ore than ever, people are becoming conscious of how their choices impact the world around them. They want to live in a sustainable way, take care of our planet and reduce their ecological footprint. But it’s not always easy to figure out where to start. The following books are here to help you learn about sustainable living and find the best ways for you to make changes in your life.
Best Books on Sustainable Living: THE LIST
1. 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste | By Kathryn Kellogg
Minimalism meets DIY in an accessible guide to household waste reduction.
We all know how important it is to reduce our environmental footprint, but it can be daunting to know where to begin. Enter Kathryn Kellogg, who can fit all her trash from the past two years into a 16-ounce mason jar. How? She starts by saying “no” to straws and grocery bags, and “yes” to a reusable water bottle and compostable dish scrubbers.
In 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, Kellogg shares these tips and more, along with DIY recipes for beauty and home; advice for responsible consumption and making better choices for home goods, fashion, and the office; and even secrets for how to go waste free at the airport. “It’s not about perfection,” she says. “It’s about making better choices.”
This is a practical, friendly blueprint of realistic lifestyle changes for anyone who wants to reduce their waste.
2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle | By Barbara Kingsolver
Since its publication in 2007, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has captivated readers with its blend of memoir and journalistic investigation. Newly updated with original pieces from the entire Kingsolver clan, this commemorative volume explores how the family’s original project has been carried forward through the years.
When Barbara Kingsolver and her family moved from suburban Arizona to rural Appalachia, they took on a new challenge: to spend a year on a locally-produced diet, paying close attention to the provenance of all they consume. Concerned about the environmental, social, and physical costs of American food culture, they hoped to recover what Barbara considers our nation’s lost appreciation for farms and the natural processes of food production. Since 2007, their scheme has evolved enormously. In this new edition, featuring an afterword composed by the entire Kingsolver family, Barbara’s husband, Steven, discusses how the project grew into a farm-to-table restaurant and community development project training young farmers in their area to move into sustainable food production. Camille writes about her decision to move back to a rural area after college, and how she and her husband incorporate their food values in their lives as they begin their new family. Lily, Barbara’s youngest daughter, writes about how growing up on a farm, in touch with natural processes and food chains, has shaped her life as a future environmental scientist. And Barbara writes about their sheep, and how they grew into her second vocation as a fiber artist, and reports on the enormous response they’ve received from other home-growers and local-food devotees.
3. Zero Waste Home | By Christine Liu
In Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson shares the story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Today, Bea, her husband, Scott, and their two young sons produce just one quart of garbage a year, and their overall quality of life has changed for the better: they now have more time together, they’ve cut their annual spending by a remarkable forty percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been.
This book shares essential how-to advice, secrets, and insights based on Bea’s experience. She demystifies the process of going Zero Waste with hundreds of easy tips for sustainable living that even the busiest people can integrate: from making your own mustard, to packing kids’ lunches without plastic, to canceling your junk mail, to enjoying the holidays without the guilt associated with overconsumption. Zero Waste Home is a stylish and relatable step-by-step guide that will give you the practical tools to help you improve your health, save money and time, and achieve a brighter future for your family—and the planet.
4. The Systems Thinking Approach to Strategic Planning and Management | By Stephen Haines
Easy-to-follow and understand, The Systems Thinking Approach to Strategic Planning and Management presents the first practical application of “systems thinking”, a concept first introduced by Peter Senge in the Fifth Discipline as a new, better, and elegantly simple A-B-C approach to strategic management, planning, and change. It provides a unique Systems Thinking ApproachÔ that places equal emphasis on planning, strategies, and change management processes in support of customer satisfaction.
5. Cradle to Cradle | By William McDonough
A manifesto for a radically different philosophy and practice of manufacture and environmentalism.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” urge environmentalists; in other words, do more with less in order to minimize damage. But as this provocative, visionary book argues, this approach perpetuates a one-way, “cradle to grave” manufacturing model that dates to the Industrial Revolution and casts off as much as 90 percent of the materials it uses as waste, much of it toxic. Why not challenge the notion that human industry must inevitably damage the natural world?
In fact, why not take nature itself as our model? A tree produces thousands of blossoms in order to create another tree, yet we do not consider its abundance wasteful but safe, beautiful, and highly effective; hence, “waste equals food” is the first principle the book sets forth. Products might be designed so that, after their useful life, they provide nourishment for something new-either as “biological nutrients” that safely re-enter the environment or as “technical nutrients” that circulate within closed-loop industrial cycles, without being “downcycled” into low-grade uses (as most “recyclables” now are).
Elaborating their principles from experience (re)designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, William McDonough and Michael Braungart make an exciting and viable case for change.
6. The Sustainable (ish) Living Guide | By Jen Gale
Easy, do-able, down to earth ideas and suggestions for everyone to help save the planet.
If you want to save the planet, but your to-do list is already pretty long and remembering your re-usable coffee cup feels like a Herculean task, then this is the book for you. Covering every aspect of our lives from the stuff we buy and the food we eat, to how we travel, work, and celebrate. This book provides stacks of practical, down to earth ideas to slot into your daily life, alongside a gentle kick up the butt to put your newfound knowledge into action.
Find out how to fit “sustainable living” into your life, in a way that works for you. Change your impact without radically changing your life and figure out the small steps you can make that will add up to make a big difference (halo not included).
7. This Changes Everything | By Naomi Klein
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.
Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.
8. Plastic Purge | By Michael SanClements
Now a Denver Post #1 bestseller. Plastic is everywhere we look. Our computers and children’s toys are made out of it, and our water and slices of American cheese are packaged in it. But why is there so much and what is it doing to our bodies? Is it possible to use less plastic and be happier and healthier?
In Plastic Purge, ecologist, SanClements has put together the most up-to-date and scientifically-backed information available to explain how plastics release toxins into your body and the effect they have on your and your children’s health. Both approachable and engaging, Plastic Purge provides easy-to-follow advice for how to use less plastic, thereby reaping the benefits such as eating a healthier diet and living with less clutter. Dividing plastics into three separate categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly, SanClements shows you how to embrace the good (items like your phone or medical equipment), avoid the bad (food storage containers and toys that contain toxic chemicals), and use less of the ugly (single-use plastic that’s just plain wasteful).
With the help of Michael SanClements’s Plastic Purge, you and your family will develop easy habits to live a healthier and happier lives.
9. Diet for a Hot Planet | By Anna Lappe
Fifty years ago, Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet sparked a revolution in thinking about the social and environmental impact of what we eat. Ten years ago, her daughter, Anna Lappé, controversially picked up the conversation with Diet for a Hot Planet, examining another hidden cost of our food choices: the climate crisis. Lappé predicted that food system-related greenhouse gas emissions would be catastrophic unless we radically shifted the trends of what we ate and how we produced it. She exposed the political interests with a stake in our food system, and foresaw the spin food companies would use to avoid system-wide reform. She visited the pioneering farmers of a future food system where good could outweigh harm, demonstrating the potential of sustainable farming. She also offered six eternal principles for a climate friendly diet.
This measured and intelligent call to action is the perfect companion to the fiftieth anniversary edition of Diet for a Small Planet; like her mother before her, Lappé reminds us that food, and our perilously large food system, is still a powerful access point for solutions to the climate crisis.
10. How Bad Are Bananas? | By Mike Berners-Lee
Is it more environmentally friendly to ride the bus or drive a hybrid car? In a public washroom, should you dry your hands with paper towel or use the air dryer? And how bad is it really to eat bananas shipped from South America?
Climate change is upon us whether we like it or not. Managing our carbon usage has become a part of everyday life and we have no choice but to live in a carbon-careful world. The seriousness of the challenge is getting stronger, demanding that we have a proper understanding of the carbon implications of our everyday lifestyle decisions. However most of us don’t have sufficient understanding of carbon emissions to be able to engage in this intelligently.
Part green-lifestyle guide, part popular science, How Bad Are Bananas? is the first book to provide the information we need to make carbon-savvy purchases and informed lifestyle choices, and to build carbon considerations into our everyday thinking. It also helps put our decisions into perspective with entries for the big things (the World Cup, volcanic eruptions, and the Iraq war) as well as the small (email, ironing a shirt, a glass of beer). And it covers the range from birth (the carbon footprint of having a child) to death (the carbon impact of cremation). Packed full of surprises-a plastic bag has the smallest footprint of any item listed, while a block of cheese is bad news-the book continuously informs, delights, and engages the reader.
Highly accessible and entertaining, solidly researched and referenced, packed full of easily digestible figures, catchy statistics, and informative charts and graphs, How Bad Are Bananas? is doesn’t tell people what to do, but it will raise awareness, encourage discussion, and help people to make up their own minds based on their own priorities.
11. The Conscious Closet | By Elizabeth Cline
Clothing is one of the most personal expressions of who we are. In her landmark investigation Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth L. Cline first revealed fast fashion’s hidden toll on the environment, garment workers, and even our own satisfaction with our clothes. The Conscious Closet shows exactly what we can do about it.
Whether your goal is to build an effortless capsule wardrobe, keep up with trends without harming the environment, buy better quality, seek out ethical brands, or all of the above, The Conscious Closet is packed with the vital tools you need. Elizabeth delves into fresh research on fashion’s impacts and shows how we can leverage our everyday fashion choices to change the world through style. Inspired by her own revelatory journey getting off the fast-fashion treadmill, Elizabeth shares exactly how to build a more ethical wardrobe, starting with a mindful closet clean-out and donating, swapping, or selling the clothes you don’t love to make way for the closet of your dreams.
The Conscious Closet is not just a style guide. It is a call to action to transform one of the most polluting industries on earth—fashion—into a force for good. Readers will learn where our clothes are made and how they’re made, before connecting to a global and impassioned community of stylish fashion revolutionaries. In The Conscious Closet, Elizabeth shows us how we can start to truly love and understand our clothes again—without sacrificing the environment, our morals, or our style in the process.
12. 40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead | By David Toht
Learn all about how to build sheds, feeders, fences, and other backyard structures to enhance your sustainable living!
- Garden structures: Raised beds, planters and arbors, self-watering beds, grow-light stand, soil blocks
- Fences and pens: Fence post basics, picket fence, solar electric fence, installing and stretching fences, hen pen and hurdle, gates, PVC hen pen
- Housing chickens: Basics for housing chickens, building a coop and run, complete material and cutting lists, exploded views, building an A-frame chicken tractor
- Building sheds: Basics for building, goat shed, saltbox garden shed, backyard-homestead shop, roofing alternatives
- Solar and wind power: Compressor and gearbox windmills, how solar works, erecting a windmill, installing a solar power system
- Aquaponics and hydroponics: Understanding aquaponics, understanding hydroponics, basics of a DIY aquaponic system, how to install a hydroponic system
- Building beehives: Langstroth beehive, Warré beehive, top-bar beehive (aka the Kenyan or Tanzanian beehive), step-by-step building instructions and exploded views
- Plumbing and wiring: Plumbing basics, ground-fault circuit interrupters, freeze-proof watering options, outdoor wiring, supplemental lighting
A companion volume to Backyard Homesteading, 40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead provides details on how to build more than 40 projects to enhance your sustainable living.
The projects in this book are designed with simplicity, convenience, and budget in mind. You will also find help on how to expand or contract the projects to suit your needs.
With step-by-step instructions, tools and materials lists, exploded views, and easy-to-understand techniques, even if you are only moderately handy, you’ll discover how to build your own feeders, fences, and structures. In the process, you’ll save money and have the satisfaction of doing it yourself!
13. Mini Farming | By Raleigh Briggs
Start a mini farm on a quarter acre or less, provide 85 percent of the food for a family of four and earn an income.
Mini Farming describes a holistic approach to small-area farming that will show you how to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre—and earn $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require. Even if you have never been a farmer or a gardener, this book covers everything you need to know to get started: buying and saving seeds, starting seedlings, establishing raised beds, soil fertility practices, composting, dealing with pest and disease problems, crop rotation, farm planning, and much more. Because self-sufﬁciency is the objective, subjects such as raising backyard chickens and home canning are also covered along with numerous methods for keeping costs down and production high. Materials, tools, and techniques are detailed with photographs, tables, diagrams, and illustrations.
14. Folks, This Ain't Normal | By Joel Salatin
From farmer Joel Salatin’s point of view, life in the 21st century just ain’t normal. In FOLKS, THIS AIN’T NORMAL, he discusses how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love. Salatin has many thoughts on what normal is and shares practical and philosophical ideas for changing our lives in small ways that have big impact.
Salatin, hailed by the New York Times as “Virginia’s most multifaceted agrarian since Thomas Jefferson [and] the high priest of the pasture” and profiled in the Academy Award nominated documentary Food, Inc. and the bestselling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, understands what food should be: Wholesome, seasonal, raised naturally, procured locally, prepared lovingly, and eaten with a profound reverence for the circle of life. And his message doesn’t stop there. From child-rearing, to creating quality family time, to respecting the environment, Salatin writes with a wicked sense of humor and true storyteller’s knack for the revealing anecdote.
Salatin’s crucial message and distinctive voice–practical, provocative, scientific, and down-home philosophical in equal measure–make FOLKS, THIS AIN’T NORMAL a must-read book.
15. Make Your Place | By Raleigh Briggs
Raleigh Briggs teaches us how to craft a sustainable domestic life without relying on smelly, toxic, expensive consumer products. And it’s not as hard as we may think! This hand written and drawn book of charming tutorials is both fun and accessible. It’s full of simple skills that anyone can and should learn. From creating tinctures and salves to concocting all-natural cleaners and body products to gardening basics, this book is great for anyone looking to live more simply, create a comfortable nest, and truly do it yourself.
16. Wear No Evil | By Greta Eagan
Have you ever wondered, “How can I inherently do good while looking good?” Wear No Evil has the answer, and is the timely handbook for navigating both fashion and ethics. It is the style guide with sustainability built in that we’ve all been waiting for. As a consumer, you regain your power with every purchase to support the causes and conditions you already advocate in other areas of your life (such as local or organic food), while upholding your sense of self through the stylish pieces you use to create your wardrobe.
Featuring the Integrity Index (a simplified way of identifying the ethics behind any piece of fashion) and an easy to use rating system, you’ll learn to shop anywhere while building your personal style and supporting your values- all without sacrifice. Fashion is the last frontier in the shift towards conscious living. Wear No Evil provides a roadmap founded in research and experience, coupled with real life style and everyday inspiration.
Part 1 presents the hard-hitting facts on why the fashion industry and our shopping habits need a reboot.
Part 2 moves you into a closet-cleansing exercise to assess your current wardrobe for eco-friendliness and how to shop green.
Part 3 showcases eco-fashion makeovers and a directory of natural beauty recommendations for face, body, hair, nails, and makeup.
Style and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. They can live in harmony. It’s time to restart the conversation around fashion — how it is produced, consumed, and discarded — to fit with the world we live in today. Pretty simple, right? It will be, once you’ve read this book.
17. The Encyclopedia of Country Living | By Carla Emery
For more than 50 years, this homesteading classic is the essential book of basic skills and country wisdom for living off the land, being prepared, and doing it yourself. Keep your family healthy, safe, and independent–no matter what’s going on in the world.
From homesteaders to urban farmers, and everyone in between, there is a desire for a simpler way of life: a healthier, greener, more self-sustaining, and holistic approach that allows you to survive and thrive—even in uncertain times.
With its origins in the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s, Carla Emery’s landmark book has grown into a comprehensive guide to living a self-sustaining lifestyle. Learn how to live independently in this comprehensive guide, including how to:
* Can, dry, and preserve food
* Plan your garden
* Grow your own food
* Make 20-minute cheese
* Make your own natural skincare products
* Bake bread
* Cook on a wood stove
* Learn beekeeping
* Raise chickens, goats, and pigs
* Create natural skincare products
* Make organic bug spray
* Treat your family with homemade remedies
* Make fruit leather
* Forage for wild food
* Spin wool into yarn
* Mill your own flour
* Tap a maple tree
Basic, thorough, and reliable, this book deserves a place in urban and rural homes alike.
18. Attainable Sustainable | By Kris Bordessa
Whether you live in a city, suburb, or the country, this essential guide for the backyard homesteader will help you achieve a homespun life–from starting your own garden and pickling the food you grow to pressing wildflowers, raising chickens, and creating your own natural cleaning supplies.
Sustainability-guru Kris Bordessa offers DIY lovers an indispensable home reference for sustainability in the 21st century, with tried-and-true advice, 50 enticing recipes, and step-by-step directions for creating easy, cost-efficient projects that will bring out your inner pioneer, including:
- Delectable recipes for a crusty sourdough baguette, smoky hot sauce, and home preserving
- Handmade crafts like dyeing fabric, dipping candles, and making your own natural home remedies
- Outdoor projects like foraging for wild edibles, beekeeping, and cooking in cast iron
- Essential gardening tips from growing an herb box to cultivating a fruit orchard and natural weed control
Filled with 340 color photographs, this relatable, comprehensive book contains time honored-wisdom and modern know-how for getting back to basics.
19. Plastic-Free | By Kris Bordessa
Like many people, Beth Terry didn’t think an individual could have much impact on the environment. But while laid up after surgery, she read an article about the staggering amount of plastic polluting the oceans, and decided then and there to kick her plastic habit. In Plastic-Free, she shows you how you can too, providing personal anecdotes, stats about the environmental and health problems related to plastic, and individual solutions and tips on how to limit your plastic footprint. Presenting both beginner and advanced steps, Terry includes:
- Handy checklists and tables for easy reference
- Ways to get involved in larger community actions,
- Profiles individuals—Plastic-Free Heroes—who have gone beyond personal solutions to create change on a larger scale.
Fully updated for the paperback edition, Plastic-Free also includes sections on letting go of eco-guilt, strategies for coping with overwhelming problems, and ways to relate to other people who aren’t as far along on the plastic-free path. Both a practical guide and the story of a personal journey from helplessness to empowerment, Plastic-Free is a must-read for those concerned about the ongoing health and happiness of themselves, their children, and the planet.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Sustainable Living
The following books are here to help you learn about sustainable living and find the best ways for you to make changes in your life. 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste: Minimalism meets DIY in an accessible guide to household waste reduction. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle explores how the family’s original project has been carried forward through the years. Stephen Haines’ The Systems Systems Approach to Strategic Management presents the first application of “systems thinking”
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.