UPDATE/CORRECTION: Based on new information since this report was published, Rainforest Action Network has included Candlewick Press, publisher of Where's Waldo, as a 'recommended' publisher. The below piece has been amended to reflect the correction.
A good book is one of my all time favorite holiday gifts. Especially books for kids--the irresistible color pictures, the stories you can lose yourself in, the characters that almost pop off the page. So you can imagine my shock this holiday when I discovered that publishers of beloved kids' books like Where the Wild Things Are and Baby Einstein are linked to the destruction of Indonesia's critically endangered rainforests.
That's right, the books you buy this holiday could be contributing to the destruction of endangered rainforests, the loss of rainforest animals like the Sumatran tiger, and global warming. A bleak holiday note, I know. However, the good news is that after learning about the problem, many of the leading publishing companies are already taking actions to protect rainforests, and they need consumers to back them up.
Today, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) released a report, "Rainforest-Safe Kids' Books: How Do Publishers Stack Up?" which shows that seven out of eleven leading U.S. publishers are taking steps to protect the rainforest and the climate with their paper policies and purchasing practices. These seven publishers, Candlewick Press, Hachette Book Group, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Group USA (Pearson), Scholastic and Simon & Schuster, represent a growing industry trend to source paper that is not linked to deforestation, social conflict or excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
For book shoppers like me, RAN has also created a rainforest-safe consumer guide and a supplementary list of "rainforest-safe" book titles to help keep track of which books are safe this holiday season.
More and more, we are seeing that there is an invisible chain connecting our consumer goods to environmental destruction and global warming. In the case of kids' books the chain looks something like this. Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands, home to unique species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, are clear-cut by paper companies to plant fiber plantations that supply cheap pulp to paper mills in China and Indonesia. 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. Beginning to make the supply chain between our kids' books and Indonesia's rainforest visible, --and getting book publishers and sellers to take action--is a key step in preserving these crucial forests and in protecting our climate and our future.
Voting with our dollars, while not the only avenue for creating lasting change, is a critical way for all of us to demand that our goods are not connected to environmental practices that don't reflect our values. This is especially true during the holidays when companies like book publishers make 75% of their profits. Supporting leading book publishers in reducing their forest and climate footprints as well as pushing the laggards to follow suit is instrumental in ensuring that companies prioritize doing good this holiday season not just doing well.