In boardrooms of yellow pages companies around the country, conversations like this are taking place:
PR: We’re getting flak about all of the waste our books generate. People are taking pictures of directories rotting outside foreclosed homes. It’s not good.
CEO: What can we do to create the illusion that we’re a green industry?
CFO: We can’t afford to pick up our own waste. It would ruin us financially.
CEO: We need to think outside the box on this one. Does anyone have any ideas?
Head of Circulation: How about we have children collect our waste?
CEO: You have my attention. Tell me more.
Head of Circulation: We could work with schools to run contests to see who can collect the most books. Kids are cheap. We may not even have to pay them.
CEO: Not pay them? But how?
PR: Are you thinking that we should give some small but significant amount of money to the schools that would make minimum wage seem like a lot of money?
Head of Circulation: Exactly. Schools will kill for $500 these days Heck, they’d probably run an assembly to motivate kids to earn that kind of coin. Compare that to what it would cost to hire adults pick up the books.
CEO: This does sound interesting.
CFO: If we donate money to the school rather than pay the children, we can probably turn this into a charitable donation.
PR: I bet we can get the media to cover this. They love feel good eco stories, and will totally miss the fact that we’re exploiting child labor to clean up our own mess. We spend a ton on advertising with the, so even if they realize that, they’ll ignore it.
CEO: This sounds too good to be true. Will it really work?
Head of Circulation: Yes! In fact, it’s already being done in some markets, like Hawaii, by The Berry Company.
CFO: We may also be able to sell the books the children collect to local recyclers. Some pay a penny a pound for phone books.
CEO: This is brilliant. I’m glad I thought of this.