By no means would I call myself a conservationist. I don't generally go too far out of my way to reduce, reuse, and recycle. In the spectrum of "I live on a commune and share bathwater" to "I use baby whale oil to fuel my Hummer", I'm somewhere in the middle. If waste is caused in the course of some productive activity (I very broadly define this as "living"), so be it. However, when I see sheer gratuitous expenditures of resources for no purpose, then I get somewhat bothered.
The other day as I trudged up to my third floor abode I saw that the Phonebook Fairy (PF) had visited, dropping its three volumed tome at every door. The PF was even kind enough to lovingly place them in plastic bags so they wouldn't get wet. What a generous PF, delivering something I didn't want, don't need, and won't use, straight to my door. And, to my neighbors' doors on both sides. But wait, I don't have a neighbor on one side. Doesn't the PF have the same Santa-esque powers of knowing exactly who lives where? My parents lied to me!
Two days later and there were still bags of phonebooks in front of empty doors. It was at that point that I got a little grossed out by the practice of delivering 3.5 lbs of paper to nobody, so I non-chalantly scooped up a couple to use for my illustration. I'm sure I could collect loads more, but the apartment complex doesn't need a "creepy phonebook guy" scaring the residents. We've already got a "creepy high-socks guy" and "the people whose kids cry for hours". I think they moved...that situation wasn't really funny. Anyway, I like breaking things down (or adding them up) into comprehensible terms, so time for some numbers!
My group of apartments has a total of 1050 units. US Census data tells us that the average apartment vacancy rate in the New Orleans metro area is 15.3%. That would suggest that in my immediate area, there were 160 phonebook packages delivered to empty apartments. At 3 inches in height and roughly 3.5 lbs each, stacked they'd make a tower 40ft tall weighing 560 lbs. The only possible use these things could get is to demonstrate how much of a waste they are.
Let's take this further. How many of the phonebooks delivered to occupied apartments will actually get used? Here's a poll from early 2009, granted, it's probably biased due to the fact that people who do online polls probably also use the internet as a replacement for phonebooks. I'll be generous, and say that 25% of the phonebooks received get used at some point. In my apartment complex, that would mean that of the 890 book sets received, 668 go completely unused. Adding that to our earlier stack, we now have a pile of paper trash 207 feet tall, weighing about 2,900 pounds. I won't even bother multiplying this out for the other 20-30 thousand apartments in the New Orleans area, let alone include houses.
I can only shake my head and pen diatribes in reaction to this sort of waste. Phonebook Fairy, stop being a dendrocidal maniac. Your product is obsolete. There are much less wasteful methods of selling advertising for ambulance chasing lawyers.
Okay, okay. There's the caged adolescent in me that does remember all the fun times I had with the phonebook. Recordings of prank calls done by me and my friends are available upon request.