Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
The rainforest is a recurring theme in lots of green-themed children’s literature—yet many publishers of these same books are using paper that contributes to the destruction of rainforests. That’s the upshot of a recent report (pdf) by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which found that nine of the 10 leading publishers of children’s books are selling books manufactured on paper that is unsustainably harvested from Indonesia’s rainforests.
To find this out, RAN went shopping for 30 randomly selected books—three from each of the nation’s top 10 children’s publishers—then submitted them to an independent testing laboratory to determine whether they contained fibers from rainforests or from acacia plantations, which are being grown on razed forest land. Nine of the top 10 publishers were implicated, despite that five of them have publicly stated paper procurement policies.
Part of the problem is China. How is that? According to RAN,
With the rapid growth of book printing and manufacturing being outsourced to China, the U.S. book industry has become increasingly vulnerable to controversial paper sources entering its supply chain. 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, Asia Pulp and Paper and Asia Pacific Resources International, which together account for 80 percent of Indonesia’s production. From 2000-2008, Chinese sales of children’s picture books to the U.S. ballooned by more than 290 percent, averaging an increase of more than 35 percent per year.
RAN’s sample was admittedly small, but the results are enough to give book buyers pause. What’s a book-loving parent to do? Given the apparently widespread nature of the problem, perhaps it’s best to revisit one of the three R’s in sustainable thinking—reuse—and get our kids’ books secondhand from garage sales, library sales, thrift stores, friends, and relatives. Or else we may have some ’splainin’ to do.
UPDATE 6/10/10: RAN has now released a list of 25 children’s books that are “rainforest-safe,” having been printed on paper that is recycled or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. See the list of rainforest-safe children’s books here. RAN plans to add more books to the list.
Source: Rainforest Action Network
Image courtesty of Rainforest Action Network.