Yellow Pages actually quite green

Every advertising medium from time to time fights an urban myth of the “alliga­tors in the sewer” sort.

For example, the Yellow Pages industry, which, with the current “green” phenom­enon, is fighting the myth that millions of trees are cut down each year in order to print your local directories.

This, along with the myth that print direc­tories clog our municipal waste systems, gives amateur bloggers and busy media more fod­der in promoting the fairytale.

Led by the Yellow Pages Association (YPA), which represents publishers, suppliers and advertising agencies, the global $31 billion industry that works with 3 million businesses has had its hands full swatting the myth-spreading flies.

As Neg Norton, president of YPA, notes, “Many consumers believe that because it is made of paper, it must mean forests are being ravaged. In fact, directory publishers use paper made of 40% recycled content along with fiber primarily derived from residual chips from sawmills. Any trees used were previously cut down by lumber producers and rejected.”

The Yellow Pages publishers, paper sup­pliers and printers started working together more than a decade ago to get more effi­cient and environmentally friendly. Direc­tory components today include soy-based, rather than petroleum-based, inks and non­toxic dyes. And, when it comes to munici­pal waste, the Environmental Protection Agency (2005 Facts and Figures) states that directories make up only 0.3% of the solid waste stream — compared to 4.9% for newspapers and 2.4% for standard mail.

So how do you combat an urban myth? Get organized and go public. The Yellow Pages Association’s strategy so far includes three steps.

First among these is getting members and contingency on the same page. YPA and the Association of Directory Publishers adopted joint environmental guidelines to help further self-regulate along with an environmental seal of approval.

Second, spread the facts. YPA created a “Yellow is Green” section of its Web site to present the facts about directory-focused environmental best practices and established an RSS feed.

And finally, reach out to the myth spread­ers. Presented with the facts, most media – whether The New York Times or a passionate blogger – will give you an ear and often a forum. The association, along with member publishers, is conducting a grassroots media campaign with small to midsize cities as the first target.

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