Fed Up With Phone Books Loitering In My Driveway // 12.22.2008 at 7:25 PM
Categories: Business Innovations in Community Development, Business Innovations in Sustainability, Buy Local, Conservation, Disposal and Recycling, Greenwashing, Leadership and Influence, Social Responsibility
As I am near completion of Tim's book, the idea of social innovation has really been striking home with me, to the point now that any severe lack of social innovation just flat out ticks me off. And boy did it hit me hard last week when I drove up to find not one, but two phone books laying in my driveway (and in every other driveway on the street). Although I haven't counted, I would guess that those were the ninth and tenth I've found in the past year.
Besides the sheer repitition I can't remember the last time I opened a phone book, meaning that even the first phone book left in my driveway was a waste. I remember a line from a movie called "Other People's Money" with Danny Devito (a great movie that matches Tim's message) ... Devito says, "You know, at one time there must've been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I'll bet the last company around was the one that made the best g**damn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company?" (check stock ticker RHD ... down 99.05% in '08)
Normally when I encounter a phone book, I stand outside and pitch a hissy fit then attempt the eqivolent of a 3-pointer into my recycling bin. But, this time, I'd had it. For the first time, one of these books made into my house, but the only thing I looked up was what ignorant, outdated company thought it was OK ruin our good earth for NO GOOD REASON.
I emailed the company, got a response and replied back ... here now is the exchange in order:
Your company just dropped 2 more phone books in my driveway, 2 copies of the same book. I know this is your business and you've somehow convinced people that they should advertise in your book. But, these books got dropped in my recycling bin before I even went into my house. As an environmentalist, it breaks my heart to see you waste valuable resources
From: Justina Guenthner [mailto:Justina.Guenthner@idearc.com]
Mr. Stover, Thank you for your correspondence. Idearc Media is the publisher for the Verizon Directory and we are currently utilizing 40% of recycled products in our directories. We also offer our product on Cd-Rom. If you would like to request a copy of the Cd Rom please call our Directory Order center at 1-800-888-8448. At this time Idearc Media will have you removed from our list to receive the next Publication of the Verizon Telephone Directory. Again, thank you for contacting us. - Justina Guenthner / Idearc Media / SE Operations Mgr
Justina, I appreciate the kind email back. I appreciate that you use 40% recycled paper. The thing is that recycling paper is not nearly as good as not using paper that's unnecessary. I think it is great that you offer a CD Rom, but who knows about that and how many actually take advantage of it. For you to take me off the list is great, but are the people dropping phone books off really paying attention to the address, or are they just riding around in a car throwing them out into every driveway. i suspect the latter.
I have no less than 10 phone books dropped in my driveway every year. This time your company dropped 2 phone books in every driveway in my neighborhood. Maybe that was intentional - if so, that's just silly. But I could easily envision some part time person who figures that by dropping 2 in each driveway, they could spend less time for the same amount of money ... and how would you know?
If you truly wanted to promote yourself as green, then promote the CD-ROMs and the website as the first, best option and offer to deliver paper phone books to those who request it. Or at the minimum, spend a little time researching who you're delivering too and only leave the phone books in driveways of people who are likely to use them ... you can leave a CD on my door and I wouldn't be upset about that at all. Perhaps I would even use it if I know that it's more up to date. Even as a business decision, you would build more goodwill for your service and save a ton of money in printing costs.
Your business should be able to adapt to the changing needs of our society and to the changing attitudes about waste. Technology has reduced the need for paper phone books and a good company should be able to adapt.
My address is _______________ - please do take me off the list. And please tell me if there is another website for people to go to have their names & addresses removed from your distribution. I'm sure 80% of my friends would want to come off that list.
Thank you for your information and suggestions. At Idearc Media we do have a team that is working on our products becoming more "green". I will pass your email onto them. If you have friends that want to Opt Out of receiving our directory the only option is to contact our Directory Order center at 1-800-888-8448. We are currently developing the "Opt Out" process on our website and should be an option for consumers in the near future.. I will add you address to our "Opt Out" list for next publication.
I'm glad to hear that. I would send along a suggestion for a book that you may want to read as well and perhaps pass along:
"Saving The World At Work" ... The author, Tim Sanders is a business contact of mine, a former employee of broadcast.com and Yahoo. He now goes around giving motviational talks and speaks about the new era of responsibility and sustainability.
I would encourage you all to continue this - I can't fathom how many trees are killed in the distribution of phone books across this country. The only question remaining is do I get a commission from Tim if Idearc orders a bunch of books? ... Thanks for reading this and for saving the world!
Beth Somers on 12.23.2008 at 09:48 AM
I work for Citysearch.com, one of multiple online sources for finding information about local businesses. In essence, these online sources do exactly what the Yellow Pages do, with a lot less waste. So few people actually use Yellow Pages now to find businesses. Think about all of those saved trees if even half of the non-users opted out. I really enjoyed your post, and forwarded it to several colleagues and friends to spread the word!
Tim Sanders on 12.23.2008 at 1:57 PM
This is a great post! Here's the point: on both sides of the eco-fence, we all have to be more thoughtful and innovative.
From marketers to consumers, we can all make a difference by identifying what's broken in our system (think "make/waste") and then tackling it by advocacy or protest!
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