Harry Potter Fights Evil, Saves Trees

Eco-friendly Harry Potter
Harry Potter fans can buy eco-friendly editions of the last installment of the famous series.
Markets Initiative/ Paul German

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the latest installment in the popular children’s book series, will be the “greenest book in publishing history,” according to the non-profit group Markets Initiative. The book, to be released tomorrow, is being printed on eco-friendly paper in 16 countries, a significant increase from the one publisher that used “green” paper to produce the fifth Potter volume in 2003.

But the book’s most important contribution to the environment, according to Sarah Nelson, Editor-in-Chief of Publisher’s Weekly, may be its effect on the future of publishing. “The world of publishing may never see the likes of Harry Potter again, but that doesn’t discount its importance to readers, to booksellers and to the way publishing has melded its needs with that of the environment,” she said.

The book’s influence on the industry has been substantial, according to Markets Initiative, a Canadian group that works to convince publishers not to use paper sourced from ancient or endangered forests. The Potter series has helped motivate 300 publishers around the world to print more books on eco-friendly paper, been a catalyst for the development of 32 new ecological paper types, and spurred 84 printers in North America to stock eco-friendly papers for the first time, the group says.

Scholastic, Inc., the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter series, has printed 65 percent of its 12 million copies of the latest (and final) installment on paper that does not use trees from ancient forests. Some of the books are printed on 100-percent recycled paper, while others use paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as coming from “environmentally and socially responsible” forests, reports Toronto’s Globe and Mail. As a result, the English-language editions of Deathly Hallows will save 197,685 trees (an area 2.5 times the size of New York’s Central Park) as well as more than 327 million liters (86 million gallons) of water and nearly 8 million kilograms (1.7 million pounds) of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Markets Initiative.

The Potter book has created such a demand for 100-percent recycled paper that other eco-minded groups have been forced to delay printing projects to wait for their preferred material. In Washington, D.C., a joint publication of the World Wildlife Fund and Conservation International (CI) on the impacts of human migration on biodiversity was delayed by a month because the groups were unable to obtain the paper they desired. “[We] were surprised and reluctantly amused that the final printing for our publication, which we had been working on for more than two years, was pushed back by a month or more due to the recycled paper shortage,” said CI co-author Janet Edmond. But “it is encouraging to see more large-scale printers using recycled paper and for the demand to be up,” she added.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.