I kept a phone book for years, without ever using it, in case a natural disaster struck—a selective one in which the Internet was down but landlines worked and the local pizza place was still delivering. Eventually, I started dumping the directories that showed up on my doorstep straight into the recycling bin.
Turns out I can stop deliveries just by completing an opt-out form at yellowpagesoptout.com. The Local Search Association, which represents phone book publishers, created the website to reduce paper waste. Thanks partly to this, paper use for new phone books fell by 60 percent between 2007 (when the books' production churned through an estimated 4 million trees' worth of wood fiber a year) and 2013.
But the association doesn't want to save too much paper. When Seattle tried to reduce its municipal recycling load by instituting an opt-in program for phone book delivery, the trade group took the city to court, successfully arguing that its free speech rights had been violated. Still, I'm pretty sure the phone book's days are numbered.
---Wendy Becktold, Sierra Magazine