YP ‘Opt Out’ Propsal Passes Local City Council

Here’s my first post with some background:

[Cambridge] City Councilor Sam Seidel wants to save the world — one phone book at a time.

This week, Seidel introduced a proposal that would allow citizens to opt out of receiving the Yellow Pages phone books delivered to their doorsteps.

Apparently it passed this week:

The council voted unanimously on Monday to look into an eco-friendly plan that would allow residents to opt out of having phone books delivered to their front doorstep.

The motivation was largely environmental:

Seidel, a Berkeley graduate who ran for the council partially on an environmentalist platform, mentioned at Monday’s meeting that the waste of natural resources is not limited to simply the printing process.

“There’s a lot of petrochemicals… that go into distributing these books, and then you have to recycle them,” Seidel said. “There’s a whole lot of fossil fuels that go into this and no benefit to any individual.”

There’s a similar effort in Boston. The response to this Boston initiative was that this proposed ordinance in Boston may not stand up legally because white pages are required by law to be distributed and many times white and yellow pages are bound together.

That may have been the part that got printed but it’s not enough to put out this brush fire, which may turn into a forest fire for the yellow pages industry if it’s not careful and proactive.


In the Cambridge case above, there’s a “generational problem” for print that is analogous to the predicament of print newspapers in a way. The city council member who introduced the ordinance, I’m guessing, is in his early 30s and has substituted the Internet for print. He doesn’t see a need for “the book” in his own life or the lives of his friends and giving people the ability “opting out” seems to be a sound consumer and environmental policy.

These arguments are going to be hard to challenge and legalistic or legal positions will not carry the day with what might be called “conscious consumers.” One thing the industry should explore is printing on 90% to 100% recycled paper (don’t know if that’s possible) with non-toxic inks to address these environmental objections.

6 Responses to “YP ‘Opt Out’ Propsal Passes Local City Council”

  1. troy Says:

    Yes, it’s hard to tell whether this is the spark that burn down an industry or will flame out after a while. My guess is that this will catch on with some cities but not all. Unlike Telemarketing which was downright annoying to everybody. Yellowpages might be annoying to some but till useful to others.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    It’s clearly useful:

    “When purchasing a product or service from a local business, which of the following would you look to for information?”

    Search engines 74.1
    Print yellow pages 65.1
    Internet yellow pages 49.9
    Print newspaper 44.4
    Print white pages 32.6
    Television 28.6
    Direct mail 19.5
    User review websites 18.3
    Radio 14.9
    Coupon books 10.1
    Other 4.9

    Source: Webvsible-Nielsen (10/07) n=2,001. Numbers exceed 100% because respondents were allowed to identify multiple answers

  3. troy Says:

    I found it somewhat amusing that people that are against yellowpages are most likely big consumer of bottled water which I find to be just a bad for the environment with the millions of plastic bottles in landfill and all over our cities.

  4. Greg Sterling Says:

    Yes, people are contradictory and hypocritical.

  5. Eddie Says:

    See? ………heard from reliable sources that this is at the Washington DC level. So, could accellerate the inevidable. Or, at the pace DC moves, it may be a non-event. Whichever way, a verticalized (more condensed) version will still be around for a long time. And it’s believed that consumer households will at least Opt-in to one brand, so they have one around. Reducing the distribution of multiple brands by 5-6 fold in some metros.

  6. kcpc Says:

    Consumers can now “opt out” of receiving telephone books at http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org. This organization will contact the publishers and inform them to stop delivering books. This is a free service for consumers. http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is working with state and local governments on ordinances concerning the delivery of unsolicited telephone books. http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is not against the telephone books but against the delivery of 4 to 5 pounds of paper on people’s door step 5 to 6 times per year and being told it is our responsibility to recycle something we did not ask for. If we need a book we will call. Otherwise I “opt out” from receiving it. Here are phone numbers of the publishers if you would like to call them instead: The directory publishers listed make it possible for you to stop receiving their books, but they don’t make it easy. None of the menu options includes “opting-out”. Follow the roadmap and you should get to a customer service representative who can help you.

    — ATT/ Yellow Pages: 1-800-479-2977
    — Verizon: 800-555-4833, press 4, then 5, then 2
    — DEX: 1-877-243-8339, press 2
    — Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556, press 2

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