Best of 2011: Ban the Book

Welcome back to Kingstonist’s two week series featuring our best posts from 2011. Thus far we’ve featured Ted Hsu’s win, overwhelming support for an LRT, a citizen’s concerns about the third crossing, a tasty guide to late night bites and a bylaw allowing backyard chicken coups. Rest assured, after this retrospective week things will be back to normal with new content.

Each and every year we receive not one but two phone books, but in the Internet age are these printed relics really required?  Our readers weighed in on this issue citing studies that examined the environmental impact of the phone book versus comparable online directories, while others focused on the role of advertising revenues.  Should Canada’s most sustainable city ban the book, or at the very least give people the option to opt out?

Ban the Book

Strategic plan, Kingston, Ontario

If you’re like me (as in, you live in Kingston), you probably arrived home on Tuesday afternoon to find that big, fat, yellow book on your front step. You know the one, the one hardly anyone uses anymore: the phone book. In the age of the internet, why is this archaic publication still be delivered, unsolicited, to every resident in Kingston?

Many north American cities have placed a ban on phone book distribution and even here in Kingston, numerous businesses and institutions no longer accept phone books. Phone book production kills approximately 5 million trees every year and that’s before you add up the energy used to print and distribute them. The number of people who recycle them each year is quite low as well. According to, only about 22% of recipients actually recycle their old phone books.

Now, I understand that not everyone has access to the internet so I’m not saying the book should disappear completely, but I do think we should have the choice. The default should be no phone books delivered unless requested. We’ve managed to make some headway when it comes to plastic bags (and bottled beverages to a lesser degree), but for some reason the phone book has been left behind. To me, it seems like the most obvious thing to ban since we can find contact info for most people via Facebook or Twitter and if that doesn’t do the trick, is a great resource that I use almost daily.

What do you think? Do you use your phone book? When you receive a new one, what do you do with last year’s? I would love to see Kingston take another step towards being the most sustainable city by abolishing the automatic distribution of that yellow waste of paper and it could all start with a few phone calls or emails to the city. If you don’t want your book, let them know!

Thanks to bondidwhat for today’s photo.

Danielle Lennon

Danielle Lennon is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. She was the Editor, Community Event Coordinator and Contributor at-large (2008-2018). She is otherwise employed as a section violinist with the Kingston Symphony, violin teacher, studio musician and cat lover. Learn more about Danielle...

4 thoughts on “Best of 2011: Ban the Book

  • I am in complete agreement about the negative environmental effects of phone book distribution, but my one concern is: How many people does it employ? Does the phone book factory produce other products or would all of those people be out of work if production halted?
    I don't mean to say that the environment is less important. I think taking care of our environment is one of our most important roles as a human, but I also feel that protecting people's jobs is also protecting an environment. I'd love to see Kingston get closer to becoming Canada's most Sustainable City and maybe we as a community could start an initiative on the recycling and other uses of these books. Maybe we could corral a bunch of links on DIY projects and tutorials, creative ways to re-use and reinvent them, i.e. how to make furniture or blankets for the homeless. It would be great if the whole world went paperless, but then would the whole world be jobless? I'm not really that serious. Love to hear the communities thoughts. (:

  • Just make it available on request. I have no need for one, so that leaves me frustrated that one is printed and delivered to my door, without any ability to officially opt out and not have one made in the first place.

  • arried on this comment a bit late but here is my two cents. Everyone has thier stats . has one and the phone book industries has thiers. Each one favours thier own purpose.
    I was employed as a sales rep for the Easier to Read phone book about five years ago. I still fill up the racks at a few locations for the owner from feb to June so these are based on observations. The phone book does provide quick searches for a business in your area that the internet may not provide. Example you need a plumber ASAP. Given the choice are you going to do Google search or look at a book with multiple ads showing at the same time.
    Personally, I use both. It all depends what I am looking for. One of the major advertisers likes to track his advertising cost by having different ads I They have different number for Easier to Read, Bell and Newspaper. Easier to Read did come out on top)
    Also, Easier to Read does provide an opt out service look at the first page after opening cover ( bootom right)
    People still want the books based on how frequently the racks get filled up.

    • "People still want the books based on how frequently the racks get filled up." I'm sorry, but that hardly justifies the mass printing and distribution of multiple versions of the same information on an annual basis. How do you explain the piles of phone books you see outside of office buildings, apartments and dumpsters. That to me doesn't seem like a sign that ALL people want a phone book.

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