By Dan Miller
October 14, 2008
The accompanying photo shows a couple of old phone books, which happen to be two of my favorite possessions.
One is a 1957 edition, the other circa 1965, from my hometown in Georgia.
Though these phone books are surprisingly thin, each contains both the white and yellow pages.
Augusta was, after all, a considerably smaller city in those days.
Back then, most everybody listed their telephone number and address proudly and conspicuously.
In fact, I didn't know a single person with a private, unlisted number.
As odd as it might sound, nowadays I take great pleasure looking through these old directories and finding familiar names from years gone by.
Even the ads in the yellow pages stir up warm memories.
I occasionally surprise myself at how many numbers of old friends and family I can still recall.
I thought about my old books today when I happened across an article on the dark side of telephone directories.
One expert says discarded phone books -- the white and yellow pages -- account for at least 30% of the space used in our landfills.
You'd think, in this age of recycling, it would be getting better.
But I dunno... every year, at least two or three thick yellow pages, and the somewhat thinner white pages, mysteriously show up on the front porch at home.... and the same number show up in my office at work. And when I consider all the other houses and businesses and universities getting stacks of phone books, it's really unsettling.
According to the recycling organization known as Earth911, so many phone books are manufactured every year that if you laid them end to end, they'd circle the earth 4.28 times.
And what eventually happens to them?
Well, on average, they say 660,000 tons of phone books end up in landfills every year.
We should do better than that.
According to the American Forest & Paper Association, for every 500 phone books recycled, we save between 17 and 31 trees, not to mention 7,000 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 587 pounds of air pollution, and 3.06 cubic yards of landfill space.
The thing is, I hardly ever -- and I mean ever -- use present-day phone books anymore.
Every year I haul several of them to recycling, still wrapped in that protective plastic cover.
With so many on-line directories, websites, even GPS available, does anyone really use the big, bulky phonebooks?
Why are these things still plopped on our doorsteps every few months?
The answer, of course, is advertising.
As long as they're profitable -- and apparently they still are -- they'll keep showing up on our porches every year.
Bottom line... Recycle those old phone books.
But don't forget to set aside one or two just to keep.
They'll soon be a relic of the past.
You'll thank me 50 years from now.