It has long been my habit to start the morning in chaos. If I'm not running incredibly late, I'm cursing my messy room, frantically searching for that matching sock or scouring the hamper for something remotely presentable.
This morning's madness, reached an unprecedented level of pandemonium. After wrestling my hair dryer from a prison of wires, my eyeliner exploded all over my face—I looked like a 17th century chimney sweep. If that wasn't bad enough, my toilet went postal. It wouldn't stop running. Over and over again it flushed and flushed and flushed—my environmental nightmare. Finally, after wrangling that can to a lull, I sprinted out of my apartment.
But not so fast! As I leaped out the door, wrestling my arm through an unruly coat, my foot caught the edge of a large stack of telephone books piled neatly on my front doormat. The pile was wrapped in plastic, which snagged my horned boot and sent me hurdling through the air. I landed, hands, knees and face on a dirty hallway floor. I was livid. Quite honestly, I still am. No doubt, the above experience makes me biased. Yet, who can deny, the unsolicited distribution of phone books is absolutely absurd?
First of all, phone books are terrible for the environment. Just consider the massive amount of energy consumed for their production and distribution. 540 million are doled out every year. And even though many are 40% post-consumer recycled, phone books still require enormous quantities of paper, ink and oil. When we throw them out—usually within five seconds of finding them on the doorstep—they steal space in the local landfill.
Second, NOBODY EVER USES PHONE BOOKS! Honestly, when is the last time you opened one? They're absolutely outmoded dinosaurs. Who needs them when there's Google 411? Besides everybody knows the best escort services are listed in the alt-weekly?
Ok, ok. I'm being a bit extreme. Of course, not everyone has internet access and many people use phone books for local listings. Yet, given today's information age, is it not possible to have a strict solicit-only system for these energy and resource sucking manuscripts? I raise my glass to such a concept. If you agree, here are some simple ways to join the fight against useless phone book distribution.
1. Opt Out
Click here to request that your name and address be removed from the Yellow Pages printed directory mailing list.
2. Get Just One
If you still want to get one phone book, not 10 at a time. Call the individual titles directly. Tell them how many books you want a year and to stop unloading duplicates on your front porch.
AT&T/YellowPages (formerly SBC and Bell South):
Yellow Book: 1-800-373-3280 or 1-800-373-2324
3. Write a letter to the Yellow Pages Association
Yellow Pages Association (YPA) Global Headquarters Two Connell Drive, First Floor Berkeley Heights, N.J. 07922-2747 (908) 286-2380 (908) 286-0620 (Fax)
4. Go to the Commander and Chief
Hit up the president of the Yellow Pages Association for some one-on-one fire.
Mr. Negley (Neg) Norton President, Yellow Pages Association (YPA) Two Connell Drive, First Floor Berkeley Heights, N.J. 07922-2747 (908) 286-2385
5. Sign the Petition
Tell congress to make unsolicited phone book distribution illegal. Sign the petition at PaperlessPetition.org.
Now what to do with all those old phone books collecting dust? Recycle them of course. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for every 500 phone books recycled, 7,000 gallons of water, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, 17 to 31 trees and 4,100 kilowatts of electricity are saved. That's enough power to serve an average home for 6 months.
In most cases, you can simply toss your old phone book in your curbside paper-recycling bin. Some regions, however, require phone books be dropped off at specified recycling centers. To learn the rules for your district, visit the "Keep American Beautiful" recycling directory.
If you don't want to recycle your old phone books repurpose them for something useful. Yellow books make great booster seats, cockroach killer and x-acto knife cutting surfaces.
Olivia Zaleski is a green living expert.