increased since then. But even using that dated figure, that puts 1/3rd of 1% at 587,100,000 tons per year. Comparing against newspapers is rather unfair considering that people subscribe (opt-in to something they find valuable) to newspapers while people are forced to receive yellow pages.
6. “by recycling, reducing, and reusing materials.” goes to show that the Yellow Pages industry didn’t pay enough attention when this concept was explained in grade school. You gain the most environmental benefits through reducing the production of stuff that doesn’t need to be created in the first place. Then reuse as much as you can. Then recycle things when they’re no longer reusable.
7. “voluntary environmental guidelines.” Voluntarily ignored?
8. “opt-out” They give consumers the ability to opt-out, but then they ignore those opt-out lists the next time they deliver.
9. “local community recycling efforts” the yellow pages industry does some PR in this area but has generated pathetic recycling results.
10. “40% recycled content” so 60% is not.
11. “Residual wood chips” Residual wood chips could be used for a lot of things other than creating unwanted yellow pages.
12. “we encourage our members to be environmentally responsible” Good for you. But are they? According to YP industry consultant, Ken Clark, people won’t make environmentally friendly choices unless they’re financially beneficial. Does this apply to the industry?
I heard a lot of lip service from Neg Norton of the Yellow Pages Association and Scott W. Klein from Idearc Media.
Guys, if you were really serious about protecting the environment, here’s what you’d do:
1. Mandate opt-out lists by members.
2. Work to create a universal opt-out list for those who’d like to opt-out of all directories. Similar to a do not call list.
3. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE in that order.
4. Find greener ways to deliver your books, such as drop-off locations at local businesses rather than door to door delivery.
Until you do any of those, I don’t think you’re trying hard enough.