White Pages Look To Go Green

Each year, an estimated 5 million trees are cut down just to publish the White Pages phone book. It's hard to cut down on the environmental harm because many states require phone companies to publish and deliver white pages phone books to every landline subscriber. On Wednesday, Whitepages.com, an online directory, released a survey of 1,000 adults showing the great majority of people want laws to allow people to "opt-in" if they want a hard copy of the white pages.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

A survey out today from the phone directory company, WhitePages.com, shows that 81 percent of people are willing to do without a local phonebook when told how many trees are used to produce it. These environmental concerns and Internet services are conspiring against the White Pages phonebook, though phone companies are still required to offer it.

NPR's Yuki Noguchi has more.

YUKI NOGUCHI: For 130 years there have been White Pages, those thick, inky residential directories, but unlike the Yellow Pages, they don't generate advertising revenue. In most parts of the country, the local telephone company is required to print and distribute them to its customers. John Lusk is vice president of marketing for the Web version of the White Pages.

Mr. JOHN LUSK (Vice President, WhitePages.com): There's no reason why we should be forced to print and deliver these phonebooks to individuals when there are other options out there.

NOGUCHI: Sure search engines and look-up sites like WhitePages.com stand to benefit if consumers don't automatically get a book thrown on their doorstep, but Lusk says the change would also save five to 10 million trees a year, and it would save taxpayers millions in recycling costs. As for AT&T, the nation's largest phone company, it supports, at least in Florida and some other parts of the country, requiring customers to opt in to get the paper phonebook.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News.

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