Tag Archives: phonebooks

Pablo knows: Lifetime of Smart Phones over 11X MORE Environmental Impact Than Lifetime of Phone Books.

Last February, as the industry was at the peak of fighting the anti-print eco nuts, we took a deep dive into what really goes into all of those high-tech devices we all now can’t live without, focusing on exactly what happens when people discard them (regularly) and move on to the next device.

In the Dirty Little Environmental Secrets Print Haters Don’t Want to Talk About article, we revealed some alarming stats:

But only about 14% of the computers components and materials can actually be recycled into usable materials. What’s in E waste?? Among the many hazardous materials harmful to human health and the environment are: lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, to name just a few (for more, go here). EPA numbers indicate that only about 18% of the 3,000,000 tons of used electronics in the US are actually recycled. Let’s compare that with EPA’s estimate that 57% of the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2008.

The silence from our critics was deafening.  I never heard from any of them.  Not a one.

As we are in the midst of a heavy time for delivery of books, the din from the haters has again swelled. The new comers to the anti-phonebook team love to jump in with all kinds of pronouncements (most without any factual basis) that phonebooks are killing the planet in so many ways.  But its refreshing when you get to see something online who actually gets it right.

The treehugger.com website has a regular writer Pablo Paster, who actually did his homework recently in this blogAfter calculating the impact of an annual directory, he then compared the environmental impact to a digital alternative — the much treasured iPhone.  The conclusionthe carbon footprint is 3.1 kg CO2e per phone book.  Over a lifetime of phonebooks, that would come to 186 kg CO2. Using just an iPhone, it has 70 kg CO2 which adds up to 2.1 metric tonnes of CO2  over a lifetime of smart phones.  Net net:  “a lifetime of smart phones has over eleven times the impact of a lifetime of phone books.”

Pablo then tries to even the playing field with all of the other devices that an iPhone could replace.  But it starts to sound a bit weak especially if he had dug deeper on what the disposal impacts for an iPhone are vs. a phonebook.

All in all I have to congratulate the guy on doing an honest assessment.  It’s refreshing to see that someone will admit that all technology isn’t necessarily the slam dunk eco alternative to a phonebook that they are made out to be.  And don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone.  But that print phonebook requires no ongoing power, no special routers, no Internet connection, is full portable, can be used easily by nearly 100% of the reading population, and is distributed FREE.  Sounds like a real bargain to me….

Still Lost in Seattle — How NOT to Lower Your Municpal Waste Stream

The Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) anti-phonebook mongers were thumping their chests last week that “…more than 67,000 households and businesses signed up to stop phone books in 2011, and you’ve already stopped nearly 300 tons of paper from being used…”  (Source)

So let’s do the math.  The supposed indisputable source of knowledge on the always-correct Internet – Wikipedia, says that there were 258,499 households in the city of Seattle as of the 2000 census. Note:  this is only the city area, and doesn’t include the surrounding areas that may also receive a print phonebook called “Seattle”.  But let’s just use the Wikipedia number so industry critics can’t claim we stacked the results.  Some quick calculations say that’s assuming a 1-to-1 relationship of books to SPU “households”, that only comes to 26% of households that opted out.  However, that really is a slanted, incorrect calculation as we know many homes may receive more than one book, and businesses are not included in that total household count.  The interesting side bar on this is that industry research indicates that 75% of adults use the print books at least once a year.  The SPU numbers, if believable, support that industry research then.  By a 3 to 1 margin, people still like and use the phonebooks.  And this is the media that has been replaced, no one uses, etc., etc. etc., etc.

But wait, we’re not done yet.  You need to further evaluate the “success” of those 300 tons supposedly saved by what it took to achieve it.  As we noted in an August post, during July yellow post cards (ironic choice of color for the card don’t you think) were sent to 280,000 residence and business addresses by the SPU so that Seattleites who “….don’t have Internet access can select their phone book delivery preferences by mail.”  That little direct mail “spam” effort (where are you now Eddie Kohler) used over 4 TONS OF PAPER  How many of those 280K post cards, or 4 TONS OF PAPER do you think will be recycled??   Wonder why the SPU isn’t reporting on that???

Not only that, now the phonebook police are out for more blood (as in revenue for the city):

Did you receive a yellow pages phone book after opting out? If so, you can file a complaint online through your City of Seattle stop phone books account. If you submitted your opt-out request by phone or mail, call our automated phone line at (206) 504-3066 to submit a complaint. Yellow pages publishers will be held accountable, and even fined, if they fail to honor timely opt-out requests from Seattle residents and businesses.

Wow.  Such a “success”.  That’s’ something to be really proud of Seattle.  Instead, SPU and the elected leadership of the city should be embarrassed.

After all this noise and unfair targeting of the Yellow Pages industry, you’ve made virtually no dent in the one thing that accounts for less than one percent of your overall municipal waste stream.  Perhaps now you can focus on the other 99% that is the real problem.