Eco-friendly Harry Potter

By  Simon Appolloni, Catholic Register Special
  • August 29, 2005
{mosimage}Slytherin-type publishers beware. Harry Potter's back and this time with an eco-friendly spell that has muggles by the millions buying only ancient forest-friendly versions of J.K. Rowling's latest book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Scholastic, the world's largest Potter publisher with its 11 million print-run of the Harry Potter book (a record in the publishing industry), has earned its Slytherin reputation (Slytherin having a sinister connotation in Harry Potter's world) and become the target of a coalition of environmental groups for not openly committing to printing with 100-per-cent ancient forest-friendly paper.

As a result, the coalition is urging American muggles (non-magical folk in Rowling-talk) to boycott the American books and buy the Canadian versions which are made with 100-per-cent post-consumer recycled, processed chlorine-free paper.

{sa 1551929856} Raincoast Books, the publisher of the Canadian version, started this magical trend in 2003 by being the first and only publisher to print the previous book, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, on 100-per-cent recycled paper. It received kudos from the author herself, likening our ancient forests to the mythical Hogwarts forest in her books.

This time around, Raincoast is joined in its efforts by German and United Kingdom publishers with Italian and Israeli publishers expected to do the same.

The reasons for this trend are clear. Ancient forests (also referred to as old-growth forests) are home to countless wildlife species and a source of medicine. These forests store carbon gases, regulate our climate and water and create soil and oxygen.

Yet, only 20 per cent of the world's original forests remain in tracts large enough to maintain their bio-diversity. Seventy-six countries have already lost all of their original forest cover. Only in Brazil, Russia and Canada do we find much of the forest intact.

The temperate forests of British Columbia, for instance, contain some of the world's oldest trees. The boreal forests of Northern Canada, which cover 35 per cent of Canada's land mass, account for a quarter of the world's remaining closed canopy forests.

Human activity, primarily through industrial logging, however, is posing the greatest threat to these forests. In British Columbia alone, a staggering 71 million cubic metres is logged every year - enough to fill logging trucks encircling the Earth one-and-a-quarter times. According to Market Initiative, a conservation group that works with Canadian publishers to help them minimize their impact on the environment, 90 per cent of Canadian logging is still happening in these ancient forests and the United States is a major market.

Compared to virgin paper (paper made from wood fibres), using recycled paper saves wood, water and energy, generates less pollution and cuts solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions, according to Environmental Defense, an environmental protection organization.

Because print runs for Harry Potter books are so huge, with books sold in more than 200 countries, the material used for making its paper really makes a difference.

In an 'eco-audit' Market Initiative did for Raincoast's 2003 book run, which was more than 900,000, it estimated that the publisher saved some 30,000 trees by using the recycled paper, more trees than would fill New York City's Central Park. That translates into saving 63,435,801 litres of water and 27,329 BTUs of electricity and averting 854,988 kilograms of solid waste and 1,645, 243 kilograms of greenhouse gases.

Scholastic contends that the lack of supply and subsequent costs of using recycled paper prevent it from making such a commitment. Yet Raincoast claims it pays only a five-per-cent premium on the stock for its environmental efforts.

Fortunately, the pressure on publishers like Scholastic is mounting. In Canada, 85 publishers have joined the forest-friendly movement. Rowling herself warns in a preface to the Canadian 2003 book that "It's a good idea to respect ancient trees, especially if they have a temper like the Whomping Willow."

In Christian parlance, it is a good idea to respect ancient trees because, as our Canadian bishops, through their Social Affairs Commission, tell us in a 2003 pastoral letter, "You love all that exists", God's glory is revealed in the natural world. "To enter into ever-deeper relationship with God - this 'Lover of Life' - entails striving to develop right relations with nature and with other human beings."

So here's our Christian challenge: get the other book with massive print runs, the Bible, to be printed on 100-per-cent recycled paper. As Nicole Rycroft of Market Initiative puts it, "If we get Harry Potter and the Bible, that pretty much covers the best sellers."

<i>(Appolloni is a is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register and a member of the Elliot Allen Institute for Theology and Ecology.)</i>

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