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The Yellow Pages Association has finally made it easier to opt out of phone book delivery with the launch a dedicated opt-out site earlier this week. The YPA is calling the site the National Yellow Pages Consumer Choice & Opt-Out Site, because it allows you to opt out of all books or choose to receive selected books. To be clear, the YPA is not a book publisher — it is the largest trade organization of a print and digital media industry.
In order to opt out, the new YPA site asks for some general personal information such as a name, address, email and phone number. The site also lists a sustainability report, which reads more like a marketing brochure to help mend the tarnished image of wasteful phone books.
When previously researching the issues with paper phone books, I learned that managing the system is much more complicated than it would appear. The YPA opt-out warns that the request to discontinue delivery may take 12 weeks to take effect.
Stopping the delivery of antiquated phone books at the source is the best way to stem their environmental repercussions, which include the needless waste of paper, the energy it takes to produce them, and the CO2 emissions produced by delivering them.

Inhabitat ranted about the negative impact of directories back in 2009, after finding very few options to stop phone book delivery. I clicked through through the opt-out process, and was first surprised to see that I am eligible to receive 9 different phone books for my area in Chicago, produced by a range of publishers.
Members are mostly Yellow Page directory publishers in the US and Canada, but the organization also extends memberships to sales, marketing, advertisers, and suppliers to the directory industry. On one hand it clearly states that LifeCycle Analysis data identified three major issues in book production: water consumption during paper production, energy consumption during printing, and landfill leachate at end of life. For example, many companies hire contract companies to complete the delivery services, so the information for who has opted out may not get passed on.
Many municipalities still will not accept phone books along with other recycled paper products, or require special drop off locations.
I’m not holding my breath to see when the books stop coming, but if they do, I will be back to blog praises that the new system actually worked. Historically, The Yellow Pages Association (YPA) has spent millions lobbying against on-demand directory programs, so they new site is a step in the right direction -- but it is far from an ideal solution.

Browsing through the privacy policy, I found what you may have already assumed – The YPA collects aggregate information to provide to advertisers. The report goes on to point out some of the “greener” attributes of the books, such as the use of soy-based inks, efforts for recycling programs, and the potentials for upcycling. Also, if you live in a building with multiple units, you have probably seen large piles of books outside. This is something that many websites do, and it may be helping them to recoup losses from the drop in demand for publisher memberships in their organization. The highlighted statements make it appear that the books are not very harmful, and put a green veil over the issues, since they do not have a strong tie back to the top three impact issue identified in the LCA report.

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