Greening Harry Potter

June 15, 2003

By Michael Jessen

Harry Potter is good between the covers. But only in Canada.

British author J.K.Rowling's 768-page fifth installment about the boy wizard of Hogwarts -- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- is printed on 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper. It is due for release in book stores on June 21.

With 935,000 copies rolling off the presses, the book could have been an environmental disaster, consuming 30,000 trees -- approximately the number in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

"This is a huge first," says Allan MacDougall, president of Raincoast Books in Vancouver, which prints Ms. Rowling's books in Canada. He added that it is the first book published in such high volume to be made without using any trees directly.

Using recycled paper also requires less energy from wood fibre to printed page. According to MacDougall, the new Harry Potter books could save about the same amount of greenhouse-gas emissions as are produced by driving an average North American car 3.9 million kilometres.

"As a book publisher we consume an enormous amount of paper," MacDougall said, adding that a significant impact could be made if more publishers follow his lead.

Scholastic, the publisher of the book in the United States, has planned an initial print run of 8.5 million copies. Millions more are going to presses in countries around the world using conventional paper. The Canadian edition will be the only one of the 55 international editions using all-recycled paper.

Though the Potter book will be its largest run, Raincoast has been making the switch to recycled paper on other titles for the past two years. Printing on recycled paper costs a little more. Raincoast ( estimates the switch to recycled paper will add an extra three percent to its printing costs for the Harry Potter run, about an extra $200,000 according to spokeswoman Tessa Vanderkop.

"We're hoping the high profile of the Harry Potter books will raise awareness and get other publishers on board," said Vanderkop. "That would help drive the price down and make it more affordable."

For Nicole Rycroft of Markets Initiative (, a Tofino, BC environmental coalition that has been urging book publishers to use more recycled paper for four years, the Harry Potter book has really pushed the issue to the forefront.

"We're now working with another 15 publishers who want to switch over to this kind of paper," she said. "It's a good business decision, they're seeing the kind of positive publicity it can bring."

By using the so-called Ancient Forest Friendly Paper, which is 100 percent post-consumer recycled, chlorine-free paper for the Harry Potter run, Rycroft said Raincoast has saved the ecological equivalent of:

 29,640 trees, a forest area equivalent to 95 times the size of the Skydome in Toronto or equivalent to a forest area just larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park;

 47,007,044 litres of water;

 633,557 kiograms of solid waste;

 195 years of electricity to power the average North American home;

 8,486.4 kilograms of air emissions.

Market Initiatives is a joint venture of the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Greenpeace Canada, and the Sierra Club of Canada's BC chapter. Following a presentation to Raincoast managers by Market Initiatives on the benefits and practicalities of using recycled paper, the company made a commitment in 2001 to move its publishing efforts in this direction.

Today all paperbacks (including more than a million paperback Potter editions printed since 2001) and most black and white hardcovers at Raincoast use recycled stock. Only colour print jobs require trees to be cut for their printing.

At the urging of Market Initiatives, 35 other major Canadian publishers have plans to make the switch and some are already printing on fully recycled paper. Raincoast and Toronto's McClelland & Stewart, which published Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake on ancient forest friendly paper, have been the leaders, Rycroft said.

Other Canadian authors that are insisting on eco-friendly paper include Alice Munro, Barbara Gowdy, and Michael Ondaatje.

According to London Times reporter Ann Treneman, Rowling has sold almost 200 million Harry Potter books world-wide. The author -- a single mother dependent on social assistance when she began writing the books -- is now worth an estimated $633 million Canadian and is wealthier than Queen Elizabeth. Rowling is listed as the 122nd richest person (and the ninth richest woman) in Britain.

Rowling is apparently so pleased with the Raincoast efforts, she has asked that all future copies of her immensely popular books be printed exclusively on recycled paper. The author has urged other publishers to follow Raincoast's lead and hopes they will seek out recycled paper for future runs.

"The [Canadian] Harry Potter books are helping to save magnificent forests in the Muggle world," Rowling writes in a rare endorsement that will appear only in the Canadian version of the new book. (Muggles are humans who are not magical.)

There is nothing magical about using recycled paper. One just has to commit to doing so. The environmental benefits are obvious. It makes Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix a good read in more ways than one. But remember to buy the Canadian edition.

RESOURCES - According to Market Initiatives:

 Globally, seventy-one percent of the world’s paper supply is derived from ecologically valuable, biologically diverse forests rather than from tree farms.

 40% of Canada’s ancient rainforests (trees up to 1400 years old) and 65% of Canada’s boreal forests are logged to produce paper.

 One in eight species is at risk of extinction in British Columbia.

 Global paper consumption has increased by a factor of 20 this century and has more than tripled over the past 30 years.

 Global paper consumption is projected to grow roughly 77% by 2020.

Michael Jessen is a Nelson-based consultant who helps companies and communities profit from sustainable initiatives. He can be reached by telephone at 250-229-5632 or by e-mail at His company -- Zero Waste Services -- has an award-winning web site at

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