This article appeared in our local paper the Tulsa World. Progress is occuring in making the world more environmentally aware!
By PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Published: 1/19/2011 2:25 AM
Last Modified: 1/19/2011 8:22 AM
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AT&T removes white pages from annual phone books
An American icon has slipped beneath the waves of environmental concerns – the phone book.
AT&T Inc. excluded the residential white pages from its 2010-11 Tulsa business/Yellow Pages phone book that landed, without its customary thud, on metro area porches last month.
In officially arriving in Tulsa, the company's Residential White Pages Consumer Choice Program gives consumers a choice – to opt in to requesting a printed copy of the white pages or getting the same information electronically over an AT&T website, said Jimmy Epperson, a spokesman for AT&T's operations in Oklahoma.
"We've launched this in other markets, but it's too soon to tell how many Oklahomans will request printed books," he said. "In other markets only 5 percent of customers have called for them.
"We're doing this because it aligns with our efforts toward environmental sustainability. It uses less paper and ink."
AT&T launched its no-white-pages program in Houston late last year, according to a Nov. 12 story in the Houston Chronicle. The phone company promised that copies would be available free to those who asked for them, and that AT&T would continue providing directory assistance online or by phone. A fee is charged after three free residential and one free business assistance calls per month.
Dallas-based AT&T says it expects no public backlash because when it ceased delivery in Austin, Texas, in 2008 only 2 percent of customers asked for printed copies, and in Atlanta only 1 percent asked.
The company says this is a victory for the environment, as in Houston it removed 728,000 big-city phone books from the solid waste stream.
A Gallup Poll showed just 11 percent of households relied on the books in 2008, down from 25 percent in 2005.
Carol Carter, a spokeswoman for Life Senior Services in Tulsa, said there has been no outcry among agency clients over the disappearance of the residential white pages.
"We didn't get a lot of feedback from them on this," Carter said. "I've talked to some members of our Senior Center and they were pretty noncommittal on it. They didn't seem to be affected much by it. Most of them have the important numbers they call frequently either programmed into their cell phones or written down in their contact books - and they can't read the dinky print in those phone books, anyway."
Another factor is America's growing love affair with cell phones.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a National Health Interview Survey, conducted last January through June, showed the number of American homes with only wireless telephones continues to grow.
More than 26 percent of American homes had only wireless service during the first half of 2010, the survey found, and 16 percent received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones despite having a landline.
The AT&T move is apparently not related to a drop-off in landline use, as a general comparison of the 2009 Tulsa residential pages to the 2010-11 residential pages showed the former has 384 pages and the latter has 389 pages, and rounded totals of 195,000 listings for 2009 and 199,000 for 2010.
Phone books are a burden on landfills, said Michael Patton, executive director of the Metropolitan Environmental Trust.
In 1989, Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. took corporate good citizen responsibility for the phone book mess by funding Project ReDirectory in Tulsa, the first of its kind in the nation. That phone book recycling drive led to Tulsa's current recycling system through the MET.
In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that telephone companies could not copyright telephone listings, saying "copyrights are for the protection of creativity not data collections."
This gave rise to the "brand-X" yellow pages we all receive - want them or not - three times a year on our porches, creating more recycling duties for the MET.
There is no longer a Project ReDirectory. Instead, all 13 MET recycling sites have phone book-designated bins, and all four books may be dropped off seven days a week, 365 days a year. See tulsaworld.com/MET
Phone books are not cost effective to recycle, Patton said.
They require guillotining to remove their glued spines and are full of ink, but they can still be turned into other paper products.
Another benefit to AT&T's new program is that the books are smaller. The 2009 edition weighs 5 1/2 pounds while the 2010 edition weighs under 3 pounds, Patton said.
Some worry that leaving out the white pages denies many senior citizens access to phone listings, since many older people do not have access to the Internet. However, the Internet World Stats organization estimates that as of June, more than 239 million Americans - 77.3 percent of the population - have Internet access. And many Internet service providers sell limited access - enough to look up phone numbers - for as little as $10 a month.
If not, the Tulsa City-County Library System has 600 personal computers at 25 sites throughout Tulsa County. Anyone with a library card can go to any library for access to Internet-connected computers - from six at the Sperry Branch Library to more than 100 at Hardesty Regional Library in Tulsa.
AT&T White Pages options
Page One of the December 2010-11 Tulsa AT&T phone book reaching front porches in December includes two online offerings and a toll-free number for requesting either a printed version of the Residential White Pages or a CD-ROM.
Greater Tulsa Region Residential White Pages listings are available online at tulsaworld.com/atttulsawhitepages Once on the site, click "Residence." Then - assuming you are looking for "Jamerson" - at left-center click "J" in the alpha listings. In the box that appears on the left click on "Jackson, Shirley - James, Rodney C.& Dana." Use the (+) symbol to enlarge the screen and find Jamerson between Jameison and James.
Order a free printed directory by calling (866) 329-7118. You may also order a free CD-Rom of the Tulsa book at the same number, says Page One.
Metropolitan Environmental Trust recycling locations:
Bixby – 211 N. Cabannis
Broken Arrow – 302 N. Elm Place
Claremore – 810 W. Ramm Road
Collinsville – 306 W. Broadway
Coweta – 12085 S. Oklahoma 51
Glenpool – 144th & Fern
Jenks – 110 N. Elm
Owasso – 499 S. Main St.
Sand Springs – 105 E. Morrow Road
North – 3720 E. Admiral Place
Central – 3495 S. Sheridan Road
East – 12466 E. 21st St.
South – 2019 E. 81st St.
West – 502 W. 51st St