The 15 best non-fiction books on sustainability

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems like “sustainability” and “sustainability books” are used like buzzwords without giving too much thought to what it is. really ways. So, give me a second while I refer to the Environmental Protection Agency for help:

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Pursuing sustainability means creating and maintaining the conditions in which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

Sustainability can affect many aspects of our lives, from food and clothing to travel and even the way we do business. But the message remains the same: it’s up to all of us to work together and make life changes now that will greatly benefit us in the future, not to mention future generations.

This list contains a mix of sustainability books that deal with sustainable living in these different areas. And also because we can’t separate sustainability from environmental activism and climate science, there are a few of these titles as well.

Story

Cover of the book Trace by Laurent Savoy, there is a faded yellow leaf on the cover

Trace: memory, history, race and American landscape by Lauret Savoy

This powerful book combines a personal memory with a study of the formation and cultivation of the land. In a collection of eight essays, Savoy (who is a professor of environmental studies) takes the reader through childhood memories and a family history of his ancestors, while talking about the environmental erasures that have occurred over the years.

Design + Architecture

Cover of The Upcycle, there is a zigzag line on the cover that starts in yellow and turns green

The Bottom-Up Cycle: Beyond Sustainability: Designing for Abundance by Michael Braungart and William McDonough

Chances are you’ve heard of Cradle to Cradle, the first book from this authoring duo. If this book was the roadmap, this is the model. McDonough and Braungart examine sustainable design and best practices for everything from product design to building architecture to personal affairs.

Clothes

Blanket The Conscious Closet

The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good by Elizabeth L. Cline

Fashion is quickly becoming a way for you to personally make changes in your life that benefit the environment. In Cline’s book, she covers everything from how to create a durable wardrobe, ways to keep clothes in good condition for years to come, and smart shopping. It’s a very revealing book that will change the way you look at your wardrobe.

Slow Fashion cover, there are yellow butterflies

Slow Fashion: aesthetics meet ethics by Safia Minney

Minney interviews a group of entrepreneurs and pioneers from around the world who are alternatives to the big brands we are used to hearing about. Each section gives these people the chance to explain their motivations in all areas of the fashion industry, from influencers to designers to store owners.

Sustainable books on everyday life

A Zero Waste Life book cover, there is an illustration of a plant on the left side

A zero waste life: in thirty days by Anita Vandyke

If you’re new to a sustainable lifestyle, this is a great place to start. It’s pretty basic and really nails the fundamentals. Vandyke presents a 30 day plan to explore zero waste options and integrate these behaviors into your life.

Plastic purge book cover, an illustration of a hot pink water bottle

Purging Plastic: How to Use Less Plastic, Eat Better, Keep Toxins Out of Your Body, and Help Save Turtles! by Michael SanClements

This book does a little more than just explain how plastic can be harmful to our environment. We also learn about the history of plastic and how it has become a mainstay in our lives. Open your eyes, but the writing is kind of dense.

Cover of the book 101 ways to go zero waste

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

Another great resource for beginners looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Because there are 101 tips here, they don’t go overboard and it definitely invites further research to develop an implementation plan.

Minimal book cover

Minimal: how to simplify your life and live sustainably by Madeleine Olivia

Madeleine Olivia is a well-known YouTuber with over 500,000 subscribers who makes minimal life videos. In this first book, she channels all her thoughts, knowledge and advice. It’s a great way to look within, recognize areas of your life that aren’t doing anything for you, and learn to minimize and let go.

Environmental activism / Agriculture

Book cover As long as the grass grows

As long as the grass grows by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

This book focuses on indigenous activists and their struggle against the “mainstream” environmental movement. The story also enters moments of resistance and how not only environmentalists but also the general public can learn by examining new approaches inspired by the leadership of Indigenous women.

Rooted in the cover of Earth's book, a black's hand reaches for the grass

Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming African-American Environmental Heritage by Dianne D. Glave

From the early days of farming to the horrific days of frequent lynchings and beyond, this book focuses on the connection black Americans had with nature. Glave is an environmental historian who does a fantastic job analyzing the attachment to nature and the importance of black environmentalism.

Climate justice book cover

Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future by Mary Robinson

Robinson has worn many hats, including Ireland’s first female president, but she is now the face of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which seeks to serve climate change victims, mostly marginalized groups, around the world. . At the heart of the book is the sense of urgency to join the fight against climate change and to seek ways to improve our individual contributions to sustainable living.

Farming While Black book cover

Farming in Black by Leah Penniman

This book looks at the history of black farmers and how their total numbers continue to decline. Penniman has put together a moving and powerful how-to book for black farmers to reclaim the occupation and contributions of the BIPOC community who introduced sustainable agriculture.

braiding sweet smell hay book cover

Sweetgrass Braiding: Indigenous Wisdom, Science, and Plant Teachings by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As the title suggests, this book blends three seemingly separate and distinct tales: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and botany. He uses them to tell a larger story about the beauty of the natural world, how we humans are destroying it, and how we can work together to build a better future.

To travel

Cover of the book Children of the World of the Third Culture

Kids of the World Third Culture: Exploring Sustainable Travel Mindsets by Priyanka Surio

A multinational child herself, Priyanka is perfect for giving voice to children of the third culture. With advice and guidance from activists, scientists and travel industry professionals, this book describes the ways we can make a positive impact on the world while traveling in a sustainable manner.

Business

Cover of the book Sustainable Development Strategy

Strategy for sustainability: a corporate manifesto by Adam Werbach

Considered the first book in the sustainability strategy conversation, Werbach examines how successful companies have established corporate social responsibility policies. It also explains why it makes businesses more competitive and even a strategic advantage.


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