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...

12 thoughts on “Ban the Book

  • I agree with the eco-sentiment, but on a practical level, the only reason you can surf canada411 for free is because of the ad revenue generated by selling space in the Yellow Pages. Canada411 would not exist if not for the phone book, which is in essence a book of advertising delivered to everybody in the area. Businesses pay a pretty penny for inclusion, which is ported over to Canada411.

  • I agree with the author. At most, put a simple notification card in every mailbox which notifies a new phone book is available, with contact info if you want one delivered.
    It should not be default produced and delivered to the masses. I'm not sure if and how the City are involved in this process, but the City should take the lead to change this practice in the name of sustainability.

    • Agreed. I'm not sure if the city has anything to do with it either but I imagine it's a good place to start.

  • I swear I must have gotten 4 new phonebooks last year and never cracked a single one. Straight into the greybox.

  • There was actually a Swedish study a few years ago comparing printed newspapers vs reading news online…that found printed newspapers had a lesser environmental impact with all factors considered, despite Sweden's lower carbon power generation favouring online more then it would here. Gist of it here

    Not everyone agrees with that, though for sure moving print material online isn't the advantage that it seems to be at first glance. In any event, any impact of phone books is so small compared to other life style choices its hardly worth thinking about.

    I certainly wouldn't support any involvement of the city (don't think they could ban their delivery if they wanted to). If people don't want them the market should take car of it on its own in short order. Advertisers aren't going to pay for placement if they don't think enough use them to justify the cost.

    Yellowpages is transitioning, last year they bought some online properties including from a Queen's grad for about $10 million (that he started it in high school!)

  • It's absurd. Phone books are just really, really fat junk mail. I receive about 4 a year, so do the other people living in my building. There is a stack of at least 12 in the hallway. We don't even bring them upstairs anymore. Who ever is delivering them doesn't seem to be able to take a hint and just drops new ones down on top of the pile every few months.

  • I am wondering how you receive 4 a year. There are only 2 phonebooks in Kingston. Bell which has distribution in June and the Easier to Read Telephone Directory which has distribution in October. I would say the most you receive is 2 per year. Easier to Read does have a FSC registration number as well.

    • I believe it. When I was searching for photos for this post I found a lot that were of apartment hallways and there were just stacks and stacks of them outside doors and in stairways. At the very least they could make sure they're doing a proper count before distributing.

  • If you get new ones coming out now, I would be very surprises. Perhaps they are coming from another building.
    Now for the Easier to Read Book. The only distribute them out once a year (fall). Any left over ones go to stands in a few spots around the area . These are Canex , Lee Garden, Napanee Mall, Flying J and Husky. They also get filled up once a week. I use to work for them. ( I still do the odd project for the owner so i do know what is going on)

  • I don't know which phone book it is because I couldn't be bothered to check, but there's currently a stack in a little display stand at the Barrack St. LCBO. That seems like a good compromise – most people will wind up at the liquor store once in a while and they can pick one up there or request one directly from the company.

  • One thing the demand is greater than you think fior phonebooks. There is one customer that does various advertising. for each advertiser he uses a different phone number which is measured daily. ( I will keep the customer confidential but they are well known in Kingston). There are certain things that the phonebook will always have a greater impact than online. One example are plumbers . Print ad such as yellow pages will allow you to view more than one advertiser at a time. The other big thing is demographics. This has all been measures. I do believe that the ETR does have an opt out ( not 100% sure)

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