05/26/2010 11:31 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Kids' Books Not Safe for Rainforests

Report reveals that top children's book publishers are using paper produced with rainforest trees.

What do major U.S. publishing houses, China and tropical rainforest destruction have in common? Children's books. That's right, a report put out this week by Rainforest Action Network found that a majority of the top ten U.S. children's publishers have sold at least one children's book that tested positive for paper fiber linked to the destruction of Indonesia's endangered rainforests. And all of those books were produced in China.

RAN tested a random sampling of 30 books from the top 10 U.S. children's publishers, and found that 18 of them contained fibers linked either to tropical hardwoods or acacia pulp wood plantations in Indonesia. Looking into the cloudy supply chain of book production, the report found that U.S. publishers are increasingly turning to Chinese-based manufacturers for low cost production of four-color books. The use of rainforest paper can be traced to the buying practices of these Chinese manufacturers. China is the top importer of Indonesian pulp and paper and much of the Chinese paper industry is linked to or controlled by highly controversial Indonesian pulp and paper suppliers.

As with any problematic product, whether it is sweatshop clothing or rainforest paper, producers and consumers are responsible for demanding change.

Indonesia's rainforests are some of the most valuable on earth, both because of their high ecological value and because of their importance to stopping climate change.

The forests of Borneo, Sumatra and Papua are the only home of the endangered orangutan, as well as countless other unique mammals, birds and plants. These forests also provide food, shelter and livelihoods for millions of Indonesian communities.

The razing of the Indonesian rainforests for commodities like paper and palm oil has destroyed the habitats of these endangered species and contributed to making the archipelago the third-largest source of greenhouse gases after the U.S. and China. Worldwide, the degradation and destruction of tropical rainforests is responsible for fifteen percent of all annual greenhouse emissions. The carbon emissions resulting from Indonesia's rapid deforestation account for up to five percent of global emissions: more than the combined emissions from all the cars, planes, trucks, buses and trains in United States.

There is no reason that Indonesia's critical rainforests need to be cut down for our children's books. Rainforest- free paper is a readily available alternative that publishers can demand from suppliers. If top U.S. book publishers demand cleaner paper, Chinese manufacturers will give it to them.

Book lovers can also help by asking publishers to clean up their supply chains.

A first step is to sign RAN's petition asking U.S. children's book publishers to turn the page on rainforest destruction. Nobody should have to choose between books and rainforests.