When it comes to the environment, children's books are kind of like the holidays: it's hard to point out problems or missteps without feeling like you're crushing all sense of spirit and festivity. But not all children's books are equal in terms of sustainability, and while all children should have a chance to read Where the Wild Things Are, until its publisher HarperCollins catches up to some of its competitors, they're better off getting it from the library rather than buying their own copy.
The Rainforest Action Network has created a guide, ""Rainforest-Safe Kids' Books: How Do Publishers Stack Up?"that ranks the country's leading publishers based on their paper policies and purchasing practices. The organization created the guide because so many kids' books sold in the U.S. are printed in Asia with paper that is contributing to deforestation in Indonesia.
The report "recommends" seven publishers for strong environmental practices—Candlewick Press, Hachette Book Group, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, Penguin Group USA (Pearson), Scholastic and Simon & Schuster.
HarperCollins, publisher of Where the Wild Things Are, is at the very bottom of the list, along with Disney Publishing Worldwide, both of which RAN stuck in the "avoid" category.
Explanation of the rankings, from RAN:
The "recommended" publishing companies are early adopters in what has become a growing industry trend to source paper that is not linked to deforestation, social conflict or excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Since RAN's report in May, which exposed the scope of the problem, five of the "recommended" publishers have sworn off controversial Indonesian fiber for paper. These companies will suspend business with the two most notorious Indonesian pulp and paper companies, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL), until key reforms are adopted. Scholastic had already taken these actions as part of their industry-leading sustainability program.
Intense destruction of Indonesia's rainforests has not only made the country the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, but it has wiped out critical habitat for already endangered species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.
Children's books are not the only outlet for products driving this deforestation, of course: the paper companies involved supply other industries as well, and palm oil does enough destruction on its own to warrant alarm.
But since regulation has clearly been insufficient and ineffective so far, the best approach right now seems to be to support companies that are doing the right thing, and to avoid the ones that aren't. When it comes to children's books, Rainforest Action Network has helped make it clear which ones are which.