Wednesday, April 1, 2009
G is for Green
From organic peas to natural wooden toys, most adults are determined to expose their little ones only to the safest items. These days, many are also looking for environmentally friendly children's products. Execs at the UK-based publishing company Priddy Books have taken the cue from these savvy customers, and recently launched the Organic Baby book series, which is printed on recycled paper with soy ink, as opposed to the traditional cardboard-and-petroleum-ink menthod.
“We’ve always wanted to do our best to protect the environment for future generations, and using recycled paper and soy ink seemed like a great idea,” says Bill Kelly, associate publisher for Priddy Books North America. “Plus, many retail chains that carry our books are insisting on it. We couldn't ignore it.”
The big question for Kelly was whether the books—which are mostly color photographs—would look as good printed on recycled stock. Another issue was whether the soy ink would hold up, say, when toddlers chewed on them. After months of safety tests (including Costco’s own lab) and research on Priddy’s target market of babies to 8-year-olds, it turned out that books printed on 60 percent of recycled material and 40 percent regular paper looked great and held up just fine.
Indeed, it’s tough to tell that one Priddy’s newest titles, Organic Baby Animals, isn't printed on cardboard with petroleum ink. Vivid photographs of pets (cats, goldfish, and puppies), babies on the farm (chicks, foal, and lambs), animals in the forest and woods (frogs, alligators, and squirrels) have reproduced clear and crisp. Although we didn’t do a lick test, the oversized board book stood up to a recent trip to the beach.
Like all Priddy Books, there are guidelines on the back for parents that provide information on the skills the book enhances—such as speaking skills, 100 first words, and details on the benefits of using recycled paper and printing with soy ink. “We don’t overtly advertise that these books are environmentally-friendly, but our parent’s guide on the back cover offers information on what each book is supposed to accomplish in terms of skill level,” Kelly notes. “No one trains you on how to be a good parent, so we try to help whenever possible.”
Kelly and Priddy know of what they speak. Both have been in the children’s book business for decades, working first for the children’s book publisher DK Books before that company was purchased to Macmillan in 1999. The businessmen suggested to their new bosses that they start a children’s division, and since 2000 Priddy Books has been the imprint on most of Macmillan’s children’s atlases, dictionaries, and non-fiction titles. Four books have been published so far in the Organic Baby line, and several more are on the drawing board.
Although Kelly says he and Priddy are excited about using more natural materials, their real mission is to help kids stay in touch with the magic of childhood. “Whereas children used to like whimsical illustrated books, today they are into reality and interaction,” Kelly confesses. “That’s why most of our books feature photographs of real kids, real animals, and real dinosaur models. But we don’t want them to lose their imagination.” Although it’s nice for a parent to read a story to the child, they believe it’s more educational for the child to become involved in the process. “At Priddy Books, we strive to strike the perfect balance.”
Article by Hope Katz Gibbs for The Costco Connection, April 2009.
Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer and lover of all things organic. She does her best to be green in her x-urban home in Northern Virginia.