Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's in Your Children's Books? Are Your Favorites Rainforest-Safe?

UPDATE:  Candlewick Press has been added to the list of recommended publishers 

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) wants to help consumers make better choices about the books they buy this holiday season. A report and consumer guide released by the group called, “Rainforest-Safe Kids' Books: How Do Publishers Stack Up?” finds that publishers of popular kids’ books including Where the Wild Things Are and Baby Einstein are using paper linked to Indonesian rainforest destruction, social conflict and global warming.

RAN’s new report and consumer guide, including a downloadable pocket guide for shoppers, ranks eleven of the nation’s largest children’s book publishers based on their paper policies and purchasing practices. The consumer guide follows a report launched by the environmental group in May finding that a large number of kids’ books sold in the United States are now being printed in Asia using paper that is closely linked to the loss of rainforests in Indonesia.

“Kids are starting to make holiday wish lists this week. This guide is a tool to help book-loving families avoid kid’s book publishers that are linked to rainforest destruction,” said Lafcadio Cortesi of Rainforest Action Network. “The good news is that many of the country’s largest publishers, six out of the eleven in our survey, are taking decisive action to help protect Indonesia’s endangered rainforests.”

Rainforest Action Network’s guide recommends that consumers buy from industry leaders that have taken action publicly to decrease their forest and environmental footprints by creating time-bound commitments to phase out controversial Indonesian paper fiber and paper suppliers. The recommended companies include:

  • Candlewick Press 
  • Hachette Book Group
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • MacMillan
  • Penguin Group (Pearson)
  • Scholastic
  • Simon & Schuster 
Indonesia’s rainforests, home to unique species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are under severe threat from paper companies that rely on clearing rainforests and peatlands for fiber plantations to supply cheap pulp to their paper mills. This controversial paper is then used by Asian printers to manufacture kids’ and other books for U.S. and international markets. The huge carbon footprint from the destruction of Indonesia’s forests and peatlands has made the country the third-largest global greenhouse gas emitter, behind only the U.S. and China.

By specifying non controversial papers and using rainforest-safe alternatives,  the “recommended” U.S. publishers are encouraging Indonesian pulp and paper companies to transition their practices away from an unsustainable business model, which often relies on evicting communities, clear cutting rainforests, draining carbon-rich peatlands and replacing them with plantations. These publishers are looking to grow business and trade with companies that align their practices with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation.

Rankings for the consumer guide were determined based on the companies answers to a paper procurement survey conducted in August 2010 by RAN as well as each companys public statements, environmental policies and commitments. After an initial scoring, RAN shared its assessment with each publisher and requested feedback and further clarification. RAN then re-evaluated and finalized the rankings.

A supplementary list of “rainforest-safe” book titles can be found at

RAN is a Steering Committee member of the Environmental Paper Network.

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