Hi everyone! Hopefully, you find a book you’ll want to read next on this detailed list of the best sustainability books.
This post is split into seven sections:
- BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABILITY FOR BEGINNERS
- BEST BOOKS ABOUT SUSTAINABLE EATING
- BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL
- BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE & CONSUMERISM
- BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABLE FASHION
- BOOKS TO BECOME A SUSTAINABILITY EXPERT
- EVEN MORE BOOKS ON MY READING LIST
Want to read your sustainability book sustainably?!
Check out 2nd-hand books before buying new. Ideally, check out your local secondhand book store and support a small business, though you can buy books secondhand on Amazon too.
Alternatively, why not get an Audiobook? If you’ve not already jumped aboard the Audible train, get a 30-day free trial for Audible and one free Audiobook here.
START HERE! BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABILITY FOR BEGINNERS:
All We Can Save – anthology
This book is a fantastic way to begin your sustainability journey! The subject of the environment can be upsetting to explore, but All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis provides an overall hopeful outlook.
16 women essayists who are each in a different field of climate change provide the perfect book for dipping in and out of learning about our environment – and what we can do to save it. It’s a good one for reading bit by bit, which I think is partly why I liked about it (as someone with ADHD).
Part of the hopeful nature of the book comes from the fact it contains actionable solutions, which allows feeling encouraged. The book is also intersectional.
Finally, this is a must-buy for any of you who like Audiobooks! Seriously… check out the all-star audiobook cast on Audible – All We Can Save
Sleeping Naked is Green – by Vanessa Farquharson
This book is super suitable for beginners to sustainability. If you’re going to be overwhelmed by an intense academic-style book, definitely check out Sleeping Naked Is Green: How an Eco-Cynic Unplugged Her Fridge, Sold Her Car, and Found Love in 366 Days.
Vanessa took on the challenge of making one green change every day for a year to figure out what’s actually doable for the average human… and which are ultimately too difficult! From selling her car to getting a compost bin, this a super honest look at what it means to take action when it comes to going green. And she has a great sense of humour about it all too!
If you’re not sure what changes you can actually make, and aren’t up to date with the new environmental lingo, start here with Vanessa.
Braiding Sweetgrass – by Robin Wall Kimmerer
by Claire from The Offbeat Appetite
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants is all about deepening the connection between plants and humans. What Robin does so well is that she takes the reader on a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, reflecting on the lessons we have to learn from the natural world around us. She also intertwines her experiences as a single mother to that of nature being our universal mother, leaving the reader feeling enamored by nature and empowered to take action before more damage to mother earth is done.
Braiding Sweetgrass could easily be classed as an autobiography. But more than being an autobiography of the writer Robin Wall Kimmerer, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, it is an autobiography of nature — our oldest teacher.
If you are interested in understanding the dynamic between Western scientific research and the Native American worldview of creation, you’re in for a treat.
Sustainability for the rest of us – by John Pabon
Another great book for beginners (or anyone after ACTIONABLE tips). You’ll love Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullsh*t, Five-Point Plan for Saving the Planet.
Like ‘Sleeping Naked is Green’ (above), this is an amusing and accessible outlook on sustainability, and a great read for those of us who want to live more ethically but aren’t sure where it fits into our real lives.
What choices can we make that really make a difference? As John asks (and attempts to answer), is it getting a reusable coffee cup, changing your car, or more to do with what charities we donate to and politicians we vote for? Choose this book if you want a step-by-step plan for making change that fits in with your real, adult life.
Nature’s Best Hope – by Douglas W. Tallamy
by Nadine from Zero Waste Memoirs
Conservation is brought into your home with this insightful book by Douglas Tallamy. He encourages readers to literally take matters into their own hands and take action in its most basic form. He proves wildlife conservation doesn’t have to be left up to lawmakers and governments, but that everyone can play their part.
It starts with why you should care, the impact on declining habitat for insect, bird, and animal populations. And then expands with practical tips on what you can do to help – in your own backyard – and where you can look for further information.
It’s an inspiring read, even if the subject matter can be a little alarming, but it’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t know where to start or feels like the problem is too big to tackle. With more people than ever spending increased time at home and taking to their gardens, it’s the ideal book to make you feel like you can make a difference.
BEST BOOKS ABOUT SUSTAINABLE EATING:
The Zero-Waste Chef – by Anne-Marie Bonneau
by Olivia from Happy in the Hollow
In the United States, consumers produce about 4.5 pounds of trash per day, including an entire pound of food that gets wasted. That’s why Anne-Marie Bonneau, aka The Zero-Waste Chef, is tackling the topic of trash, plastics and sustainability from the kitchen angle.
In her first book, The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet, she gives you all the background you need to set up a low waste kitchen and cook in a way that uses up as much as possible of the foods you’ve already bought – or grown.
The 75 recipes are delicious and come with beautiful photos. Expect to learn to improvise, ferment, and simply have fun. Anne-Marie Bonneau is hands-on and takes the intimidation factor out of the process.
The Vegan Kitchen by Rose Glover
Vegan Kitchen: Over 100 essential ingredients for your plant-based diet is a really well-designed book about switching to a plant-based diet. The book starts off with loads of essential information for someone who wants to switch to a plant-based diet safety. There are breakdowns of what proteins you can sub things out for, what ingredients you should strive for, and how to replace your non-vegan-pantry ingredients with vegan ingredients.
Along with this, there is a few chapters on general information, like the number of different cabbages there are and what they are used for or how to properly cook pasta, make sauces and pesto, and some tips on creating these dishes.
At the back of the book, there are a handful of essential recipes to get you started on your plant-based journey. It’s a really informational book with so many useful tips – it’s basically a handbook on how to go vegan!
On Eating Meat – by Matthew Evans
by Helen from Not Your Normal Health Blog
It might sound strange to be recommending a book on eating meat in a sustainability post, but according to some recent US market research 98 percent of people who buy plant-based foods also eat meat – and, if you’re one of them (like me), it’s good to know how to do that as ethically as possible. On Eating Meat: The truth about its production and the ethics of eating it helps you make that choice.
Written by farmer, and Australian TV presenter Matthew Evans, this actionable book most definitely doesn’t shy away from explaining the realities of modern farming. In fact, some people may come away from reading it deciding ‘that’s it, I’m done with meat’ – but if not, it gives advice on how to choose the most ethically-farmed animals and the diet with the lowest impact on the environment.
As Evans says, it’s a privilege to eat meat and yet we rarely respect the animal that gave its life for us to do so – this book shows you how you can best do that.
Whole Foods to Thrive: Nutrient-Dense, Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health – By Brendan Brazier
by Sarah from Nomomente
Brendan Brazier is a well-known high-performance athlete in Canada, and he just happens to be vegan. He developed a vegan meal plan which he calls the Thrive Diet because it does just that – lets you thrive. It almost sounds like an oxymoron to think that a vegan diet could provide enough nutrition for a performance athlete (and if you don’t know, Brendan is an Ironman triathlete and Ultramarathon champion!), but that is exactly what he found.
The foods at the heart of the Thrive Diet are chosen for their digestibility, their ability to promote cellular regeneration and produce the energy your body needs in the most efficient way – and these foods just happen to not come from animals.
It’s a very accessible approach to veganism, full of fascinating facts (like just how many resources it takes to produce a kilo of meat versus a kilo of lentils!) and yummy recipes. Unlike earlier books in the Thrive series (this one is the 5th book), the recipes here are a bit more accessible (less hardcore), with less emphasis on eating raw. And the stars of each plate include superfoods like hemp, maca, chia and chlorella.
If you’re interested in living sustainably or ready to dabble in a vegan diet, these books are for you!
BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL:
Overbooked – by Elizabeth Becker
Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World – by Tim Marshall
Our choices are limited by our geography – that much I knew. But exactly how are our lives and world politics shaped by maps and borders? Prisoners of Geography deep dives into just that.
Not really a travel book, but a must-read for travellers, Marshall examines Russia, China, the US, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Japan, Korea, and Greenland, and the Arctic. He uncovers how the physical characteristics of these countries affect their place in geopolitics.
Are you a travel lover? Check out these must-read and inclusive travel books.
BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE & CONSUMERISM:
The Story of Stuff
The faster it breaks, the faster we get to buy a new product… Big deal, right? This is the book that sustainable influencers such as Shelbizleee claimed ‘changed their life’… and honestly, I can see why.
The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health – and a Vision for Change: How Our Problem … – and What to Do About It details how the environmental footprint of products does NOT begin with the final product, and how well it can be recycled, but from the very first steps in the PRODUCTION of the product and the materials which make it.
Honestly, if you’re new to sustainability, this book will begin off a little depressing. You might feel horrified and upset by what it really means – and takes from our planet – to be a consumer. But that’s what makes it SUCH a good book. You will feel EMPOWERED to make changes!
Thankfully, it does present some solutions, too. I think it’s the perfect book to begin learning about STUFF before learning more about what you can actually do.
Watch a bitesize version on YouTube here:
Cradle to Cradle – by Michael Braungart
Is an ethical brand ever really sustainable if their about me page doesn’t include the words ‘CIRCULAR LOOP’ somewhere?
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is the natural follow-up after reading The Story of Stuff, and I’d consider them both essential books if you want to learn how to make ethical purchases and support truly sustainable brands. With the combined knowledge you’ll gain from reading these books, it will be easy to spot and avoid greenwashing.
Since the manufacturing model of wasting up to 90% of materials used to make a single product was popularized by the Industrial Revolution, our planet has become inevitably and increasingly toxic. Braungart begins by looking at nature itself – how a tree produces thousands of blossoms to create new trees – and looks at how products can be designed similarly. In a CIRCULAR LOOP.
Why treat our products and materials with a ‘Cradle to Grave’ mentality when a ‘Cradle to Cradle’ one would be so much more effective?
How Bad Are Bananas? – by Mike Berners-Lee
With plenty of lifestyle tips, this guide also contains a good dose of popular science. The book is designed to help us make intelligent choices, both with practical suggestions, but also by providing the reader with sufficient information to UNDERSTAND carbon emissions and how our choices affect it.
Berners-Lee also acknowledges that we all have different priorities, and encourages Knowledge and Discussion that will help us make Green Choices that work best for us.
The Sustainable-ish Living Guide – by Jen Gale
Another brilliant guide for anyone wanting realistic tips on how to be more sustainable! The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide: Everything you need to know to make small changes that make a big difference is a great book for beginners or anyone looking for some extra motivation for making changes.
BEST BOOKS ON SUSTAINABLE FASHION:
Fashionopolis – by Dana Thomas
Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes is a book I didn’t know I needed! The clothing industry is devastating our planet and, fashion-lover or not, if you’re wearing clothes right now, you need to know this. (And if you’re not wearing clothes right now, I mean, neither am I but I think you should read Fashionopolis anyways.)
This book gets through the awful facts about fast fashion and onto the fantastic companies are making the production of sustainable fashion their life’s work.
From learning about fun developments (such as printing 3-D clothes and lab-grown textiles) to meeting small, local businesses, Thomas helps us get clued up.
Fibershed – by Rebecca Burgess with Courtney White
Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy explores the disconnect between what we think is a good fibre and what actually is a good fibre. If you have an interest in sustainable fashion, this one is a must-read.
Learn about natural plant dyes and the best fibres to choose from when purchasing fashion (and what NOT to buy too). Burgess was a weaver and dyer herself, so she’s a real expert who cares about the subject. Her mission for us to avoid exploitative, fast fashions is moving and personal.
EVEN MORE BOOKS TO BECOME A SUSTAINABILITY EXPERT:
This Changes Everything – by Naomi Klein
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is full of evidence and gets down and dirty with what’s really happening in climate science. This is NOT the best book for beginners, as it goes very in-depth into what specific countries are doing, and why, and how this effects politics. This is one I haven’t finished yet but it’s fascinating – another book that’s good to dip in and out of.
For an easier Naomi Klein book, try No Logo. While a little outdated in comparison, this book details why big companies get away with some pretty atrocious actions, and inspires readers to support local businesses instead.
Sustainability: A history – by Jeremy L. Caradonna
This is the book I’m currently reading! I am always intrigued by language, so this book about the history of the WORD ‘sustainability’ is fascinating. A definite must-read for anyone intrigued by etymology.
From tracing the history of ‘sustainability’ back to when it first began being used, referencing deforestation which was a huge worry at the time, and industrial revolutions, to it being passed off as a ‘buzzword’ in the 21st-century.
I’ve not finished yet, so I will have to update you when I do! Sustainability: A History does have a European lens so far, so it will be a good book to combine with ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ (above) since indigenous communities have been practicing sustainability for centuries.
EVEN MORE BOOKS ON MY SUSTAINABILITY TBR (TO BE READ) LIST!
What we’re fighting for NOW is each other: dispatches from the front lines of climate justice – by Wen Stephenson
This book is incredibly relevant to politics today, with an emphasis on climate justice in America. (I am not an American, but from what I’ve heard, you don’t have to be to find this book compelling.) Stephenson asks how WE will respond, as individuals, to the catastrophic climate change which is upon us.
Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States – by Carl A. Zimring
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love – Kristin Kimball
Good for anyone after a good story, since Kimball fell in love and moved to a farm, with no experience in the matter. The Dirty Life sounds like a beautiful, cosy read. Definitely high on my list!
The Future Earth: A Radical Vision for What’s Possible in the Age of Warming – by Eric Holthaus
Small is Beautiful: economics as if people mattered – by E. F. Schumacher
Schumacher faces the excessive consumption versus fair trade versus local business debate on head. He’s an Oxford-trained economist who believes the world economy should work for communities (not just corporations).
Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do about It – by Anna Lappe
Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save The Planet – by Ashlee Piper
I imagine this is another great one for beginners. Give a sh*t is split into sections such as room-by-room guides, (the kitchen section even includes recipes), to in the mirror (which includes beauty and grooming tips?) to ‘in the wild – including advice on maintaining your values during, socialising and travel.
Not gonna lie, I kinda want to read it now haha.
Hi, I’m Cassie, and I’ve been solo travelling the globe since May 2018. In this time, I’ve backpacked around Southeast Asia, Japan and The Balkans, alongside spending a year living in Australia. Currently isolating in New Zealand.