Be honest. When is the last time you opened the Yellow Pages and looked up a phone number?
Maybe there was that big storm last year -- the one that knocked you off the Internet, so you had to look up the electric company's number the old-fashioned way to report the outage? Or maybe you still use the reference maps in the old yellow book when you need to remind yourself -- what's the area code again for Great Aunt Maude's house in Utah?
But for most of us, the last time we touched a physical phone book was when it dropped on our front porch, unasked-for. And we only touched the Yellow Pages for the amount of time it took to carry it from the front porch directly to the recycling bin. Which seems like kind of a waste.
All Together Now: How Big of a Waste Is It?
According to website Lifehacker, Seattle alone spends $350,000 annually disposing of taxpayers' unwanted Yellow Pages. The environmentalists at Treehugger.com estimate that nationwide, recycling costs, plus landfill costs (for the 82 percent of phone books that get trashed rather than recycled) could exceed $60 million.
And speaking of the environment, Treehugger goes on to point out that the 650,000 tons of phone books shuttled from printer to front porch to recycling bin every year add about 1,474,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalents to the atmosphere -- about the same amount of pollution as is produced by 310,000 cars.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could shut that pollution down, and cut out that waste of money, all with the click of a button?
Ask and Ye Shall Receive (or Stop Receiving, If Desired)
Well, fortunately, you can. And it's "the Yellow Pages" itself (now owned by private equity firm Cerberus, according to S&P Capital IQ) that helped build the button. In cooperation with the Association of Directory Publishers, the Local Search Association (which includes both U.S. and international Yellow Pages companies), has built a service called YellowPagesOptOut.com. As the name implies, this website lets you opt out of receiving the Yellow Pages on your doorstep. It works like this:
First, go to YellowPagesOptOut.com, enter your ZIP code and register your name, phone number, address and email address (to ensure you're not some nefarious third party, trying to cancel your neighbor's Yellow Pages subscription).
Next, wait for a password to be sent to your email.
Finally, return to the website, enter the password and opt out of receiving the Yellow Pages forevermore.
It's really that simple. While you're at it, you might want to opt out of receiving junk mail from the post office and taking telemarketing calls during dinner as well. To accomplish these worthy goals, go to:
DMAchoice.org, to opt out of other forms of junk mail -- catalogs and magazine offers, for example.
DoNotCall.gov, a Federal Trade Commission-operated do-not-call list where you can register to ban telemarketers from phoning you -- and register a complaint if they fail to comply.
If it's true that "time is money," just a little time spent checking the correct boxes on these websites (each of which is free to register with, by the way) could save you a lot of money. And if in the process, you keep a bit of carbon out of the air, and save a few trees from the wood chipper -- there's probably no harm in that, either.
Confession time: Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith does keep one single copy of the Yellow Pages (albeit from 2008) in the closet, just in case he needs it. But so far, he hasn't. He owns no interest in any companies mentioned, and neither does The Motley Fool.