The Incredible Shrinking Local Directory

  By VennerRoad, 25th Feb 2015

The Internet can help us save the planet if we use it to reduce the number of trees wasted on useless paper.

The front cover of a London local directory.

The picture here is a scan of a local directory that came through my door recently. A5 in size, it runs to a mere 36 pages including front cover. If you have researched old directories, as I have done, you will remember them as at times massive things. Even not that long ago we had volumes like the Yellow Pages, and phone books for various cities and towns, some of which were very thick, and for the conurbations, London in particular, which were in more than one part. Now a phone book is even rarer than a phone box. Why? Because everything is done on-line, that’s why, and if you are not on-line, tough.

The good news though is that if directories keep shrinking, and if more and more of our paperwork goes on-line, we might just be able to save the rainforests, and maybe the planet. Utility companies and others have for some time invited people to revert to paperless transactions, and have even offered financial inducements for us to do so.

In 2012, an American blogger estimated that to produce all the Sunday newspapers in the United States requires the wood from a staggering 500,000 trees. I am always suspicious of statistics, but even if it were only half a million a year, that would still be an astronomical number. By continuing to move directories and Sunday papers on-line we should be able to reduce that number to a fraction. Ditto for all newspapers, magazines, books, etc. By encouraging both individuals and organisations - commercial and other - to recycle, we can reduce that waste of wood still further, and already great strides have been made in this direction. What else can be done?

To encourage the migration from paper to cyber publications we can pressurise our governments to recognise the fact that the Internet is a generator of wealth rather than simply a novel form of entertainment. If publishers were paid with newly created debt-free money for the on-line wealth they produce, we would see regular newspapers and journals if not disappear then be reduced to print runs of such a diminished size that the assault on the rainforests would likewise be reduced, and reduced to such an extent that we can continue to use them for centuries to come in the sustainable economy that is the only hope for the survival of Mankind.

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