There can be little doubt that the Internet has revolutionalised the way we search for information with over a billion people now going on-line globally. Research by global software giant Microsoft has revealed that if current growth trends continue over the next couple of years, then the Internet will become the most consumed form of media on the planet. With more and more people using the Internet the relevance of large, paper-based telephone directories such as Yellow Pages and the Phone Book has been called into question.
From an environmental and ethical perspective two concerns spring immediately to mind.
Firstly, thousands of trees and tonnes of paper are used to produce telephone directories. Secondly, these directories are delivered to households without asking the occupant(s) if they want them. In other words, they arrive uninvited.
From our own perspective, we were receiving these paper-based directories and not using them at all. For example, there were stacks of pages relating to car insurance but we don’t know of anyone in this day and age who still spends hours ringing around dozens of companies when an on-line comparison site can do the job in minutes (granted there are a handful of insurance companies not listed on price comparison sites).
Worse still, we were receiving many different versions of these telephone directories and often the same information was contained in them. Also, as they’re only published once each year then they can quickly become out of date whereas the Internet offers current and much more detailed information than ever possible on a printed page.
Despite this, we were powerless to stop these directories arriving every year on our doorstep. Our pristine copy would simply be replaced by another pristine copy and then gather dust until we recycled it each time.
We were delighted to find out, therefore, that we could opt out of receiving these directories – saving trees, paper and irritation. Recently, we called BT Phone Books (the phone number is very inconspicuous at the front so you have to search to find this ‘opt out’ phone number). We were very pleased to have a man call at the door within days to collect it along with confirmation that we wouldn’t receive any more.
The point of this article is not simply to highlight that a mechanism exists for stopping the arrival of paper-based telephone directories and saving paper in the process. It also has a broader significance. That is, it illustrates the tremendous power of technology (in this case the Internet) to help the environment and improve economic efficiency.