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Willie Weir : July 14th, 2010

26 Seconds

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Twenty-six seconds.

That was the elapsed time between the delivery of our “Dex” phone books and their arrival in our recycle bin.

It has been a couple of years since any phone book has made it into our house from the front porch. Pounds of paper wrapped in a plastic bag. I used to bring them in out of some bizarre sense of guilt. Trees had been sacrificed. Gas used to delivery them. All sorts of compounds went into the ink for the bright “the phone book’s here” colors. But there they would sit in my office, gathering dust for several months before they ended up in the recycle bin.

The time has come. The time for citizens to be given the option to “opt out” of receiving physical phone books. Or even better, an “opt in” policy.

Fortunately, that time maybe coming sooner than later. Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien has been pondering the value of physical phone books and their impact on our city.

Mike says in his post:
“So what do we do next? I’ve decided to take up a collection. If you receive unwanted phone books, I encourage you to bring them down to city hall and drop them off for my office, and I will store them here as we ponder what to do next. It would be even better if you attached a brief story about your unwanted phone books: Do you not use Yellow Pages at all? Do you use Yellow Pages, but feel you can go without multiple copies? Do you have a favorite brand? What steps have you taken previously to stop receiving phonebooks and did it work? Or maybe you feel the existing phonebook system works well for you? If you don’t want to lug your unwanted yellow pages into city hall but have a story to share, please post it here.

As we continue to formulate our policies on reducing waste, I look forward to hearing from you.”

Read Mike O’Brien’s whole post here.

So here is your chance to help stop the delivery truck-to-porch-to-recycle bin tango. Go to Mike’s office with your unwanted phone book or go to his page above and leave your comments.

Maybe if we can’t convince the industry to give us an “opt in” policy … maybe each residence can at least opt to have their phone books delivered directly into their recycle bins.

5 comments to 26 Seconds

  • What a great idea. The only time the directory makes it into our house is if we get one around Halloween time. You can stuff a scary looking dummy with waded up phone book pages. Of course, a head never goes on the dummy. That would be way too nice looking.

  • [...] Beacon Hill neighbor Willie Weir has some thoughts about the waste of space and resources that old-style paper phone books have become for many of us. Read his article “26 Seconds” on his blog, Yellow Tent Adventures. [...]

  • Kari

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the opt-out option. You can find it online at yellowpagesoptout.com.
    After entering the site, you enter your zip code and the site lists phone book providers in your area, along with links to opt-out pages on their websites.

    A much more convenient option than bringing phone books to city hall. I opted out two years ago and haven’t seen a phone book since.

  • Alex

    I agree with Kari. It might be hard to imagine for those of surfing the net from home, but a lot of people in this city don’t have internet at their home or on their phone and still use the phone book. seems like opt-out is pretty easy to do

  • Patrick

    Opt-out is great for the conscientious but it doesn’t account for the importance of default behavior. Particularly when a “free” item is involved. It takes positive effort to go opt out that 90% of people aren’t going to expend if the other option is a book magically showing up that they don’t care about one way or the other.

    Opt-in seems much more effective at reducing unnecessary waste than a huge opt-out marketing campaign that A. won’t happen and B. will still probably only reach 20% of users.

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