Tuesday, January 15, 2008

World's largest publisher of children's books goes green

While we were concentrating last week on green mooching, Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books, announced new steps it intends to take to go green.

I learned about the announcement from Greenbiz.com and went to check the source itself. Scholastic reported in a news release on its new green policy that is meant to "further strengthening its sustainable paper procurement practices".

Scholastic's policy is based on a five-year goal to increase its publication paper purchase of FSC-certified paper to 30% and its use of recycled paper to 25%, of which 75% will be post-consumer waste.

Scholastic worked together with the Rainforest Alliance, the Green Press Initiative and other environmental organizations to set these goals, which Scholastic says are "industry-leading goals".
Are they?

I wasn't sure so I sat down and made a comparison with two other green initiatives of big publishers (Random House and Simon & Schuster) and the Book Industry Treatise initiated by the Green Press Initiative. I checked out the two most important parts in these initiatives - usage of recycled paper and FSC paper. I also checked to what year they set their goals.

And here are the results:

As you can see from the table above, although Scholastic is the last one to set up green goals, it set up very bold goals in comparison with the others. None of the other three match Scholastic when it comes to the usage of FSC paper, and it lags only in 5% behind the treatise and Random House with regards to the usage of recycled paper.

Still, I must say that if they would have gone for a goal of 30% recycled paper content on 2012, it would be much easier to agree that their goals are industry leading ones. You have to remember that recycled paper is a better alternative to virgin paper than FSC paper and therefore more important as a goal.

One more point I would like to emphasize is that unlike the treatise and S&S, there's no commitment of Scholastic to stop using paper that may contain fiber from endangered and old-growth forest areas.

All in all, I think this is a very important step and I believe that the way Scholastic has done in the last couple of years represents the whole book industry.

Although it used recycled paper for many of its books in the past, Scholastic drew fire from some environmental groups in 2005 when it published Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. Greenpeace, in particular, complained Scholastic wasn’t using enough recycled paper and urged consumers to boycott Scholastic and to purchase the novel from Raincoast Books, the Canadian publisher, which printed the Canadian edition of the book on recycled paper.

In 2007, things changed and Scholastic worked together with the Rainforest Alliance to green up the final part of Harry Potter: every 784-page copy of Harry's final adventure contained at least 30% recycled fiber. On top of that, almost two-thirds of the 15,100 tones of paper used were certified sustainable (FSC). There were also 100,000 copies of the "deluxe edition" which were only made from recycled paper, with the factory powered from renewable sources.

And now Scholastic is taking one more important step forward and set a policy for all of its operations. This is definitely the way we think all publishers should go and of course we hope to see bolder goals in the future that will make reading truly sustainable.

Oh, and I almost forgot this part, which is also very important: "Along with the new policy announcement, Scholastic today launched its new, interactive “green” website for kids called Scholastic ACT GREEN! at www.scholastic.com/actgreen." The site is designed to educate kids about climate change and sustainability and inspire them to take action to preserve the planet. Way to go!