Dear EarthTalk: I came home today to yet another set of phonebooks at my
front door. I feel they are a great waste of paper, especially in this
electronic age. How can I stop getting these books? Better yet: How can we get
the phone companies to stop making them? -- Bill Jones, via e-mail
Many of us have little or no use for phonebooks anymore. While such
directories are helpful for that occasional look-up of a service provider or
pizza place, consumers and businesses increasingly rely on the Internet to find
goods and services. Directory publishers usually do make their listings
available online nowadays, too, but the books are still money-makers for them as
prints ads fetch top dollar even though their effectiveness is waning and much
harder to track.
According to the nonprofit YellowPagesGoesGreen.org, more than 500 million
phone directoriesnearly two books for every Americanare printed and
distributed every year in the U.S., taking with them some 19 million trees.
Upwards of 1.6 billion pounds of paper are generated to produce the books from
these felled trees, while 7.2 million barrels of oil are churned through in
creating them (not including the gasoline used for local deliveries). Producing
the directories also uses up 3.2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and
generates 268,000 cubic yards of solid waste that ends up in landfills (not
including the books themselves, many of which eventually end up in landfills in
areas where recycling is not available or convenient).
Unfortunately, there is no centralized way for consumers to opt-out of
receiving the big books like the National Do Not Call Registry for
telemarketing. Most individual yellow and white page publishers have no
deliver lists they can add you to, but they will not be held accountable if the
books show up anyway. The YellowPagesGoesGreen.org website will find your
local/regional directory pages publishers and ask them not to deliver on your
behalf. The site warns, though, that there are no guarantees with this either.
For their part, directory publishers insist they have made great strides in
recent years to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. The Yellow
Pages Association (YPA) and the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) have
collaborated on formal guidelines calling for source reduction in the production
of directories, environmentally sensitive manufacturing practices and enhanced
recycling programs. About 90 percent of industry members have adopted the
guidelines so far. Examples in practice include the use of water soluble inks
and recycling-friendly glues, not to mention forsaking the use of virgin trees
in their books.
Because of widespread and increasing use of the Internet, many sources of
informationfrom newspapers and magazines to newsletters and, yes,
directoriesare forsaking print for online placement. So it is really just a
matter of time before phone directories follow that lead. In the meantime,
asking to be removed from the delivery list of your local directory publisher
can only help to hasten that inevitability.
Yellow Pages Association (YPA),
www.ypassociation.org; Association of Directory Publishers (ADP),
Dear EarthTalk: Ive noticed a lot of beach erosion along the eastern U.S.
coast. Beaches are virtually non-existent in places. Is this a usual cycle that
will self-correct, or are these beaches permanently gone from sea level rise or
other environmental causes? -- Jan Jesse, Morristown, TN
Unfortunately for beach lovers and owners of high-priced beach-front homes,
coastal erosion in any form is usually a one-way trip. Man-made techniques such
as beach nourishmentwhereby sand is dredged from off-shore sources and
deposited along otherwise vanishing beachesmay slow the process, but nothing
short of global cooling or some other major geomorphic change will stop it
altogether.According to Stephen Leatherman (Dr. Beach) of the National Healthy
Beaches Campaign, beach erosion is defined by the actual removal of sand from a
beach to deeper water offshore or alongshore into inlets, tidal shoals and bays.
Such erosion can result from any number of factors, including the simple
inundation of the land by rising sea levels resulting from the melting of the
polar ice caps.
Leatherman cites U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between
80 and 90 percent of the sandy beaches along Americas coastlines have been
eroding for decades. In many of these cases, individual beaches may be losing
only a few inches per year, but in some cases the problem is much worse. The
outer coast of Louisiana, which Leatherman refers to as the erosion hot spot
of the U.S., is losing some 50 feet of beach every year.
Of particular concern is the effect climate change, which not only causes sea
levels to rise but also increases the severity and possibly the frequency of
harsh storms, has on beach erosion. While sea level rise sets the conditions
for landward displacement of the shore, coastal storms supply the energy to do
the geologic work by moving the sand off and along the beach, writes
Leatherman on his DrBeach.org website. Therefore, beaches are greatly
influenced by the frequency and magnitude of storms along a particular
Besides collectively lowering our greenhouse gas emissions substantially,
there is little that individualslet alone coastal landownerscan do to stop
beach erosion. Building a bulkhead or seawall along one or a few coastal
properties may protect homes from damaging storm waves for a few years, but
could end up doing more harm than good. Bulkheads and seawalls may accelerate
beach erosion by reflecting wave energy off the facing wall, impacting adjacent
property owners as well, writes Leatherman, adding that such structures along
retreating shorelines eventually cause diminished beach width and even loss.
Other larger scale techniques like beach nourishment may have better track
records, at least in terms of slowing or delaying beach erosion, but are
expensive enough as to warrant massive taxpayer expenditures. In the early
1980s, the city of Miami spent some $65 million adding sand to a 10-mile stretch
of fast-eroding shoreline. Not only did the effort stave off erosion, it helped
revitalize the tony South Beach neighborhood and rescue hotels, restaurants and
shops there that cater to the rich and famous.
CONTACTS: Stephen Leatherman,
www.drbeach.org; National Healthy Beaches Campaign,
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