Harry Potter transfigured a supply chain

The last book in the Harry Potter series – hefty as it was – also was the most environmentally friendly book in publishing history.  And it started with work by former elite level athlete Nicole Rycroft to transform unsustainable supply chains for products made from trees.

Sixteen countries printed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on eco-friendly paper, saving 197,685 trees (2.5 times the size of New York’s Central Park) and 7.9 million kg of greenhouse gases (the equivalent of taking 1,577 cars off the road).


“The forest at Hogwarts is home to magical creatures like unicorns and centaurs,” J.K. Rowling said in a message to Canadian readers. “Because the Canadian editions are printed on ancient forest friendly paper, the Harry Potter books are helping to save magnificent forests in the muggle world, the home of magical animals such as orang-utans, wolves and bears. It is a good idea to respect ancient trees, especially if they have a temper like the Whomping Willow.”

The story of how this happened goes back to 2000, when Canadian environmental not for profit, Canopy, began urging Raincoast Books, which published the Harry Potter books in Canada, to begin using more environmentally friendly papers. However, the kind of papers it calls Ancient Forest Friendly were often unavailable in book grade at that time.

In 2002, Raincoast Books asked Canopy for help in reprinting the first four books in the Harry Potter series onto Ancient Forest Friendly (AFF) papers. The next year, it printed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on AFF paper, saving more than 39,320 trees and greenhouse gases equivalent to driving a car 3.3 million miles. 

Raincoast highlighted the green paper as a core marketing strategy for the book, and worked with Greenpeace to expand the work with book publishers into Europe. In 2003, it was awarded an Ethics in Action Award for Environmental Excellence, Small to Medium-sized Business, for its sustainable environmental practices and for being an industry leader in adopting Ancient Forest Friendly paper.

In 2005, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was printed on Ancient Forest Friendly paper in both official languages in Canada, as well as on ecopapers in seven other countries including Israel, the UK, Germany and France.

Ancient Forest Friendly paper procurement policies support companies to safeguard ancient and endangered forests, their biodiversity and ecosystems, stimulating the development of leading ecopapers and a sustainable supply chain.

Greening Harry Potter was a really dramatic way to draw attention to what is not always seen as sexy work – transforming supply chains – but which is highly impactful. Wordsrated has some quite staggering statistics on the environmental impact of book publishing. For example, the US publishing industry  uses around 32 million trees to produce books each year. But around 10 million of those trees are killed to produce books that are eventually destroyed rather than read. 

What began with Harry Potter has grown dramatically since 2000, Nicole said in a recent TED Talk. The viscose supply chain is transforming in real time, she says, pointing out that in northern Sweden, an old wood mill has been transformed into the world’s first Next Gen mill, and many more will go online by 2030. 

Renewcell photo

Renewcell will use hundreds of millions of old jeans and t-shirts instead of cutting huge swaths of forest, making fashion circular. “Our recycling technology breaks down used cotton and other cellulose-rich textiles and transforms them into a new, biodegradable raw material: Circulose® pulp,” it says. “Our customers use it to make biodegradable virgin quality viscose or lyocell textile fibers. This is the link that has been missing to close the loop.”

Renewcell’s Circulose® brand helps people find virgin-quality textile products made from recycled textiles. “Using the Circulose® trademark is an effective way of sharing the circular story behind clothes that you could never tell are recycled.”


Harry Potter turns green to save ancient woodlands. Guardian, Oct. 3, 2003

#Greenfests: Harry Potter and the greening of the publishing industry. Creative Carbon Scotland, Aug. 22, 2015

Renewcell website

Cover image: Alexander Donka, Renewcell